The automotive market became the third largest end market for power semiconductor applications in 2014, outperforming the overall market average for semiconductors, said IHS Inc. A big part of this increased demand is driven by advanced assistance systems (ADAS) and infotainment systems.
The IHS Power Management Market Share and Supplier Analysis report finds that power ICs, in the power management semiconductor market, grew much faster than traditional power discrete solutions. IHS analysts peg growth at eight percent in 2015 year over year, while discrete revenue is expected to remain flat this year.
“One strategy that automakers are undertaking to control research and development costs is to develop shared designs, components, engineering, and production platforms, and using the same electronic control units (ECUs) for many different platforms with the same features,” said Jonathan Liao, senior analyst of power semiconductors for IHS, in a statement. “While over time modern cars have increased in size, suppliers prefer small and interchangeable electronic control units that can fit on various platforms, which help lower overall development costs, and expand the universe of target customers, for an improved return on investment.”
Market leaders include Texas Instruments (TI) – the market leader in voltage regulators – and Infineon, the market leader of discrete power solutions for automotive. TI controlled eight percent of voltage regulators used by the automotive industry in 2011 and increased its voltage regulator revenues by 150 percent in 2014, said IHS, while Infineon increased its power management revenues, by about 75 percent, during the same time period.
One key driver for higher demand in the power IC market includes luxury car features being implemented in non-luxury vehicles. These include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, connected traffic updates, sophisticated infotainment systems with voice command and other advanced features.
“Features that were originally designed for Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Lexus and other luxury cars have very quickly found their way into the non-luxury market,” Liao stated.
Other key features pushing further power IC adoption, include Internet-connected cars, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications, autonomous cars, Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto, according to IHS.
“It is crucial for the ECUs to gather, process and respond to information in real time, for the safety and convenience of the driver,” Liao said. “Sophisticated power management solutions for power-intensive multi-core processors, baseband chipsets and sensor arrays can be implemented much more easily with power ICs.”
“All of these advanced features are expected help power ICs to grow faster than discrete solutions,” he added.
The fastest growing power ICs in the automotive semiconductor sector include switch regulators, low-dropout (LDO) regulators and power management integrated circuits (PMICs). All of these devices feature better integration, efficiency and smaller footprints, particularly for low-voltage applications in automotive electronics, said IHS.