US-based chipmaker Wolfspeed has announced plans to build a highly automated $3bn semiconducter factory in the German state of Saarland.
The factory, which Wolfspeed says will be the largest and most advanced of its kind in the world, will fabricate 200mm-wafer silicon carbide (SiC) chips – a key component in Electric Vehicles (EVs).
These chips are considered superior to traditional silicon transistors – they can extend driving range per charge compared with silicon and reduce the time it takes to charge a battery. This has caused demand for the chips to skyrocket, particularly from the automotive industry.
The German plant will be built on a 14ha site formerly occupied by a coal-fired power station. Construction is expected to begin in the first half of the year, once approval has been granted by the European Commission.
German firm ZF, one of the world’s largest suppliers to the automotive industry, also intends to make a “sizeable financial investment” in the new facility as part of its new strategic partnership with Wolfspeed.
Gregg Lowe, Wolfspeed president & CEO, said: “This new fab represents a big step forward for both Wolfspeed and our regional customers, as we enhance the ecosystem for semiconductor production and innovation.
“Silicon carbide devices offer greater energy efficiency and are essential in the global shift toward sustainable electrification.
“This new facility will be crucial to supporting our expansion in a capacity-constrained industry that is growing very rapidly, especially across the electric vehicle (EV) marketplace.
“It was important for us to have a facility located in the heart of Europe, near many of our customers and partners, to foster collaboration on the next generation of silicon carbide technologies.”
The new factory is part of Wolfspeed’s ambitious $6.5bn expansion plans. It opened a plant in Mohawk Valley in New York state in April and began construction of the 180ha John Palmour Manufacturing Centre for silicon carbide in its home state of North Carolina.
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