During an exclusive media briefing Luca Sarica | Head of Strategic Business Development, Automotive and Discrete Group(ADG), Davide SANTO | Automotive MCU BU Senior Director | Division Strategic Office Member | ADG and MH TEY | APAC Marketing & Applications | Automotive Products, STMicroelectronics shares company’s strategy in the dramatically evolving automotive industry. Also during the media interaction, Niloy from BISinfotech got an exclusive slot to extend a few questions on the company’s vision, the transition from conventional to electrified and connected vehicles. Also tapped into ST’s innovative best-in-class technology and solutions, many edited facets of the media briefing and the interaction is well-drafted in the edited excerpts below.
What is ST’s Automotive and Discrete Group(ADG) Business and how strategically important is it for the company in today’s Ambitious Automotive Sector?
ST is a semiconductor company with a very wide range of product portfolio. Automotive is one of the company’s main focus markets. ADG group last year represented more than 30% of the overall company revenue. ST closed 2021 at 4.35 billion dollars with a very remarkable increase versus the previous year in the range of plus 30% in both subgroups, (including) the automotive product subgroup, and the power and discrete subgroup. The ADG represents the large majority of the overall automotive ST products offers. ST has a very comprehensive product portfolio serving all the applications that are adopted in a vehicle. And this is confirmed by ST’s ADG revenue split as well.
ST’s Turnover and Revenue Alone from its Automotive Products
Last year, 70% of the overall turnover came from automotive products, and 30% was associated with power solutions going into industrial and personal electronics. Most probably one had a chance to participate or to look at the outcome of our Capital Market Day that ST held in Paris in May this year. One of the major outcomes as one could recap was about the company’s global strategy and the mission to become a larger than 20-billion-dollar company in the time frame from 2025 to 2027.
How ST’s Growth Expected For Achieving The Twenty(20) Billion Dollars Plus- Is Coming From Automotive
ST will continue to grow and expand its core business. But the large majority of the boost of ST’s growth expected for achieving the twenty billion(20) dollars plus- is coming from automotive.
Why Automotive and Best-in-class Automotive Solutions?
Today the world is in front of the transition from conventional to electrified and connected vehicles. And those mega trends represent a major shift in the field, bringing very large business opportunities to semiconductor vendors because in order to support the two megatrends, the content of semiconductors in a vehicle is growing. It’s growing very fast. If one looks at the bill of materials in terms of silicon in a conventional vehicle, there is the silicon content estimated to be at 500 dollars roughly. But if one repeats the same exercise for a new electrified and software-defined vehicle, the overall content will be 1,500-2,000 dollars per vehicle.
So it means the overall content is going up by a factor of three or four to a conventional car. ST is a company strongly committed to innovation. In order to support ST’s customers in this transition, the company has invested a lot in the past years in the domain of e-Mobility (or electrification), with new technologies and solutions in the wideband gap, like the silicon carbide, and more recently the gallium nitride. Today, especially in silicon carbide, ST is the first player in the automotive industry with the best-in-class solutions that definitely support ST’s customers in developing super-efficient electric vehicles. The same attitude of innovation and investment in new technologies has been supported by ST in the digitalization domain, supporting the transition to software-defined vehicles. STMicroelectronics has invested in a digital technology called FD-SOI, with embedded non-volatile memory, PCM (Phase-Change Memory). Today it is the major enabler of ST’s Stellar, a unified digital platform addressing the needs of modern vehicles that are connected to the cloud, and that is the foundation of a software-defined car, requiring ten times more computational power than a traditional vehicle.
Two Major Megatrends – ST’s Focus and Leadership
Two major megatrends are shaping modern automotive. First is eMobility. If one compares traditional vehicles versus an electrified one, one can see that five or four new elements or four major additional electronic modules are adopted in an electric vehicle, like the traction inverter, onboard charger, dc-dc converter, and battery management. The level of electronic components in each of those boxes is really impressive.
