That’s why TE and other suppliers using embedded teams of engineers within the engineering operations of major automaker customers. From inside, suppliers can pitch existing products and materials, or ones they have in development
Their customers are looking for ways to get more driving miles per charge, tackle technical problems such as electromagnetic interference or, most importantly, cut costs on vehicles that are as yet unprofitable.
St. Paul-based 3M formed its automotive electrification group as global automakers rolled out ambitious investment plans, the bulk of which are earmarked for China. The Chinese government has enacted escalating electric-vehicle quotas starting in 2019.
3M will not disclose its spending on EV technology, but executive chairman Inge Thulin says it is a “big, big investment.”
The company has already provided “thermal management” technology for General Motors Co’s Bolt EV to extend its range.
Taiwanese auto startup Xing Mobility is using Novec to cool the batteries in its high-performance Miss R model, and 3M says other automakers are working to adopt the technology, but declined to disclose names.
3M also aims to repurpose filter technology used in cell phones for EVs to make infotainment screens and consoles brighter while at the same time using less energy, helping boost battery range.
It also has technology, again from cell phones, to cut electromagnetic interference – that, for instance, enables EVs to drive under power lines without various functions cutting out.
LIGHTER GOES FARTHER
Making vehicles lighter extends EV range.
Norsk Hydro, which already supplies Tesla Inc , is figuring out how to marry up products from two of its own businesses, extruded body-frame parts and precision tubing, to develop new ways for cooling battery packs, said Mike Tozier, who leads Hydro’s advanced product development in North America.
That way, Hydro should be able to provide automakers with more ways to lighten their loads and thus make aluminum a more attractive choice.
“Automakers are more comfortable with steel, so you’re automatically fighting an incumbent material there,” Tozier said. “But automakers are looking aggressively at more options because they have to remain cost competitive at high volumes.”
The push to find ways to add to EV range extends down to the tires
Trinseo has invested in a plant in Germany that will increase its synthetic rubber production capacity 33 percent to meet anticipated growth in electric vehicle production, and will help the supplier develop more efficient products. Tires made with synthetic rubber can already boost efficiency by 12 percent compared to conventional tires, said Hayati Yarkadas, a senior vice president at the company.
“The development cycle requested for EVs is significantly shorter and faster than what we have faced with the traditional automotive industry,” he said.
(Reporting By Nick Carey. Editing by Joseph White and Nick Zieminski)