The automotive powertrain semiconductor market grew 8.3% in 2014, according to recent analysis from IHS. Increasing volumes of new vehicles and the need for fuel efficient vehicle technologies were the main drivers contributing to this growth.

IHS Technology forecasts that revenues related to powertrain semiconductors will increase with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of nearly 6% in the next five years from $7.2 billion in 2014 to $9.5 billion in 2019.

Electrification is propelling the powertrain semiconductor market on a global scale. As an example, start-stop systems are forecast to grow at a CAGR of 21%, while plug-in hybrid vehicles are expected to have an annual growth of 37% for the next five years.

In addition, for internal combustion engines, there is an increasing trend away from traditional incumbent multi-port fuel injection systems towards gasoline direct injection systems. Direct injection systems are more efficient and require higher semiconductor content than their multi-port counterparts.

“Propulsion systems for electric and hybrid vehicles demand, on average, 10 times more semiconductor content than a conventional engine," says Ahad Buksh, analyst, automotive semiconductors at IHS. “Without electrification, the powertrain semiconductor market would have grown 3.1% annually for the next five years, whereas electrification is now accelerating the market at 6% growth rate annually.”

Electrification is a major revenue generator for powertrain in the coming years. Some key components include the motor inverter, DC/DC converter, battery management system and plug-in charger, all of which require power management by analog integrated circuits (ICs) and discrete components. Growth rates are expected to be high, as the market is currently relatively small. These applications saw growth of 24% in 2014. Another 22% increase is forecast in 2015, the highest of any automotive semiconductor application. From a revenue perspective, semiconductor content in electric and hybrid vehicles are expected to generate more than $1 billion in total revenue growth from 2014 to 2019, by which time IHS forecasts that $1.6 billion will be generated in this segment.

Emissions legislation efforts in most regions around the world are the main drivers for semiconductor sales in powertrain applications, while current concepts in engines and exhaust after-treatment systems for ICEs, together with a requirement for on-board diagnostics, require sensors for their operation. As a result, the market for semiconductors in internal combustion engines was $4.3 billion in 2014, growing to $5.4 billion in 2019, according to IHS.

The engine control unit (ECU) consumes most of the semiconductor content in these applications, in addition to a growing trend toward electrification of various components – including fans, water pumps and oil pumps that will further contribute to powertrain semiconductor revenues in the future.

Leading the path for growth, however, is the stop-start system, which uses semiconductor components to sense when a vehicle is stopped, and turns off the engine, thereby saving fuel and reducing carbon dioxide output.

Transmissions are well-established systems for semiconductors, but with recent new concepts that include higher electronics content, such as dual-clutch transmissions (DCTs) and continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) have entered the market. As a result, this portion of the semiconductor market is expected to grow from $1.4 billion in 2014 to $1.5 billion by 2019, according to IHS. Most new growth stems from the demands on microcontrollers, particularly as a result of increased sensor content featured in new transmissions.

IHS forecasts that on a regional basis, China, Japan and eventually Europe will drive the market for DCTs, while China, South Asia and eventually North America will drive the market for CVTs.

To contact the author of this article, email