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Led by Tesla, EVs drive chip industry's shift beyond silicon

Model 3's use of new material spurs competition for energy-efficient alternative

Smaller inverters, a key EV component, helped give Tesla's Model 3 its sleek design. Silicon carbide contributes to making smaller power components.

TOKYO/OSAKA -- Abundant, easily processed silicon has been the material of choice for decades in the semiconductor industry, but electric vehicles are helping chip away at its dominance in the pursuit of energy efficiency.

Tesla has been a catalyst for this change. The U.S. automaker became the first of its peers to use silicon carbide chips in a mass-produced car, incorporating them into some of its Model 3s. This move gave the power-saving material a boost of momentum in the EV supply chain, with ramifications for the chip industry.

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