Following are three articles—the first, from Jabil, Inc., and the next two, from IDTechEx—that discuss innovations and trends that are impacting the development of electric vehicle technologies.
Innovation and Development of Electric Powertrain Technology: An Analysis
March 21, 2023
By Chad Morley
The mass adoption of electric vehicles is happening at a greater speed than most anticipated. In the last 12 months alone, S&P has adjusted its 2025 EV Share of Global production from 20 percent to 30 percent. And, despite the economic climate in many countries, EY research states that 52 percent of global consumers are looking to buy an electric vehicle for their next car purchase.
As the industry is faced with the important task of mainstreaming electric vehicles (EV) to meet regulatory and consumer demands, there remains a fluidity in the industry around who will drive powertrain innovation, and how this technology will be brought to market at an economically acceptable cost to consumers.
In Jabil and SIS International Research’s 2022 Electric Vehicle Powertrain survey, we asked more than 200 decision-makers from leading global automakers and commercial vehicle manufacturers about the factors driving innovation in EV powertrain technology and the remaining risks—and associated solutions—enabling mass adoption.
Key findings include:
* The average development cycle for EV powertrain technology is 24–30 months.
* 73 percent believe that new EV market entrants will lead EV powertrain technology innovation.
* Cost was identified as the main driver of EV powertrain innovation.
* Batteries and charging offer the most potential for innovation but also pose the most risk to mass adoption.
* 68 percent of respondents are considering the physical integration of powertrain components or modules within the next five to 10 years.
* Growing in-house design powertrain design capabilities is a priority for vehicle manufacturers.
Note: For the purpose of this research, “EV powertrain technology” included the inverter, converter, integrated power converter, on-board charging, battery management system, and power distribution.
1. The Average Product Development Lifecycle for EV Powertrain Technology Is 24–30 Months
With predictions stating that 60 percent of new vehicles will be BEV or EV by 2030, the speed of powertrain technology development, and launch to scaled manufacturing, is key. Longer timelines may impact the industry’s ability to meet emissions reductions regulations, while shorter timelines will enable the automakers to launch vehicles and secure their place in the market.
The majority (86 percent) of survey respondents said their average development and launch timeline for powertrain technology is between 24 and 40 months. More specifically, 51 percent typically take between 24 and 30 months, while 35 percent spend 31 to 40 months on the process. Only 4 percent have brought their EV powertrain development and launch cycles to 24 months or less, closer to the timeline of consumer electronics and IoT devices.
This timeline is a dramatic shift from similar research that Jabil ran just four years ago. In our research into automotive product development cycles in 2017 and 2018, we saw shortening product development lifecycles of technology, predominantly for internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. In a 2018 Jabil survey, only 29 percent of automotive OEMs said their product development cycle took 24 months or longer. Nearly half (49 percent) said their time-to-market was 18 months or less.
While these pieces of research aren’t strictly comparable, it’s clear to see that with the accelerated launch of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), we are seeing longer product development life cycles. Looking forward, as BEVs become mainstream and solutions are found to manufacturing challenges, we would expect to see development cycles shorten again.
When asked about factors constraining EV powertrain product development, survey respondents identified four key areas:
* Battery manufacturing capacity—Respondents were concerned about manufacturers’ ability to produce the number of batteries that will be needed to meet the growing demand for EVs.
* Material shortages—This is a concern especially for materials that may become critical as we rely more on battery electric vehicles that require rare earth metals and other natural resources, like cobalt, in the production process.
* Cost of tools, materials and components—Increased costs could slow the pace of innovation and production.
* Lack of internal expertise—Respondents indicated that their companies may need assistance with expertise, skills, and frameworks around electrification to complement the knowledge they have in house.
2. While Innovation Will Come from Both New and Traditional Sources in the Short Term, 73 Percent Believe EV Companies Will Lead Long-Term
When asked about who will drive innovation in powertrain technology, the majority of respondents believe it will come from a variety of sources, both new and traditional. In the next five to 10 years, 67 percent of respondents believe that innovation will come from new EV market entrants; 68 percent, from traditional automotive/commercial vehicle OEMs; and 67 percent, from automotive battery manufacturers.
