China’s push to become the world leader in clean-energy vehicles is spawning new industries to supply growing production of electric cars and plug-in hybrids.
In meeting the call for green auto motion, traditional auto-parts supplies are adjusting their strategies for the future to shift from internal combustion engines. The key word is flexibility in face of a changing market.
“Electric vehicles are a big challenge for everybody, from manufacturers to auto-parts makers,” said Ferit Küçükay, managing director of the Institute of Automotive Engineering of Technical University Braunschweig and chairman of CTI (Car Training Institute) Symposium China. “We will see more electric, hybrid powertrains and more electric systems in the coming future in China.”
Xu Qian, China head of automotive at consulting firm AlixPartners, pointed out that “the biggest benefactors will be suppliers of electrical systems, given the increase of electronic content. Suppliers of traditional chassis systems will face the biggest challenge from the change to powertrain system.”
Those in the industry are well aware of what is happening in China and how they need to adapt.
German auto-parts supplier Continental has said it plans to introduce a new electric drive in the China market in 2019.
It’s designed for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, consisting of an electric motor, transmission and power electronics. It is an integrated electrical powertrain module that can be installed in compact and luxury vehicles.
According to the company’s plans, the electric drive will be not only light but also more powerful. Power is an important factor in consumer acceptance of electric vehicles. The company said it will achieve a high specific power output of 150 kilowatts, with a mass of only 75 kilograms.
German auto-parts company Bosch said that it will start mass production of a new powertrain designed for electric cars in China in 2020.
The new powertrain, called eAxle, can be installed in electric or hybrid vehicles, including compacts, sport-utility vehicles and even light trucks. It combines the components of motor, power electronics and transmission into one unit.
“The new powertrain is a potentially huge business opportunity for Bosch,” said Rolf Bulander, chairman of mobility solutions at the company. “It allows automakers to save valuable development time and to get their electric vehicles to market considerably faster. Car manufacturers will no longer have the time-consuming task of developing new components.”
The electrical powertrain is playing a key role in the company’s drive to be the global leader in electric mobility systems, the company said.
Analysts note that clean energy vehicles present new requirements to traditional auto-parts suppliers.
“Combustion engines and traditional transmission systems are no longer needed for electric vehicles,” said David Zhang, an independent automotive consultant. “Electric vehicles will bring increasing needs for batteries and electric motors that convert electrical energy into mechanical energy and electronic controls.”
He added, “Auto-parts makers need to think about developing new products, but it costs a lot of development money.”
Hou Yankun, head of Asia Autos Research at UBS Securities, said the new era in the auto industry in China will have a big impact.
“Electric vehicles are powered by batteries instead of transmission system and combustion engines,” Hou said. “Electric vehicles have fewer moving and wearing parts compared with gasoline vehicles.”
According to a UBS report that compared an internal combustion Volkswagen Golf with an electric Chevrolet Bolt, 56 percent of the electric vehicle content comes from outside the traditional auto-supply chain.
For example, the entire electric powertrain and infotainment modules of the Chevrolet Bolt are supplied by electronics company LG, the report said.