It is an additional business opportunity for semiconductor vendors like ST. As mentioned in the above picture, the level of additional semiconductor content. It could be accounted for at 1,000 dollars per vehicle (of semiconductor), in addition to the typical electronics adopted. And let me say 90% of these additional electronics are coming from power devices. Every application and every electronic module is using power solutions for actuation (the muscles), and digital solutions are needed as the brain of every application. And the analog one is interconnecting the brain with the power stage for actuation applications. As mentioned before, ST is a wide-range supplier, having all the electronic building blocks that are needed for addressing every application.
· Two major points – Power and Digitalization.
In the domain of power, ST is offering a large offer of silicon carbide power modules and IGBTs that contribute to the reduction of CO2 emission in every vehicle, securing best-in-class performance for the electric traction, and for every stage of the power conversion that is needed in an electric vehicle.
The other remarkable point is, in the domain of digitalization, as part of the Stellar unified digital platform of ST, the company has a new family, the so-called Stellar E, a microcontroller tailored for the digital power conversion systems that are used and needed in electric vehicles.
The New Architecture – Software-Defined Vehicles
The other major pillar of this transition to modern vehicles is represented by the software-defined vehicle and the adoption of a new architecture in the car. Also, in this case, ST can identify four major additional boxes contributing to the increase of the semiconductor content. One is related to the additional advanced microcontrollers and processors that are needed for addressing the new vehicle architecture and needed for running more sophisticated software platforms. This is the effect of the convergence of the automotive and the consumer market, where you have a car that is becoming more and more mobile on wheels, connected to the cloud, and running very sophisticated software that should be updated over time.
The other boxes are very important. They are the vision system for ADAS and autonomous vehicles, V2X and connectivity, and the radar system., the additional value of the semiconductor could be estimated in the range of 350 dollars for each vehicle. Also, in this case, ST, thanks to its very wide product portfolio, is serving the digital, analogue, and power portions of every one of the boxes that we just mentioned. ST is today addressing the need for the brain of every vehicle. A unified digital platform called Stellar that is ranging from microcontrollers to microprocessors, making sure that ST can address the needs of OEMs, and carmakers in addressing the new architecture, making sure that they could address the overall functionalities, they could connect the vehicle to the cloud, they could update the software, and they could run tailored software platforms according to their needs.
ST has been strongly investing in innovation for addressing the new trends with innovative best-in-class technology and solutions for our customers. But at the same time, ST has seen that the overall level of content in each vehicle is growing, and the company witnesses a very strong change of scale, in terms of semiconductor demand. Just to report numbers and as mentioned before, (the semiconductor demand for an electric vehicle) is higher by a factor of three or four than for a conventional vehicle. This implies that for ST is extremely important to extend the manufacturing for serving the growing demand. Also, in this case, ST is strongly committed to investing.
ST’s Manufacturing Strategy Catering for the Demand of Modern Automotive
ST has a manufacturing strategy that is based on two main pillars. One is related to the expansion of the company’s 300 mm production fabs. ST is focused especially on production in Crolles, France and Agrate Italy. It is about the capacity increase the company is installing in ST’s Crolles site in cooperation with GlobalFoundries. This is more related to the digital area, the digital offer at ST. At the same time, ST is addressing software-defined vehicles, as well as the e-Mobility. The company is investing a lot in power manufacturing plants, especially in the wide bandgap solutions – one is such in Catania, Italy and in Singapore for the production of silicon carbide. And last October ST announced a new integrated fab that we are building up in Catania for producing silicon carbide substrates, to meet the increasing demand.
MCUs in the World of Software-Defined Vehicles(SDVs)
Here, Davide SANTO, Automotive MCU BU Senior Director, Division Strategic Office Member, ADG, STMicroelectronics starts while sharing a probable example from the CEO of Daimler.