When it comes to the longer term of over 10 years, we see a slight uptick in expected innovation from EV entrants. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of automotive leaders believe that innovation will be led by new EV market entrants, while 69 percent expect it to stem from traditional automotive/commercial vehicle OEMs; 66 percent, from automotive battery manufacturers; and 51percent, from tier-one suppliers. In contrast, only 17 percent believe EV powertrain innovation will come from software companies; and 8 percent, from lower-tier niche suppliers.
It is clear from these responses that vehicle manufacturers will continue to be the principal driver of powertrain innovation in the EV era, as they have been traditionally in the internal combustion engine era. But key to driving this innovation will be building and maintaining in-house engineering and scientific skill bases.
3. Cost Is Seen as the Primary Driver of EV Powertrain Innovation
Manufacturing costs continue to be a concern for electric vehicle OEMs; as of June 2022, consulting firm Alix Partners found that the raw material cost for EVs was, on average, 125 percent greater than that of ICE vehicles. The firm also reported that the cost of raw materials for EVs has itself jumped 95 percent since March 2020, driven mainly by the metals used in EV batteries.
Compounding the raw material cost is the investment required to transform ICE production lines to EV production, or, in the case of new EV market entrants, build EV production capacity from scratch. An expensive exercise, especially given the production and handling of lithium batteries.
In the Jabil research, it’s understandable that cost was the most common driver of innovation for EV powertrain technology at 31 percent. Power electronics and motor efficiency followed behind at 28 percent, then energy storage density at 27 percent. Another 14 percent found that charging speed was a driver.
The pressure to reduce cost while increasing efficiency and density is incredible, given the extremely short time in which the industry is transforming. Some technologies are already on their fifth or sixth generation, and the innovations have only just begun. Huge effort is going into replacing expensive materials with lower-cost and more readily available materials. Making power and energy denser also reduces material usage and, therefore, decreases cost.
4. Batteries and Charging Offer the Most Potential for Innovation, but Also Pose the Most Risk to Mass Adoption
The survey asked respondents their thoughts on what factors will have the most impact on EV powertrain technology innovation over the next 10 years. The highest response by far, at 41 percent, was new developments in battery chemistry. Following behind, just over a fifth (21 percent) cited motor efficiency developments as the most impactful new development; 20 percent highlighted integrated architectures; 10 percent selected electronics integration; and the smallest number, at 7 percent, chose efficient wide band gap semiconductors.
This belief that battery chemistry will be highly impactful on the development of EV powertrain technology illuminates the risks OEMs perceive in the push toward mass adoption of electrified vehicles. Survey respondents identified that, while batteries provide great opportunity, charging infrastructure and battery manufacturing concerns present the greatest challenges to large-scale EV deployment:
* Among our respondents, 30 percent noted charging infrastructure as the biggest risk to the automotive industry. As battery and charging technology continues to evolve, there are growing options for powering up an electric vehicle. Home charging is a convenient choice, but it can take many hours to charge a vehicle at home, creating a need for public high-voltage, fast-charging infrastructure. There’s a big gap between need and reality right now. According to McKinsey, if half of all vehicles sold by 2030 are zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) to meet federal targets, the U.S. would need 1.2 million public EV chargers and 28 million private chargers in homes and workplaces. That’s roughly 20 times more chargers than are currently installed across the country.
* Twenty percent of study respondents indicate that battery manufacturing capacity issues could present a risk for global mass adoption.
* While consumer purchase costs are a top concern to 16 percent of respondents, it is important to reinforce the fact that electrified vehicles save consumers money—up to $1,000 per year and $9,000 over a lifetime, according to the Center for Sustainable Energy. They also indicate that, due to the reduction of parts required to run electrified vehicles, consumers can also save up to $4,600 on repairs over the lifetime of the vehicle.
