When Henry Ford created the Ford Motor Company in 1903, few people could afford cars. They were expensive to make, expensive to repair and complicated to run. It looked like cars would remain the playthings of a privileged few.
Until, of course, Ford’s ingenious use of the internal combustion engine, new manufacturing processes and cheap-to-repair designs propelled a luxury item into the mainstream, forever changing the way ordinary people could travel.
With oil prices soaring, resources shrinking and environmental pressures mounting, it’s little wonder that, all over the world, governments and citizens are seeking out better, cleaner, more efficient alternatives to petrol cars. Some, like the UK, Norway, France and Germany, have even brought in legislation banning the sale of new non-electric vehicles as early as 2025. This makes the Electric Vehicle (EV) industry one of the most exciting, relevant and necessary areas of innovation today. But just like those early cars over a century ago, producing EVs for the mass market poses a whole bunch of challenges. It’s not easy to roll out a viable alternative to the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE). Breakthrough technologies open up new possibilities all the time. But transforming these into motors, control technologies and batteries, refining and perfecting models, and encouraging widespread adoption takes time. This is an area where product lifecycle management (PLM) proves incredibly valuable: By mapping and streamlining the process of product design and creation, EV entrepreneurs can seize on the latest developments in the industry, managing relationships with OEMs, partners, suppliers and customers, reducing product development times and bringing new ideas to market – quickly, efficiently and with minimal resources.
Today’s EV buyers are demanding. They don’t just expect innovative technology under the hood, they also expect beautiful design, smart use of space (including for batteries and fuel cells), plenty of choice and, of course, excellent safety standards. By embracing next-generation PLM, EV creators are driving up vehicle variants and driving down development times and product lifecycles to meet these demands.
Autonomous, self-driving vehicles have caught the interest of fleet and private consumers alike. Take companies like Einride, the Swedish company behind the T-pod and T-log, which has developed a system whereby an operator can remotely control multiple self-driving trucks at once, cutting out the need for a large, dedicated team of full-time operators and drivers. This level of efficiency is reinventing whole markets.
A major challenge for EVs is their limited range compared to ICE. Overall operating costs are often lower, but when you factor in the availability of refueling options, speed and convenience, ICE still has the advantage. EVs take much longer to recharge and run out of power faster. Developers are experimenting with a number of possible solutions, including interim options like range-extending hybrids, and intriguing long-term alternatives such as the solar-powered car.
EVs are potentially cheaper to run and maintain than traditional cars. Unsurprisingly, that’s making them an easier sell for consumers – and in turn, that’s increasing demand for more EVs in a broader range of models. The great thing about the EV powertrain is that it’s a simple, largely interchangeable component, so OEMs can focus on other details, customer requirements and niche markets without worrying too much about this element.
So popular are EVs that even established ICE giants are now moving towards converting their ICE-powered vehicles to hybrid or fully electric. To take advantage of this trend, EV design teams are looking beyond EV-only products. The best is using advanced PLM tools to figure out how to work smarter, analyzing their designs and simulating a wide range of environments to see how their ideas can be adapted for ICE-to-EV conversions, swiftly and efficiently.
What do Tesla, BMW and Faraday Future have in common? Yes, they’re all leaders in the EV space, but importantly, they’ve also achieved this with the help of powerful, world-leading PLM technology. This allows them to track precisely, and collaborate on, all stages of product development. From idea conceptualization and consumer/market buy-in through to customer delivery. They can also make changes to the design in a few clicks and simulate the results immediately, making it faster and easier to experiment with new ideas and stay ahead of the curve. With ICE-powered vehicles facing phase-outs around the world, and incentives springing up to encourage EV designers, there’s never been a better time to innovate in the industry. And PLM is making this better and easier all the time. In fact, thanks in part to powerful PLM platforms, the EV industry is expected to undergo as much development in the next 10 years as ICE-powered vehicles did in their first 100! There might be some speed bumps along the road, but it seems we’re heading in the right direction. And the great news is, we’re now getting there faster than ever before.