In 1890, the first successful electric vehicle (EV) was created. While it was nothing more than an electrified wagon, the ingenuity of EVs sparked real interest in the possibilities of mass electric mobility.
Today, about 7.2 million electric vehicles are on the world’s roads. Thanks to technological advancements, electric vehicles are far more efficient, safe, and accessible to consumers than they were even a decade ago— and for good reason. EVs have the potential to revolutionize energy efficiency, economic growth, and environmental safety. Semiconductors have a big role to play in keeping the electric vehicle revolution on track.
In this article, we’ll explore how EVs got to where they are today and what those developments mean for the semiconductor industry and its engineers.
The road to electric vehicles
Electric vehicles didn’t become a reality for global consumers until the early 21st century. Toyota released Prius, its first mass-marketed hybrid electric car, in the 2000s. Years later, Tesla Motors made its claim to fame as an independent automaker in the electric car market. Now, major carmakers, rideshare platforms, and new startups all hold stakes in the competition as cleaner, smarter cars gain momentum. One study even predicts that the sales of electric vehicles will seize a third of the global market by 2025 and 51 percent by 2030.
There are several factors that drive the EV market:
- Tighter regulations on tailpipe emissions are forcing Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEMs) to produce more fuel-efficient vehicles.
- Government incentives play an important role in reducing the total cost of ownership for consumers.
- Regulatory policies have been critical in pushing electric technology research, charging infrastructure, and EV sales.
- Extended ranges allow EV drivers to travel longer distances and maximize more power in electric cars.
All that to say: conditions are ripe for electric vehicle growth. As the electric drive chain accelerates, the automotive industry will also need to depend on semiconductors to sustain its rise.
How can semiconductors propel the electric vehicle market?
Common electric batteries rely on dated technology, limiting their performance. As a result, EVs can suffer from high costs and short life spans. But new semiconductor innovations offer the potential for longer and more efficient battery life. Semiconductor chemistries like Gallium Nitride (GaN) and Silicon Carbide (SiC) allow EV batteries to operate at higher voltages than traditional silicon wafers. This breakthrough is what has allowed Tesla to power their Model 3 vehicle efficiently at an accessible price point.
Semiconductors are also crucial for vehicle safety, intelligence, and efficiency. Features like blind-spot sensors, backup cameras, and emergency braking systems all rely on chip technology. As automakers increase electric integrations in vehicles, chip content will likely expand and generate more opportunities for semiconductor players.
What do electric vehicles mean for engineers in the future?
The future of automobiles should make for an exciting time for engineers. Read through any tech publication and you’re bound to discover news of the latest intelligence powering next-generation automotive tech.
But more advancements means increasing complexity and scope for those who manufacture, design, and deploy them. In that context, industry competition will heat up as automakers and tech companies hunt for talented engineers. At the same time, engineers need to hone in on certain skills like data modeling, statistics, and programming to succeed in the field.
With the rise of EVs, it’s easy to reimagine mobility for a more sustainable future. As the demand and technology for automotive technology mature, it’ll be important to see how the semiconductor industry and society will change with it.
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