5. Most Automakers Are Considering the Physical Integration of Powertrain Components to Accelerate Powertrain Development and Speed to Market
One way that manufacturers are working to accelerate EV powertrain development is by integrating components or modules. This tactic means the vehicle contains fewer parts overall, making it lighter and more sustainable.
The Jabil research identified that 68 percent of respondents are considering integrating some combination of components or modules in their products within the next five to 10 years.
The most popular combination was an on-board charger and battery, which 51 percent believe will be integrated together in the coming years. And exactly half expect a converter and integrated power conversion to be integrated.
With these foreseen integrations come significant cost savings, as well as power efficiency improvements.
6. Growing In-House Powertrain Design Capabilities Is a Priority for Vehicle Manufacturers
With the spectrum of opportunity and challenges faced by automakers in developing and launching BEVs, the Jabil research uncovered findings about OEMs’ product design, manufacturing, and supply chain strategies.
The research showed some clear alignment across the industry on approaches.
* In-house design—Respondents clearly indicated that they would be growing and/or leveraging in-house design capabilities for all core modules of an EV powertrain. Overall, an average of 51 percent of OEMs believe the design engineering work for these components will be brought in house 10-plus years from now.
* Module assembly—85 percent of respondents are likely to opt for in-house module or system assembly, 49 percent said they would go for a model where a tier-one owns their module or system assembly, and 14 percent would choose to outsource module or system assembly to a service provider.
* Electronics manufacturing—65 percent of respondents indicated they are likely to partner with a contract manufacturer for electronics manufacturing (but not for module or system assembly); 50 percent, to purchase systems from tier-ones; and 47 percent, to acquire manufacturing capabilities.
* Supply chain—78 percent of respondents elected to partner with traditional supplier and/or other ecosystem member(s); 72 percent chose adding new regional sourcing; and 71 percent were for optimizing logistics. Only 21 percent of respondents said it was likely they would adopt local sourcing for their supply chain, possibly due to the fact that three-quarters of the survey respondents were based in Europe or North America.
Automotive OEMs are poised to eliminate one of the largest sources of manmade greenhouse gas emissions exacerbating the global climate crisis. While constraining factors like limited battery capacity, charging infrastructure, and a lack of design expertise present significant hurdles, by leveraging electronics manufacturing, system assembly, and the supply chain, OEMs could be on the brink of reaching global mass adoption of electrified vehicles sooner than we thought.
Chad Morley is senior vice president, global business units, automotive and transportation, Jabil, Inc..
This article was originally published on the Jabil Blog, and is reprinted with permission.
Five Key Technology Trends for Tomorrow’s Electric Car
BOSTON—The automotive sector is the largest transport sector, with some 80–90 million cars sold globally each year. Approximately 1.1 billion cars are in use across the world, putting the sector at the top of the list of road emissions contributors and making it a natural focal point for green policymakers, according to a release from the technology market research firm IDTechEx.
Although electric car projects date back 100 years, electric car markets as we know them today have been growing since circa 2011. IDTechEx predicts that in 20 years, electric cars will generate 76 percent of all e-transport revenues.
Car markets, because of their scale, create the largest opportunities for players in the electric vehicle supply chain. These market opportunities range from advanced materials to battery packs, power electronics, and electric motors. Moreover, they drive the rapid pace of innovation that enables electrification in other transport sectors, whether in technology, regulation, or business models, according to the release.
In its report, Electric Cars 2023-2043, IDTechEx examines future automotive markets and provides long-term forecasts. Its regional coverage includes the United States, China, Norway, the UK, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, and the rest of the world (RoW).
Technology covered in the report includes battery-electric (BEV), hybrid (PHEV and HEV), and fuel cell (FCEV) cars; autonomous vehicles (L2, L3, L4); lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries (NMC, NCA, LFP, silicon, solid-state); electric motors (PM, WRSM, ACIM, axial-flux, In-wheel); and power electronics (SiC, Si IGBT).
Following is an outline of key technology trends identified by IDTechEx in its report.
