Effects of the electric car revolution on the automotive supply chain | Over the past one hundred years car design and manufacturing techniques have continually developed and improved. Thanks not only to new technologies but also due to the desire to deliver safer, cleaner and more reliable cars at prices the consumer can afford. The manufacture and ongoing improvement in design of the internal combustion engine has been an integral part of the development of the cars that we have available today. These engines are cleaner and more efficient than we could have ever believed possible only 15 years ago. After one hundred years of continual improvement the automotive industry has developed a highly sophisticated supply chain and aftermarket support structure.
This is now all set to change with the advances in all electric vehicles. Their popularity is driven by support of governments in terms of avoidance of inner city charges, tax breaks for company car drivers as well as improvements in charging infrastructure. There is also a desire from many consumers to be more green and the electric car is one significant way to demonstrate this.
Full Speed Impact
The effect of this change to electric vehicles on the supply chain and the aftermarket support industry is substantial. The manufacture of internal combustion engines has built up a supply chain of precision engineering companies whose expertise will not be required in the world of electric vehicle manufacture. The host of components needed to support the workings of a traditional combustion engine will not be needed – many of which have traditionally been electroplated to protect them from corrosion ‘underbonnet’. Years of development have taken place in corrosion resistant finishes to protect these components operating at high temperature and requiring many years of warranty cover, such as zinc nickel alloy. This will no longer be the case when only a simple electric motor is hidden away within the platform of the chassis (of the electric car). The electroplating industry, like the supply chain as a whole, will have to change and adapt to new requirements.
Electroplating has always been about giving new functionality to a component which its base material does not offer. Traditionally this has largely been to offer steel components a high level of corrosion resistance which in their natural state they would not have.
Driving Forward Change
In the new world of electric vehicles many of the components are not steel but copper or brass and require very different functionality from their surface coating. In particular electrical conductivity and solderability will be much more relevant.
To this end tin, copper and nickel plating will play an important part in supplying the necessary components into the supply chain for electric vehicles. To date we are actively involved in bus bar components, fuse mechanisms, connectors and bespoke fastener systems all requiring controlled coatings of either copper, tin or nickel or a combination of these.
At E.C. Williams we are already playing an active role in this thanks to our long experience in supporting the electrical industry with these coatings. Added to which our experience within the traditional OEM supply chain means we can support our customers with PPAP documentation as well as the quality criteria to meet the exacting demands of this exciting new electric car industry.