SK Siltron's U.S. unit plans $300 million investment in Michigan to support EV growth

WASHINGTON, July 14 (Reuters) - SK Siltron's U.S. unit will announce on Wednesday it plans to invest $300 million in Michigan to expand its silicon carbide wafer manufacturing and add 150 jobs to support U.S. electric vehicle production, the company's chief executive told Reuters.

The investment announcement comes as U.S. automakers are spending tens of billions of dollars to boost EV production and the Biden administration has sought $174 billion in funding to expand EV subsidies and charging networks.

The investment is the latest sign that electric vehicle suppliers are moving more production closer to their biggest customers in anticipation of booming demand as automakers shift away from internal-combustion vehicles.

SK Siltron CSS, a unit of South Korea-based SK Siltron, a global semiconductor wafer producer, said the investment over the next three years would more than double the company’s workforce in Michigan and add a new 140,000-square foot site in Bay City, Mich., to join its current facility in nearby Auburn, Mich.

SK Siltron CSS Chief Executive Jianwei Dong told Reuters the $300 million investment would "help develop a domestic EV supply chain based in Michigan because we have our end customers in nearby communities." The investment will "help EVs go further and charge faster."

The company is working to quickly expand to meet rising needs. "Right now we are seeing so much demand from customers," Dong said, adding that the company is considering additional investments and that the wafers can also be used in 5G communications equipment.

SK Siltron CSS manufactures silicon carbide wafers used in semiconductor power components.

In EVs, the wafers allow for more efficient electricity transfer from battery to motor, increasing driving range by 5% to 10%, the company said. They can also reduce charging times, relax cooling requirements and shrink power module size and weight.

Some studies suggest the shift to electric vehicles will require fewer workers because EVs are mechanically simpler. It is unclear how many EV parts will be manufactured in the United States.

"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, praising SK Siltron CSS's investment.

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation said the state has been working to attract EV-related jobs. In the last two years, Michigan has seen nearly $9 billion in planned investments and more than 10,000 jobs added as part of the EV transition.

The SK Siltron CSS expansion is still awaiting state and local approvals, the company said.

SK Siltron is part of SK Group. SK Innovation (096770.KS), another SK Group affiliate, in May announced it was forming a battery joint venture with Ford Motor Co (F.N) to support the No. 2 U.S. automaker's EV rollout. SK Innovation is separately building a $2.6 billion battery cell plant in Georgia to serve Ford and Volkswagen AG (VOWG_p.DE)

Reporting by David Shepardson. Editing by Gerry Doyle

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