Advanced Li-ion Battery Cells and Packs
Lithium-ion batteries based on graphite anodes and layered oxide cathodes (NMC, NCA) have come to dominate large parts of the electric vehicle markets. However, as they start to reach their performance limits and as environmental and supply risks are highlighted, improvements and alternatives to Li-ion batteries become increasingly important, according to the release.
Advanced Li-ion refers to silicon and Li-metal anodes, solid-electrolytes, and high-Ni cathodes, as well as various cell design factors. Given the importance of the electric vehicle market—specifically, battery electric cars—in determining battery demand, Li-ion is forecast to maintain its dominant position. However, gradual improvements to cathodes, anodes, cell design, and energy density are key. The IDTechEx report projects that up to 400Wh per kg battery cells will have a presence in mainstream markets by 2030.
Innovation is also happening at the pack level. Several different materials are required to assemble a battery pack. These include thermal interface materials, adhesives, gaskets, impregnation, potting, fillers, and more. A general trend towards larger cell form factors and non-modular cell-to-pack battery designs is underway, which will reduce the number of connections, busbars, and cables between cells and modules, the company said.
In automotive power electronics (inverters, onboard chargers, DC-DC converters), key advancements are being made to improve powertrain efficiency, allowing for either battery pack capacity reduction or improved range. One of the key avenues to achieving greater efficiencies is the transition to silicon carbide MOSFETs and high voltage vehicle platforms at or above 800V. Renault, BYD, GM, Hyundai, and others have announced 800V vehicle platforms that will adopt silicon carbide MOSFETs in their power electronics through 2025, according to the company.
The transition is presenting fresh challenges for power module package materials, as higher switching frequencies, increased power densities, and increased operational temperatures are demanded, all while maintaining a 15-year service life. The report predicts that 800V platforms and SiC inverters will rise to at least 10 percent of the market by 2030. As the power density of semiconductor chips increases exponentially, new double-sided cooling designs, copper wire bonds, and lead frames will enable the trend, the company said in the release.
Electric motor markets are still evolving today, with new designs improving power and torque density and more considerations around the materials used. These are not just incremental improvements either, with developments such as axial flux motors and various OEMs eliminating rare-earths altogether, the company said.
There are several key performance metrics for electric motors. Power and torque density enables improved driving dynamics in a smaller and lighter package, as weight and space are at a premium in EVs. Another critical area is drive cycle efficiency. Improving efficiency means that less of the precious energy stored in the battery is wasted when accelerating the vehicle, leading to an improved range from the same battery capacity. Due to the many different considerations in motor design, the EV market has adopted several different solutions, including permanent magnet, induction, and wound-rotor motors, according to the release.
The report states that while motors will remain dominated by permanent magnets, there will be opportunities for magnet-free variants as cost and sustainability come to the forefront in the coming years.
Opportunities for fuel cells in car markets are limited, although markets are still growing, underpinned by government support. The deployment of fuel cells within vehicles is not a new concept. Major OEMs, including Toyota, Ford, Honda, GM, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Daimler, and BMW, have invested large sums over the past 30 years in advancing the technology.
For passenger cars, a huge amount of effort and expense has gone into developing fuel cells. But as of November 2022, only two major OEMs, Toyota and Hyundai, had FCEV cars in production, and fewer than 20,000 FCEVs were sold in 2021, the release said.
Fuel cell vehicle deployments face considerable challenges, including decreasing the cost of fuel cell system components and rolling out sufficient hydrogen refueling infrastructure. Also essential will be the availability of low-cost “green” hydrogen, produced by the electrolysis of water using renewable electricity. According to the report’s analysis, this will be vital if FCEVs are to deliver the environmental benefits that are touted in their sales.
“Autonomous vehicle” (AV) is an umbrella term for the six levels as defined by the SAE. Today, most new cars are arriving with the option of level 2 functionality, and the industry is technically ready for level 3, once regulatory hurdles clear.
