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BMW Invests in Power Semiconductor Start-Up GaN Systems

GaN Systems, a start-up whose advanced switching diodes and transistors translate into vastly more efficient power supplies and electric vehicle chargers, received an investment last week from the venture capital unit of BMW.

The German automaker said that the company’s gallium nitride products dovetailed with its ambitions to develop electric cars that can be quickly refueled and drive for hundreds of miles between charges. GaN Systems’ technology could also reduce the power requirements of BMW’s data centers, which will handle sensor data streaming from autonomous cars.

“Gallium Nitride-based transistors have become, in my opinion, the next big stepping stone in miniaturization,” said Uwe Higgen, managing director of BMWi Ventures, in a statement “We have seen systems ¼ of the size while providing better efficiency than traditional silicon-based alternatives.”

“These capabilities are particularly relevant in the automotive sector,” Higgen said, adding that “increasing the efficiency of power conversion will account for billions of dollars in cost savings and enable a more sustainable infrastructure.”

GaN Systems is already one of the largest companies in market for gallium nitride chips, with what the company claims are more than 500 customers. Other competitors include Efficient Power Conversion – a start-up founded by Alex Lidow, the former chief of International Rectifier – and other firms selling another wideband gap semiconductor called silicon carbide.

The start-up, founded in 2008 and based in Toronto, Canada, did not say how much BMW had invested, only that the new funding would be used to expand sales globally and aid in product development. GaN Systems had raised three funding rounds but has only disclosed $20 million from 2015.

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