Tuesday, March 1, 2022

March 2022: An ACG Smart Parts Exclusive - "The Parts Department in the EV Revolution"

It's not surprising to any of us in the automotive industry today that the "revolution" of Electric and Hybrid Vehicles continues to grow and "evolve" each year. In addition, many automotive manufacturers are already setting future dates to "retool" their plants and going fully electric on all their vehicles.

Each year going forward, we will be seeing new models, platforms and even more manufacturers getting into the Electric Vehicle Industry worldwide. There are currently over 5.6 million EV's on the road today worldwide as 2018 experienced the biggest EV surge of 2.2 million units alone, up from 3.4 million up until then.

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations are also on the rise with a Compound Annual Growth Rate, (CAGR) of 38% in 2021 alone. In addition, Bloomberg Energy Finance is predicting that by 2040, 58% of the vehicles on the road predicted to be Electric Vehicles, leaving just 42% of the vehicles predicted on the road as combustion engine vehicles.

So, how does this new EV Revolution translate down to our role in the Parts Department? 

There are still many questions out there for many of us as to what parts we will be selling with all these new component driven vehicles hitting the road. Many Parts Managers believe that we will be reduced to selling just batteries, tires, brakes and a few filters as there will be fewer moving parts on these Electric Vehicles.

In all actuality, that thought couldn't be further from the truth as EV's will still require maintenance and replacement parts. In addition, for at least the near future, there will still be combustion engine vehicles on the road requiring the same maintenance and repair parts.

This new technology will also require skilled technicians to provide the maintenance and repairs, just at a higher level. That being said, the diversity and "breadth" of the parts inventory will, in my opinion, be even more important than it ever has. 

No matter what parts we stock, we will still have to "do the math" and stock the right parts at the right time even though they just may cost more. Every vehicle requires a power source and way to transmit that power down to a driveline to make it move and that requires parts and components.

So!...What kind of parts are we talking about in this EV Revolution?

Let's start with the Anatomy of the Electric and Hybrid Vehicles...

All Electric Vehicles are manufactured with the same components required to enable the power source to be transferred to a powertrain and/or differential with some additional components required for Hybrid Electrical Vehicles. 

Whether a combustion engine with gas or diesel fuel, electric motor, or power inverter, power still has to be generated from a source and transferred to a driveline or differential to make the vehicle move. The idea has always been the same and it's just the source of where the energy, or fuel comes from.

Here's the basic list of components required for all Electric Vehicles...

  • Power Electronics Controller
  • DC/DC Converter
  • Electric Traction Motor
  • Transmission, or Power Converter
  • Traction Battery Pack
  • HV Batteries/Wiring/Cables
  • Auxiliary Battery
  • Thermal/Cooling System
  • On Board Charger
  • Charging Port
In addition to the above, Hybrid Vehicles require...
  • Electric Generator
  • Internal Combustion Engine - Spark Ignited
  • Exhaust/Emission System
  • Fuel Tank/Fuel Filler
The basics of the anatomy are the same even though other features, or parts may be involved such as regenerative brake systems, electric emergency brakes, electric drive motors, battery refrigeration system, inverters, chargers, clutch actuators, vacuum pumps, radiators, and electric steering pumps to name a few.

The transmission in the Electric Vehicle is also unique due to the electric motor, or "power inverter", which can generate up to 15,000 RPM's and up to 100Kw of power, resulting in a sport like acceleration with only one transmission gear ratio.

Higher end EV's may also have their own Battery Management System, (BMS) such as Tesla to monitor all the battery storage, capacity and condition of all power sources that operate all onboard systems such as self-drive computers, command center functions, etc.

Both Electric and Combustion Engine Vehicles have the "rubber on the road" which requires drive axles, wheel bearings, various brake systems, tires and fluids. All of which require maintenance at certain intervals, or repairs on a needed basis.

Steering and suspension is also an area that will require interval maintenance and needed repairs as these components take up a lot of wear and tear on any vehicle, whether EV, or combustion engine. Whether electronically assisted rack & pinion steering, constant velocity joints, air springs, dampers or steering mounts, they will all take a beating. 

They will all be subject to normal, or abnormal wear and tear, requiring replacement parts. It won't be a question of parts needing to be replaced inasmuch as the cost of stocking these parts when needed. There will be a lesser need for smaller parts in the EV as larger components will carry the higher price tags.

In a way, it's almost like deja vu when "back in the day", we used to rebuild wheel cylinders, starters, alternators, generators and brake master cylinders just to name a few, with smaller parts. Now all those parts are sold as one component, whether new, rebuilt or remanufactured.

Computers, modules, actuators and control units have already impacted our combustion engine vehicles over the past fifty plus years. Once again, parts are always required to keep the "iron on the road" with cost, quantity and parts lifespan as the only variables.

Over the years, vehicle manufacturing has required fewer and fewer moving parts, which is kind of ironic as we are talking about manufacturing a vehicle that "moves", with fewer "moving parts", whether a combustion engine or electric vehicle.

The biggest issue, in my opinion, is not the fact that we will need our parts department to supply our need for replacement parts, no matter what power source we prefer, it's the issue of "risk versus reward" and our own personal preference.

All fuel, or "power sources" such as gasoline, diesel, lithium-ion batteries, hydrogen cells may all carry safety and environmental risks. All it takes is a fuel source and oxygen to cause ignition, no matter what the fuel source is.

Whether it's how fossil fuel vehicles affect the environment, or how we dispose of lithium-ion batteries, there will always be environmental impacts from our transportation industry. In my opinion, it's not a question of if there will be an impact, it's more of a question of how we control these impacts.

Safety is always a concern in all vehicle manufacturing as it has been for many years and will still play a huge role in how all vehicles are made going forward. From the day when the first seat belt was introduced, advancements in vehicle safety has been impressive over the last 50+ years.

Whether it's new technology on airbags, impact sensors, vehicle rollover sensitivity, weight distribution, passenger air quality, or vehicle crumple zones, advancements in these safety technology areas will always continue on the path of new innovation.

Bottom line is that innovation, technology and evolution has never come without risk and that to me is progress and moving forward. Change is inevitable and will always be at the forefront of advancement, especially in our automotive and transportation industry.

If you want to learn more about ACG Smart Parts "Eight Habits of Highly Successful Parts Managers", visit our website @ www.smartpartstraining.com, or...just pick up the phone and call me at (786) 521 - 1720...After all, not knowing is not worth not "fixing" it...