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EV Charging Infrastructure Sparks Opportunity—But May Shock Manufacturing Supply Chains

Feb. 22, 2023
Charging stations have the full attention of electronic component manufacturers, who signal that the market will be a major target for 2023.

Charging stations have the full attention of electronic component manufacturers, who signal that the market will be a major target for 2023. The global electric vehicle (EV) charging station industry totaled $16.6 billion in 2021 and is projected to exceed $226.4 billion by 2031. As consumers are increasingly drawn to EVs in an effort to be more environmentally friendly and decrease their fuel-related expenses, the challenging task of building enough chargers to support the growing number of EVs on the road looms large.

The world saw the impact of miscalculating demand when the chip shortage forced the automotive industry to make major production cuts. To properly build EV charging infrastructure, manufacturers must prove that they’ve learned from the mistakes of the past and correctly ramp up production to meet the needs of the growing charging market.

Consumers Demand EVs While Governments Struggle to Keep up

Despite mounting demand for EVs, station availability and functionality, along with battery range, are consumers’ chief concerns. Around 58% of Americans claim “range anxiety” as a top drawback in owning an electric vehicle.

Satisfying the need for EV chargers will not be easy; research shows that adding even a half-million public chargers throughout the United States would be insufficient for the predicted number of EVs. Europe reportedly needs 65 million EV chargers—9 million public and 56 million residential.

Globally, China’s EV market is growing the fastest and the country has already started to tackle the charging challenge. By 2022, China had increased their number of public EV chargers by 56.7% over 2021, to reach a total of about 1.8 million. In a distant second place, the EV charging station network in the U.S. is around 160,000.

To catch up, the U.S. government is shouldering some of the EV charging burden by providing funds to support charging infrastructure. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, passed in 2022, affords $7.5 billion to install 500,000 public chargers nationwide by 2030. While it is a good start, the number is inadequate even today, and certainly won’t satisfy demand several years down the road.

Additionally, the bill does not address where these charging stations will go. That decision will require collaboration between the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, state and industry leaders,  manufacturers and other stakeholders.

The Electronic Component Industry Powers EV Charging

While consumers are more concerned with the power behind EVs, the electronic component industry’s focus is the power storage systems that run EV chargers. The main units in EV charging stations include:

  • The battery management system (BMS), which manages the control of the charge and discharge of the battery.
  • Power conversion systems, which rely heavily on inverters to manage battery power at certain temperatures. Power semiconductors are integral to this process, as they are the driving force of the inverter, and transfer DC power from the car’s battery to AC power to run the motor.
  • Software, which acts as the brains behind the operation and assists with station management. Software connects and monitors chargers, sends alerts if there are power failures, issues billing and payment, and more.

Manufacturers have already begun to build their influence in these verticals. STMicroelectronics (STM) and onsemi produce power semiconductors for EV chargers and power trains. STM also makes silicon carbide (SiC) chips and has captured Tesla’s business, which utilizes STM’s SiC inverters in the Model 3 powertrains. SiC chips boost power density, enhance power switch speeds and decrease switching losses. This translates to quicker charging, improved battery range and lighter battery weight. 

Analog Devices (ADI) is similarly important to the EV charging supply chain, as they sell power semiconductors for on-board EV chargers. ADI has also become an innovator in BMS after launching a wireless BMS that is used by General Motors to decrease the weight of an EV’s battery while improving design flexibility. ADI predicts that four or five additional auto OEMs will implement this system by the end of 2023. Volkswagen already uses NXP’s BMS, and the manufacturer has seen demand steadily increasing amongst Chinese EV makers.

Despite the amount of heightened demand that manufacturers are seeing in this emerging market, there are fears that this could further strain the already struggling automotive industry’s shortfall of electronic components. Shortages have been reported by Cosel, a top power supply manufacturer. Lead times for certain power supplies were already stretched over a year-and-a half by the end of 2022, and if production can’t ramp up fast enough to meet demand, we may see chip shortage history repeat itself. 

Sustainability Takes a Front Seat 

While the concerns of both consumers and manufacturers are valid, the automobile industry is already well acquainted with the results of a chip shortage. The future may very well be EVs, but if the industry hopes to flourish, both the government and manufacturers will have to work in tandem to build sustainable infrastructure that meets the needs of the people, and the needs of the industry. 

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