In recent years, vast improvements to autonomous vehicle technologies, such as radar, lidar, HD cameras, and software have propelled robo-taxis to the cusp of market readiness. Although subject to debate, level 4 autonomy is reported to have been commercialized in 2022, with Cruise and Baidu introducing initial services in the U.S. and China, respectively.
In its report, IDTechEx forecasts how these services will come to dominate within 20 years. Overall, the report predicts autonomous vehicles will become a “massively disruptive technology” that is expected to grow rapidly at a rate of up to 47 percent while transforming the auto market over the next two decades.
EV Market Doubles Down on Permanent Magnets Despite Material Costs
BOSTON—The global turmoil of the past few years has caused prices to rise in numerous categories of materials, including the rare earth materials used to manufacture electric motors for electric vehicles (EVs).
According to a release from the technology market research firm IDTechEx, the price of neodymium remained fairly constant from 2013 to 2020. However, 2022 saw a very sharp rise to its peak in February, at 3.8 times greater than the previous average. Although the price settled somewhat, as of October 2022, it was still 2.4 times higher than it had been between 2013 and 2020.
Some automakers have alternative motor technologies that don’t rely on rare earths, but the market has not shifted in this direction significantly. Why is that the case?
What Are the Motor Technology Options?
IDTechEx recently issued a new report, Electric Motors for Electric Vehicles 2022-2032, based on its research into the electric motor market for electric vehicles. In the report, IDTechEx provides analysis, benchmarking, and demand forecasts of different motor technologies.
According to the company, the three main categories used in the electric car market so far are permanent magnet motors, induction motors, and wound rotor motors. From a materials point of view, each of these typically uses a stationary stator with copper windings; the difference is in the rotor construction.
Permanent magnet motors, as the name suggests, use magnets on the rotor that are typically made using rare earths, with neodymium taking the largest fraction (although there has been some progress in ferrite-based magnets). Induction motors use a copper cage or windings on the rotor and use an asynchronous operating principle. Finally, wound rotor motors also have copper windings on the rotor, but these are excited directly with an electric current, the company said in the release.
Other motor technologies, such as switched reluctance motors, also exist. Although work is being done to make them more suited to passenger vehicle applications, the market to date has been dominated by the three options above, according to IDTechEx.
What Is Happening in the EV Market?
Permanent magnet motors are by far the most commonly used electric motor in the EV market, thanks to their high power density, torque density, and efficiency. In 2021, permanent magnet motors reportedly made up 84 percent of the electric car market.
Despite their use in earlier Tesla vehicles, induction motors have been largely relegated to the secondary drive motor, thanks to minimal drag losses while not in use. Wound rotor motors are the typical choice when a permanent magnet-free primary drive motor is required.
With the rising costs of materials, especially expensive rare earths, interest has been seen towards eliminating their use in electric motors. Renault has made use of wound rotor motors, and BMW recently adopted them for its 5th-generation drive. In addition, Mercedes went with induction motors for its EQC model, according to IDTechEx.
Established motor suppliers like MAHLE and smaller companies like Advanced Electric Machines are also focusing on magnet-free alternatives. Despite interest in these alternatives, market share for permanent magnet motors reportedly rose to 86 percent in the first half of 2022, as compared to 84 percent in 2021.
Why Has the Market Not Abandoned Rare Earths?
IDTechEx said there are a few reasons why permanent magnet motors have remained the dominant choice of technology. The first is the dominance of China’s domestic electric car market, the largest in the world. China is also responsible for the vast majority of rare earth supply, and so the cost of neodymium is not as much of a concern as it is in other regions.
Automotive development timescales are another potential reason. The vehicle platforms sold in 2022 were developed over several years, with existing contracts for motor supply. There will be a lag between where the interest in the market for magnet-free motors rises, and the actual deployment on the road.
Alternative motor technologies will also require further development. OEMs are comfortable with permanent magnet motors, and a switch in technology needs to prove it is reliable, has equivalent or better performance, and does not require significant shifts in control electronics (unless this can be included with the motor), the company said.
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