Just before the pandemic started, in an interview with the former CEO of Daimler, a question was asked to the gentleman on how he would do and what single action he would in order to improve the brand value of his (company)’s vehicles. He answered immediately with no hesitation that he was transforming the vehicles of Mercedes into software-defined vehicles. This was an Illumination and a very bright answer. Software-defined vehicles are not a new concept, but they are definitely changing and transforming the industry.
They do create essentially two fundamental changes. The first one, they create a new user experience and the second one they create a new business value.
On the one side, as they are reinventing the vehicle, this new concept of software-defined is something that can be dynamically adopted, creating the possibility for users to enjoy more performance, meaning a safer vehicle, and more secure connectivity. They receive constant new functions and services of all types. The value of the vehicles that we as users have bought continues to increase over time. On the other side, from an OEM perspective, they have control over the car lifecycle which lasts much longer, and therefore, improves the quality of the services. They can create post-sales personalization, which means additional revenue and recurring revenue, and they go from what used to be the traditional “V model” to a continuous cycle of development, which does increase the investment, and also provides much higher returns.
Building a Strong Software-Defined Vehicle?
ST believes firmly that all software-defined vehicles must be built on very solid foundations. There are three things, three pillars that underpin the statement. First of all, SDVs are all going to be safe to the highest possible level; one should not allow any life loss on the road. Second, they are becoming more and more relevant. They need to be secure objects. The security expands from the security of the content of the vehicle, as there is great importance for the OEMs of the data that a vehicle can track and absorb, and of course the security of the owner of the vehicle and his or her personal data. Last but not least, probably the most challenging aspect, they need to be “future proof”, as OEMs want to go into a continuous cycle of development to create a recurring type of revenue. Therefore OEMs need to be able to have an underlying foundation, which is looking toward the future in terms of resources, flexibility, and capability to adapt to new challenges.
How does this platform, this hardware proposal would look like? ST believes that basically it is similar to a hub in avionics. The Hub is a big airport where small airplanes arrive to unload passengers and packages that will be reloaded on larger, intercontinental places, going across a long-haul range. In the same manners and visions, one can think of this new architecture of vehicles where all the sensorial and actuation devices living at the periphery of the vehicle will bring the data that will be aggregated and distributed to the central information and very high-level performing computing center that will decide in abstract ways what to do and then deploy the actions. So, the fundamentals of software-defined vehicles are the possibility to have real-time data and power distribution managed in zone areas such that the idea of having the possibility to reconfigure with software the way a vehicle works and behaves is achievable.
Diving Inside ST’s Stellar MCU
ST has created a platform called Stellar, which has some characteristics. First of all, it comprises MCUs for real-time objects and MPUs capable of application level. The MCU part has some features, which are unique. First, we deliver best-in-class real-time performance at the lowest power. In the end, a vehicle lives in the real world and needs to break, steer, and accelerate in real-time.
Second, it allows the integration of different hardware and different software inside the same MCU. That means within the same MCU, we can have software applications that once were separated, including breaking software, steering software, and the body software, live together on the same MCU.
Third, it has an adapted and advanced security and safety approach. Customers can choose how many safety features are needed and chose which way and algorithms they will do for security. Dynamically, one can change this in time during the lifetime of the vehicle. Fourth, it has high-speed connectivity and routing capabilities. The data is the essence of softly defined vehicle. We need to store, manage, and route data quickly and efficiently. Last but not least, it has what ST believes is the most innovative and game-changing over-the-air update technology in the field.
ST also has an MPU series that has been developed in order to complete the scalability of the Stellar family. They are not only real-time capable, but also have the application-level capability, in order to achieve the best possible combination with the same type of computing, safety and security, and type of architecture. And this will allow to the addition of service-oriented applications and artificial intelligence and machine learning-capable algorithms on the same categories of products that ST has developed for real-time. It is really, massively, originally designed for architecture that focuses on software-defined vehicles.
