American SiC specialist is attracted by an energy transition market with huge potential, EU subsidies and a co-investment from ZF Friedrichshafen.
Wolfspeed plans to build a 200mm silicon carbide (SiC) wafer fab in Germany’s Saarland region. The US company is a supplier of power and RF chips and a manufacturer of both SiC wafers and the base material. It has agreements with both Infineon and STMicroelectronics to secure a steady flow of such wafers in the years to come. The German facility is an important part of Wolfspeed’s previously announced 6.5-billion-dollar global capacity expansion, which also includes the world’s largest SiC crystal growth facility currently under construction in North Carolina.
The plan underscores Europe’s potential in the energy transformation, and electric vehicles in particular. Its energy efficiency and temperature resilience make silicon carbide the material of choice for energy conversion devices and components for EV powertrains. With its European expansion, Wolfspeed says it supports “a growing demand for a wide variety of automotive, industrial and energy applications.” The company hopes that 20-25 percent of the total investment will be covered by European IPCEI subsidies. It’s also getting support from ZF Friedrichshafen, a large supplier to the automotive industry that intends to make a significant investment in the project.
Wolfspeed originates from a former division of Cree. In 2016, Cree agreed to sell this division to Infineon for 850 million dollars, but the Trump administration blocked the deal because of national security concerns. Two years later, a few months after it had acquired Infineon’s RF power business for 430 million dollars, it officially changed its name to Wolfspeed. Infineon is still a customer for Wolfspeeds SiC wafers.