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Under pressure from the rise of Chinese auto companies, global automakers have begun to push low-cost electric vehicles

2024-02-27 Update From: SLTechnology News&Howtos shulou NAV: SLTechnology News&Howtos > IT Information >

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The rise of low-cost electric cars in China has increased the pressure on traditional carmakers, prompting them to put pressure on suppliers such as battery makers and chipmakers to cut costs and develop more affordable electric vehicles faster than planned.

Andy Palmer, chairman of Brill Power, the UK start-up, said: "carmakers can really only turn to developing cheaper cars now and they know they have to do that or they will lose to Chinese manufacturers."

Tu Yuan PexelsBrill Power mainly develops hardware and software to improve the performance of electric vehicle battery management system. Palmer, a former chief executive of Aston Martin, said Brill Power's products could increase the mileage of electric vehicles by 60 per cent and help reduce battery size. Batteries are still the most expensive part of electric vehicles.

Because electric cars are expensive, there are fears that demand will slow, adding to the urgency of cost reduction. This urgency can be seen everywhere. Renault said last month it planned to reduce the cost of electric vehicles by 40 per cent to bring them on a par with fuel-fueled vehicles.

Stellantis is also working with China's Ningde Times to build a plant in Europe to produce cheaper LFP batteries. The company also recently launched the Citroen electric SUV e-C3, starting at 23300 euros ($24540). Volkswagen and Tesla are also developing electric cars that sell for $25000.

Vincent Prouvinaci, chief executive of OneD Battery Sciences, based in Palo Alto, Calif., said that during his recent visit to European carmaker customers, every meeting began with the same sentence: "reducing costs is more important than anything else now."

The addition of silicon nanowires to the anode material of graphite battery by OneD Battery Sciences can help to increase the range and shorten the charging time. Compared with electric vehicle batteries that use graphite alone to make 100kwh (kWh) batteries, it saves $281 (nearly 50 per cent).

This could reduce the weight of electric vehicles' batteries by 20 per cent over the same mileage, says Mr Pluvinaci. General Motors is an investor and customer of OneD Battery Sciences.

Mr Prouvinaci said that because carmakers did not like complex and expensive new processes, the company had developed a relatively cheap manufacturing process based on the machinery used in the solar panel industry. OneD Battery Sciences's first test plant will open early next year.

Veekim, based in Hordenhagen, Germany, has developed an electric car motor whose magnets use a ferrite or iron powder instead of rare earths, and five carmakers and suppliers are testing projects to develop low-cost electric vehicles.

Traditional carmakers want to reduce the use of rare earths. Peter Peter Siegle, chief executive of Veekim, said the use of cheaper ferrites and low-cost processes, including 3D printed copper wire, could reduce the price of electric car motors by 20 per cent. The price of the car may be reduced by more than 500 euros.

Start-ups are not the only ones looking to reduce the cost of electric vehicles. Chip maker NXP is working with carmakers to reduce the number of electronic control units (or microcomputers) in electric vehicles. Aaron McAuslan (Allan mccauslin), the company's director of automotive control and electrification, says the number of electronic control units on electric vehicles could be between 200 and 300.

Siemens has developed a software simulation technology called digital twins, which halves the time it takes to develop expensive electric vehicles.

European carmakers are responding to the impact of low-cost electric cars from China, where they are planning to launch cheaper models. BYD dolphin hatchbacks, for example, start at 26000 pounds ($33000) in the UK, nearly 30 per cent lower than Volkswagen's ID.3 hatchbacks.

But US carmakers are also seeking to introduce more affordable electric vehicles because subsidies under the inflation reduction Act (Inflation Reduction Act) partly protect them from Chinese electric car imports.

GM said it had saved billions of dollars, in part because it had developed a cheaper LFP battery pack for its revamped Bolt electric car, which will be launched in 2025, two years ahead of schedule. Ford said it would cut some of its costs by increasing the "insourcing" of components such as batteries and inverters by 50 per cent.

High-end carmakers also want to reduce the cost of electric vehicles.

Mujibur Ijaz, CEO of Michigan-based Our Next Energy, said the company was developing a "Ares" battery pack using cheaper LFP technology that would provide automakers with the same battery mileage at half price, while "Gemini" battery packs for customers such as BMW could provide longer mileage at a cost of $75 / kWh The current average price is $130 per kilowatt-hour.

Suppliers say carmakers particularly like parts that are cheaper and help reduce production costs.

CelLink, based in San Carlos, Calif., has developed a laminate to replace wire harness (which requires a lot of labor to make and install) and can be installed by robots. CelLink raised $250 million from investors last year and announced in May that it had received a $362 million U.S. government loan for its Texas plant.

Kevin Cockley, chief executive of CelLink, said that since the plant opened, "we have basically got some form of purchase order from every major automaker."

Addionics, an Israeli start-up, has developed a porous three-dimensional copper-aluminum electrode battery material that looks like a silk scarf in the sun and uses much less material, including a 60 per cent reduction in copper use.

Moshiel Biton, chief executive, says the electrodes provide faster charging speeds and increase the range of electric vehicles by 30 per cent. But automakers are more interested in projected savings of up to $7.50 per kilowatt-hour.

"what we hear from automakers today is:'we don't need longer mileage, we want lower costs,'" Beaton said.

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