Semiconductor wafer maker to expand in Michigan to support EVs

Breana Noble
The Detroit News

A semiconductor wafer manufacturer said Wednesday it is investing $300 million to expand manufacturing and research and development in Michigan to support the manufacturing of electric vehicles.

SK Siltron CSS will more than double its Michigan employee base with a new site in Bay City with 150 jobs. The announcement comes as a global semiconductor shortage has idled production at auto plants for weeks in some cases and forced automakers to sell vehicles without certain features like stop/start technology and wireless phone charging pads. Auto executives and legislators have called for efforts to increase domestic production of the microchips, most of which come from Asia.

A scientist at SK Siltron CSS holds a silicon carbide wafer produced at the company's Michigan facility. The company plans to expand its Michigan operations to increase production of these wafers, which can be used in power system components for electric vehicles.

SK is a U.S. subsidiary of the Korean SK Group conglomerate. The subsidiary manufactures a specialty wafer made of silicon carbide that can be used in the semiconductor power components of electric vehicles.

The wafers are more efficient at handling high powers and conducting heat than normal silicon, which can help increase the driving range of EVs by up to 10%, according to the company.

"The rise in popularity of electric vehicles has the auto industry searching for new innovative technologies to meet customer demand," SK Siltron CSS CEO Jianwei Dong said in a statement. "Our Michigan expansion will allow us to manufacture advanced materials that can enhance the performance of an EV and support the growth of a more sustainable automotive future."

SK Siltron CSS has operations in Auburn with 130 employees. It seeks to add 150 jobs in Bay City, 70% of which will be skilled workers with the rest engineers, pending state and local approvals. State and local partners also will help to recruit the workforce, the company said.

The new jobs would be created amid concerns that EVs, which require fewer parts than their gas- and diesel-powered counterparts, will mean less demand for workers.

"As we build toward a more sustainable future, it is important that we create new, robust supply chains in the U.S. to support our corporations and the end consumer," U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said in a statement. "The automotive industry has a tremendous opportunity with the rise of the electric vehicle, and we're excited to see companies like SK Siltron CSS expanding to help support the transition to a green future."

Twitter: @BreanaCNoble