US chipmaker Wolfspeed on Wednesday announced an estimated investment of two billion euros to build a silicon carbide semiconductor factory in western Germany, as Europe tries to catch up on the China and the United States.
The factory producing semiconductors in 200 mm wafers "
will be the largest in the world (...) to produce new generation silicon carbide devices
" to be used in particular in electric cars, according to a press release from the group.
The German automotive industry, a pillar of Europe's leading economy, has a massive need for these essential electronic components to successfully transition to all-electric and then to autonomous driving.
Wolfspeed is expected to invest around 2 billion euros in this project, hoping to receive half a billion euros in public subsidies, according to statements Wednesday from its boss Gregg Lowe to the daily Handelsblatt.
This is “
an important signal that Germany remains attractive as a high-tech location
,” Economy Minister Robert Habeck said in Berlin.
The EU seeks to become a major player in the manufacture of microchips dominated by Asian producers.
Last year, Brussels announced a 43 billion euro plan aimed at capturing 20% of the global semiconductor market by 2030, in particular by granting aid to investors.
Wolfspeed's investment should also be part of an Important Project of Common European Interest (IPCEI).
Germany is already a stronghold of semiconductor production in Europe, with sites of the Bosch group and recently announced factory projects by the American Intel and the German Infineon.
The announcement also comes at a time when Brussels wants to respond to the massive aid provided for by the American Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) for companies established in the United States in the sector of electric vehicles or renewable energies, which are causing serious concern for the competitiveness of the European industrial fabric Compared to the silicon chips used until now, silicon carbide semiconductors offer greater power to electric motors, offering enormous outlets in the automotive sector.
The German automotive supplier ZF for its part announced on Wednesday an investment of “
hundreds of millions
” of euros in the Wolfspeed project.
For the American group, the announcement of this European factory project represents “
an important part
” of a larger plan of 6.5 billion dollars to inflate its production capacities, with other projects completed or in progress in the US states of North Carolina and New York.
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The global industry is suffering from a shortage of these precious electronic components whose demand exceeds supply, a shortage further sharpened by the logistical disruptions linked to Covid-19.
The persistent shortage of semiconductors could lead to a decline in car production of 20% by 2026 if no countermeasures are taken, the German car lobby VDA recently warned.
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