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Remaining Relevant Among the EV Manufacturing Shift

Remaining Relevant Among the EV Manufacturing Shift

Posted: 5/20/2024 12:53:43 PM by Josh Leath
Topics: Automotive, Manufacturing, New Technologies

As the transition to a more sustainable future continues, more and more Americans are discovering the advantages of electric vehicles (EVs). From limited maintenance to incredible torque and acceleration, as well as the ability to fuel from home, along with attractive rebates, EV’s are no longer just a “green” vehicle option, but an aspiration with broader appeal.

With battery electric vehicles (BEVs) accounting for 70% of electric car sales1, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and Tier 1 suppliers are upgrading facilities to make them EV production-ready. This is especially true for the North American market, where sales for electric vehicles are expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.2% by 20282. Moreover, EV sales in the U.S. are expected to approach two million units for 2024, accounting for 13% of new car purchases3.

Adapting Product Portfolios

Along with the push for electric vehicles, however, a huge shift is taking place, prompting automobile manufacturers and their suppliers to evaluate their product offerings. From starter and exhaust systems to alternators, gas tanks, radiator coolant systems and more, the type and volume of parts needed for internal combustion engines continues to dwindle. To effectively deal with this margin erosion and keep profitable, motivated Tier 1 suppliers are turning dead-end, “out with the old,” attitudes into strategic, “in with the new,” game plans that can ride the electric vehicle tsunami into a more competitive future.  

Designed around grasping a larger piece of the manufacturing/value chain puzzle, select suppliers are moving from mainly piece-part manufacturing to complete system production to better accommodate EV production. From full powertrain and battery assemblies, the idea of making entire vehicle systems at one facility holds promise. 

With this undertaking, however, comes a warning of caution. Most likely, the assemblies and systems produced at each site will not be designated for mass production – as most electric car makers offer signature EV designs. Throw in the complexity of pure battery electric models vs. hybrid options (among others) and even more pressure is added to suppliers facing margin compression. That said, suppliers should research market and OEM needs, and execute a clear-cut plan for what is ultimately produced. 

While the manufacturing of select parts will be greatly minimized, others such as seats, restraints, shocks, brakes, etc. will face little to no change. Another concept for Tier 1 suppliers to consider – where throwing their proverbial hats in the “new part production ring” is concerned – is the manufacturing of new mechanical systems or other unique features. Heat pumps, for example, are becoming common for EV HVAC installation – as heat pumps are far more efficient on battery power compared to electric element heaters.

Likewise, high voltage battery systems to enable faster charging are being manufactured. Because these high output batteries can be heavy, lightweighting elsewhere is extremely important. As a result, giant high-pressure die casting machines are being used to punch out aluminum vehicle chassis. Known as gigacasting, this process is spreading throughout OEMs, with several Tier 1 suppliers jumping in the ring to fulfill demand. While this process and these reduced weight chassis are meeting a niche requirement, they also substantially reduce the use of traditional car chassis consisting of dozens of welded body parts. Overall, this minimizes production time.

Moving forward, robots will continue to assist with cast tending tasks, as well as with finishing applications, such as the deflashing of cast excess and laser ablation for cleaning parts. All that to say, suppliers will need to take stock of their current production offerings and adjust accordingly to remain relevant in an EV manufacturing world. 

Supporting EV Production

To successfully support many of the processes required to bring electric vehicles to the masses, an array of partnerships, methods and technologies are being used. Joint ventures between Tier 1 suppliers/technology companies and OEMs are forming to streamline production and reduce costs. Honda Motor Co., for example, is partnering with LG Energy Solution (LGES) to fulfill the demand for Honda and Acura EV models. As a result, a dedicated battery plant is being built in Southern Ohio to support Honda’s electric vehicle initiatives.  

High-performance robots, along with their peripherals, are also being implemented. Whether they are being installed in new facilities or integrated into existing operations, these virtual workhorses tackle many challenging processes needed for electric vehicle and EV battery production. From automated assembly and dispensing to laser welding, screw driving and more, versatile and efficient robots are ideal for completing many of the core tasks required to facilitate fluid battery module assembly. Newer processes for friction stir welding of dissimilar materials are also being conducted by robotics. Other manipulators for moving vehicle chassis, inspecting weld seams, painting car frames and more are also helping in this space. 

Moving Manufacturing Forward

As the demand for electric vehicles rises, the automotive industry will continue to adjust and undergo transformation. OEMs and Tier manufacturers, alike, will need to evaluate current product inventory and subsequent processes, determining what is relevant and profitable to maintain moving forward. Research and development (R&D) initiatives will play into this, helping companies improve lightweighting materials, battery capabilities, drivetrain performance and more. This diversification will go a long way to expand electric vehicle usage, positioning manufacturers for long-term success. 

If retooling an existing manufacturing facility or building a completely new one is on your company radar, reach out to our robotic experts today. Discover how the use of high-performance robots can optimize your operations, boosting throughput and quality while differentiating your company from the competition. 


1 Trends in Electric Cars, IEA, 2024 

2 Electric Vehicles - United Sates, Statista, 2024 

3 Electric Vehicle Market Looks Headed for 22% Growth, Bloomberg, 2024


Josh Leath is a Senior Product Manager

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