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Vehicle Electrification and approaches to solution development | Chapter – 6 • EVreporter

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Vehicle Electrification and approaches to solution development | Chapter - 6 • EVreporter


The previous chapter provided insights into vehicle electrification challenges and complexities on the technology, supply, and demand side. Some of the challenges are a part of evolution and can be considered ‘growing pains’, whereas some will need intensive research and a full value chain effort to ensure a flawless transition.

This final article of the series by Dr Maruti Khaire (Head EV and Special Projects at SKF India) discusses the new approaches to technology and solutions development in the new electric vehicle ecosystem.

New Mobility Automotive Ecosystem: Opportunities for Solution Development

As per media reports, today, most EV-making OEMs do not make a profit from the sale of EVs. There are many reasons for the same, including newer capital investments and lower product sales due to shallow penetration. It is imperative for OEMs to ensure proper tradeoffs across product performance, efficiency, driving range as well as cost, and it is a major challenge for almost all manufacturers. Opportunities and future EV profitability largely depend on these tradeoffs. It is a must for EV makers to evaluate and iterate tradeoff aspects many times during the development process as the design evolves, the market changes, and competitors emerge.

Here are some key opportunities that OEMs and EV players can consider for achieving the optimum tradeoff for EVs:

Optimize electric vehicle designs for the market

As discussed in the previous chapters, currently, EV design is evolving from both manufacturer and consumer perspectives. Many current EVs in the market either have too compromised specifications [just conversion of ICE vehicle platform into EVs] or they are too high spec for the consumers [loads of features which are currently not fully put in practice]. This mismatch is due to lower market experience as well as constrained development options due to economies of scale. EV manufacturers are attempting to address the major needs of target markets; however, it is far from optimized. Current EV design baselines are drawn from the ICE vehicles. Current EV offerings have a significant focus on “in-cabin” information, which demands more electronics hardware, switches, cabling, sensors etc.; here lies the scope for optimization.

The teardown studies and its analysis by McKinsey found that “OEMs can apply the teardown learnings and create fun-to-drive and simple vehicles costing $1,300 to $1,800 less through smart feature choices, design-specification adjustments, and manufacturing improvements—all without compromising safety”. Optimization of designs includes the right grade materials, optimization of weight, and optimization of specifications according to the market.

New business models and revenue avenues

EVs can capture and generate a huge amount of data about driver behaviour, vehicle usage pattern, infotainment, and other aspects like routes. The generated data can be utilized for vehicle optimization as well as ethical monetization. A new working model for engineering collaboration and vehicle safety enhancement is possible with captured data. Data-based eCommerce business models can be built. Revenue generation avenues like roadside assistance, vehicle health monitoring services, restaurant services, etc., can be explored. Electric vehicles offer carmakers the benefit of measuring driver behaviour and driving patterns of vehicles. This is essential data for insurance services and personalized vehicle service alerts. This data is also useful for after-sales service and vehicle upkeep.

Micro-mobility is the future of urban transportation

It is predicted that with rapid urbanization growth, micro-mobility will have a substantial vehicle demand, and the same can be electrified. Micro mobility may not require high-tech vehicles but may demand high-performance optimized vehicles.

Opportunities beyond vehicle making

In-house R&D is capital and resource intensive. OEMs need to focus on establishing partnerships beyond vehicle making. Cross-functional partnerships include the subsystem design of a supplier, validation partners, and aggregating the operations, to name a few. EVs require hardware – Electronics as well as components; however, operating software is also one of the major constituents of EV operation. Software platform development can be partnered with companies based on usage or exchanging field data for software validation.

Battery recycling

A report published by Bloomberg.com, Asian edition in June 2022, reveals that the global lithium-ion battery market is expected to reach USD 182.53 billion by 2030. Furthermore, according to the latest report by Grand View Research, Inc., the battery market is expected to expand at a CAGR of 18.1% from 2022 to 2030.

The recycling of batteries will be a great challenge as well as a huge opportunity in the future. One of the former CTO of Tesla motors founded a company named Redwood Materials in the USA, focusing completely on recycling the mineral from used batteries and putting it to reuse. It is claimed that 95% of Lithium-Ion battery material can be recycled. However, the process is complex and capital-intensive. The recycling of batteries business is going to be a socially respectful as well as a commercially beneficial opportunity for the future.

Energy storage and distribution [Green Energy]

Today EVs have supporters, fans, and facilitators; however, it also has opposition. The opposition is mainly due to current mineral mining practices and energy generation based on coal power plants and resulting emissions. However, there is an excellent opportunity to generate solar and wind-generated power energy, store it, and distribute it economically. It will not only be an image booster for EVs but also a great help to the planet.

