Battery Electric Vehicles Bring Transformational Changes to Automotive Manufacturing

By Dick Slansky


The electrification of mobility and transportation will continue to accelerate because industry, business, and society at large are accepting  the clear reality that the industrialized world must eventually move away from burning fossil fuels. But nowhere will the impact of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) be felt more immediately and expansively than in the global automotive industry.

Options for both individual transportation and more flexible human mobility are being electrified at a rapid pace, with an increasing number of all types of traditionally fossil-fueled vehicles making the transition to electrification.  ARC Advisory Group research indicates that this trend will continue to accelerate well into this decade and beyond.

With more all-electric vehicles now hitting the personal vehicle market, the growth is also surging in trucks, buses, and industrial/agricultural vehicles. While it will be difficult to accurately predict future sales of BEVs, a combination of increasing demand for more environmentally friendly vehicles and government mandated restrictions in emissions is compelling automotive OEMs to significantly increase production rates. The shift from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to BEVs will have a profound and transformational effect on automotive manufacturing operations and their suppliers. Moreover, this shift will significantly impact global automotive industry employment patterns.

The flood of BEVs rolling out over this decade will have much fewer parts and assemblies than today’s gas-powered cars and trucks. Moreover, there will be a complete shift from the powertrain manufacture  of ICE vehicles to BEVs, not to mention battery assemblies and other electrical systems and components;  and that will radically change the automotive production processes, manufacturing technologies, the overall automotive supply chain, and the car-making workforce. This transformational shift will most certainly cause some disruptions to the industry, but it will also afford opportunities to reinvest in U.S. manufacturing as companies move to a green economy.

Shifting Gears in Automotive Manufacturing

Designing and building BEVs to replace ICE vehicles presents a formidable set of design and manufacturing technology challenges. It not only requires a new set of technologies to address the electrification of the vehicle, but also converting existing ICE factories as well as building new factories to manufacture BEVs exclusively. Additionally, car makers must Battery Electric Vehiclescompletely rethink vehicle engineering and the vehicle experience for the driver, while maintaining the existing “DNA” of their car brands as they convert iconic brands to electric drives.

Building an electric car is different in a multitude of ways. Fully electric cars don’t have multi-speed transmissions, radiators, fuel injectors, gas tanks, gears, crankshafts, or exhaust systems to name just a few differences. When compared to an ICE vehicle, BEV drivetrains  have much less parts and components. While conventional ICE drivetrains can have as many as 2,000 parts, electric drivetrains can have as few as 20.

Clearly, the difference in parts and system composition will define production requirements for BEV manufacturing and the eventual factory layout and processes. A traditional ICE manufacturing system would consist of powertrain production (transferee lines to produce engine parts and components), sheet metal stamping, body-in-white assembly, chassis and powertrain fitting, and general assembly. Many production processes for body, chassis systems, and interiors would be comparable between ICE vehicles and BEVs.


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Keywords: Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), Automotive, Electric Powertrain, Battery Packs, Reskilled Workforce, Smart Manufacturing, ARC Advisory Group.

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