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Wolfspeed: Siler City plant will help meet surge in demand for electric vehicles

 Rendering of the future plant in Chatham County.
submitted image
Rendering of the future plant in Chatham County.

Wolfspeed, the Durham-based maker of semiconductors, says its Siler City plant will help meet a surge in demand for electric vehicles by the end of the decade.

"What we look at is about $300 to $600 per vehicle in terms of silicon carbide content opportunity that's in there,” said Chief Financial Officer Neill Reynolds.

He and Vice President of Investor Relations Tyler Gronbach spoke this week at a Morgan Stanley investment conference in San Francisco.

The $5 billion Siler City plant, announced last year, will make silicon carbide wafers, which are the building blocks of semiconductors. The wafers will be shipped to a Wolfspeed plant in Mohawk Valley, New York where they will be turned into finished chips. Last month, the companyunveiled plans for another silicon carbide plant in Germany.

“So we're building out (the plant) in Siler City, North Carolina, that will have the ability to scale to serve these multiple (fabrication plants) and even fabs beyond that," Reynolds said. "So, it’s really important for us to have all of these pieces coming together to achieve a full kind of integrated supply chain for silicon carbide to get out into the second half of the decade."

The company, which has partnerships with GM and other automakers, is expecting electric vehicles to make up 30% of the U.S. market by 2030.

As Wolfspeed ramps up production, Gronbach said chips designed for cars potentially could have other uses.

"What it's done is open the aperture for industrial and energy for things like vertical takeoff and landing vehicles, train and traction, e-mobilities,” Gronbach said. “And we're seeing things like green taxiing, where they want to take existing aircraft fleet and convert it into a hybrid structure for battery operated taxiing to and from the gate."

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.
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