Approaches to Solution Development

The automotive ecosystem is evolving at a faster pace than ever before. Figure 1 depicts a summary of approaches suggested in this article. Approaches like building partnerships, tie-up with universities, and establishing supply chains, to name a few are new; however, their significance and inevitability are more in the current time. Let’s discuss each approach in detail.

Focus Digital

The automotive ecosystem is closely knitted with mechatronics systems. The large-scale electronics and software implementation in the vehicle provides additional and more real-time data-gathering avenues. Considering the capability to capture, analyze and implement solutions based on the data, EV makers need to focus on digital development more than ever before. Digital engineering will not only shrink the development lead time, but also it will reduce the product development budget.

Let’s extend the example of test rig development. Building bench test rigs is an expensive job that demands skilled resources. Recreating field events is also complex, and ensuring consistent results every time requires effort. Fortunately, digitally developed solutions will ease these challenges. For example, virtual prototypes that can validate complete electro-mechanical-hydraulic-thermal systems, including their embedded software, purely in simulation, will be a great approach to solution development.

Establish the supply chain – Raw Material

Precious EV raw material minerals like lithium and cobalt are available in specific geographies. China currently dominates EV battery material processing as well as raw material access. Dependence on one specific geography makes the EV supply chain vulnerable. The supply chain for electronic components, like ICs, are also a concern. We have been aware of semiconductor component shortages in the last couple of years. Major OEMs could not find an alternative for semiconductor component supplies, and many had to halt production. Increased implementation of electronics in EVs will demand more synergy in this supply chain.

The “Local for local” approach to the supply chain will be one of the solutions to this crucial problem. Consortiums can be formed among the countries having raw materials, technology, and processing strengths to serve the market.

Find and build good partnerships

Technology development demands financial assets [capital], human resources [intellectual], and time. EV makers must find suitable technology players, including independent research houses, universities, suppliers, and government research facilities, that can be leveraged to build performance products.

Conventionally automakers have been in the driving seat for the development, with suppliers building “make-to-print” parts except for certain systems. Recently, the approach is changed towards OEMs giving requirements and suppliers driving the research and development network, which has proven beneficial as development time pressure is distributed. A similar approach is needed for EVs but with much higher intensity. Collaboration will be the key to the success for EV development. EV space is dominated by start-ups. Effective utilization of partners’ networks and strength is the key to scaling EV development.

Develop resources, including HR

EV solutions need multi-disciplinary considerations (mechanical, electrical,  electronics).

Automated tools/equipment with built-in intelligence, like recommended actions, possible solutions, etc., are required to ensure smooth man-machine interaction. Continuous focus on human resource education and training is required to sync with technology upgradation.

Tie-up with universities

Organizations must leverage the university’s facilities, talent, and excellent network. The western world is already utilizing universities for critical research and having traditional collaboration. In India, technical universities like IITs, NITs, and other state-funded universities have proven their mettle and provide value to technology development. Fundamental know-how can be developed in collaboration with universities, and the organization can commercialize the technology with its processes and network.

Customer Collaboration

Structured market research and customer feedback were predominant tools used to understand customer sentiments. However, a more proactive approach to customer collaboration is needed to fulfil the needs and expectations of the next-generation vehicles.

In the agriculture industry, some companies have already implemented this approach for new product development. The companies select knowledgeable and trustworthy customers with whom they co-develop the product and validate it before launching it into the market. This approach reduces the feedback cycle and provides a window for product development.

Supplier partners will continue to play a vital role in the new mobility journey. OEM customers used to dictate the specifications and performance requirements for the products and suppliers typically used to follow. The tight control of product specifications and undisclosed intent create uncertainty for suppliers. While developing such specifications based on new products, suppliers generate their own safety net to cover the uncertainty, which typically results in higher costs and unoptimized products. A new approach to customer collaboration will reduce this uncertainty to a large extent and provide more windows for optimization based on joint specifications and performance parameters.

Conclusion

This article presents potential opportunities that are opening due to EV challenges at a broad level; however, underneath each opportunity lie numerous adjacent opportunities. Therefore, it is required to re-look at some of the traditional solution development approaches and align them to current requirements. In some cases, a completely new approach, like supply chain development for raw materials, is required.

I am taking this opportunity to thank the EVreporter team for the opportunity to share my thoughts on the “Impact of EV on Automotive Ecosystem”. This is the concluding chapter of this series. I want to thank all the readers for their active participation, feedback, and, most importantly, encouragement about the series. There is a lot to share and mention; however, there is always a next time!


Previous Chapters
  1. Transition to Electric Vehicles | Impact on the automotive ecosystem – Chapter 1
  2. Automotive Industry Stakeholders and Impact due to EV Transformation – Chapter 2
  3. EV Transition impact on different vehicle systems and subsystems – Chapter 3
  4. Reimagining the Automotive Ecosystem with Electric Vehicles – Chapter 4
  5. Reimagining the Automotive Ecosystem | Electrification Challenges – Chapter 5

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