This is translated into a set of series of components/products, which are scaling top to bottom from high-performing Stellar UP, which is capable of service-oriented application-level computations, to the P/G series, as Luca said, which is a real-time integration platform. P specifically covers the traditional internal combustion engines and the new drivetrains, and G addresses the gateway capabilities, and then the specific family for electrification, which ST calls Stellar E, from high computing to actuations, on the same architecture principles, the same computing Arm-based engine, the same safety, the same security, the same type of communication, and the same tools in the software, a very strong unified architecture.
e-Mobility – A Core Focus of ST
e-Mobility, which is sometimes called electrification, is the new avenue taken by the entire Group. The speed of development strictly depends on how the automotive industry is capable to address the challenges, which are multiple. On the one side, one needs to maintain performance and safety. It is so much important, not only because it’s fun to drive the new e-vehicles, but also because they need to stay the safest and improve these aspects. Second, one needs to remove all the fears, and the suspects in society that people may have.
They may suppose the new electrical vehicles would not be able to be as good as the old ones, especially range and time to charge. Last but not least, everyone today is opting for a car. So, it needs to be affordable in this sense.
ST Leadership in Electrification
ST has been for years on top of the electrification game. We have done timely investments for more than 20 years. ST has invested in fundamental technologies, like silicon carbide, in order to be prepared for these power changes, and we have state-of-the-art technologies.
Silicon carbide is one. FDSOI, which is a specific technology for phase change memory, allows us to give best-in-class OTA. ST has a complete product portfolio. ST has developed power devices, we developed analog drivers, and we developed digital technology, including fundamental layers of software. ST provides solutions, not only technologies, and products.
Stellar MCU platform addresses the challenges of the new e-Mobility in different aspects. Let’s analyze a couple of them. First, new vehicles have large batteries and have a lot of data that are created. So, they become heavier and more complex, and our platform has the capability to integrate more software into the same MCUs and therefore reducing the complexity of moving data around and the number of cables as well. It reduces the wiring harness and the weight of the vehicle. The second aspect and probably the most important overall is energy management. In a world that focuses on reducing pollution and being ready for the challenge of becoming greener, having the capability to manage the vehicle strategy to do the battery management system with higher accuracy and self-balancing in an efficient way, without consuming too much power ourselves, and without making the system to dissipate energy, is fundamental for becoming greener. So, ST’s platform with its lower power modes, with the capability to work in a very efficient computing manner, thanks to the FDSOI technology and the signal path we have, improves the capability to achieve higher efficiency in energy management.
ST Addressing Challenges and Fears of Fast Charging
Fast charging is important. Nobody wants to spend hours waiting to continue a nice trip when we go on vacation when we visit our families and so on. And in this sense, ST’s product family introduced the capability to do a faster control loop, to have higher switching frequency, to have fast controllers, and everything that generates the capability eventually, thanks to the technology that onboard charging and DC-DC converters bring, to accelerate the time to recharge. At the same time, they are becoming smaller, lighter, and more affordable. The technology is progressing, and the capability to create more efficient, smaller nodes with the better capability to use lighter material has already been in place for years, and now it becomes reality in production. Many system controllers, by the way, are going to be integrated into one microcontroller. More and more, they are becoming smaller and smaller. Last but not least, ST is able to extend our mission profile in such a way that when a car is not used, you can even return energy from the car to the house, in case one wants to do that. So, the system is becoming more and more integrated, and ST looks at the role of the vehicle inside the entire ecosystem of people’s lives, entire cities, and the places where one lives.
ST Accelerating e-Mobility in Asia and NEV Competence
MH TEY, Head of Asia Pacific Marketing & Applications, Automotive Products, STMicroelectronics on ST’s 30 years of experience and its diversified automotive market leader by offering strong and broad product portfolios. And, also how ST is enhancing the company’s local commitments.
Enriching the company’s local commitments, ST established the NEV Competence Center in 2019 to strengthen our local technical coverage, customer support and services with the main mission in mind of working with and supporting the company’s strategic customers in improving the overall development cycle time for system application solutions. The NEV Competence Center is located in Shanghai and as of today, ST has about 50 technical resources. ST has an average of more than eight years of working experience and will continue to invest whenever is necessary. Through NEV Competence Centre, the company is offering strategic customers a one-stop system reference application solution and also supporting customers tailoring to their requirements using customized solutions. Together with ST’s partners, the company is today providing customers with a full ecosystem covering system design kit, hardware design, software, GUI development, system function safety, bench and validation test report, as well as all the relevant documentation. Over the last three years, the NEV Competence Center has been successfully developing more than 20 application solutions and rolling them out in the market to support customers. Among them, seven application solutions are focusing on electrification, five on digitalization or connectivity, and eight are for supporting Forever-Green application. Forever-Green application is referred to those solutions which ST be required regardless of the vehicle technology revolution, such as lighting, airbag, and ABS application solution, which will still be needed in both ICE and NEV vehicles. As of today, the company has achieved very significant design wins and design in cases with key focusing and strategic customers, both the leading car makers and Tier 1 suppliers. ST’s customers are expressing their appreciation and recognition – which helped them improve the overall development cycle time and time to market of their new application solutions is essential to winning factors over their competitors in this very fierce market competition environment.
ST has observed the market trend is moving more and more towards software-defined vehicles. Intelligence is the next strategic direction of all carmakers, and software will be the biggest challenge to the automotive industry, especially the new introductions and the requirement for more complex SoCs, MPUs and MCUs.
Carmaker VW has announced to invest as high as 30 billion euros in software and expand their software R&D team over the next five years. At the same time, ST has also noticed, China automotive OEMs keep investing in and enlarging their R&D software teams, and they are more accepting and willing to pay the relevant software licensing costs than before. The car makers are playing a more and more centric role in automotive markets, especially in the SDV environment, defining the future car ecosystem. Carmakers are interacting with Tier 1 and Tier 2 suppliers, and software companies, but now they are also directly interacting with semiconductor companies like ST, defining the vehicle content with targets aiming to achieve car differentiation, and better customer feeling, as well as improving the overall development cycle time.
Challenges of NEV Carmakers and ST’s Mission
Today, the main challenges of NEV carmakers are to overcome consumers’ anxiety over the driving range and charging time and continuously enhance the safety performance at affordable vehicle cost. To overcome the challenges, ST has observed, the market is moving towards the new EEA zone concept, high integration of electrification and smart intelligent application. Taking advantage of the newly introduced Stellar arm-family multi-core MCUs, together with our strong and broad product portfolio, our NEV Competence Center can support and enable our partners’ conceptual idea by building up the start-up system solution kits, then turning it into a workable application solution with the proven bench test result.
ST can also offer strategic partners customized solutions with high integration of multi-in-one electrification application solutions, based on a model-based methodology which is portable, flexible, and scalable. In case, if any specific solution or device may not 100% meet customers’ requirements, ST may even consider supporting partners to develop a dedicated device, enhancing customer solution performance and market position.
ST’s NEV Competence Center’s main mission is to support strategic customers with customized solutions, helping them to improve the overall development cycle time, enhancing solution quality and safety, and realizing and accelerating the transformation of e-Mobility.
ST’s Offerings Driving Innovation in Sensor-laden Cars
ST will simply say that ST’s capability to ensure safety and security has been deeply rooted in the company’s DNA since the beginning. To save life and to secure the integrity of data is a fundamental foundation for this industry. Now, the digitalization of future mobility is pushing more and more vehicles to what we could use as a colloquial language, a digital ecosystem, a consumer-level digital ecosystem, which means we are turning cars into one of the largest IoT nodes, in which data protection, integrity and safety need to be preserved at all costs.
ST’s Stellar family is a robust and flexible platform if one wants to implement modern hardware security modules (HSM) with the most advanced cryptography capabilities needed to protect connected functionalities and allow OTA updates to be the safest and the most securest possible. And for safety, ST implements a very flexible and configurable safety architecture which is tailored to all types of final users. So ST can ensure not only that we allow safe performance, but also, allow safe communication and safe IO control.