Industry experts say two big trends are set to transform the auto industry: the different form and structure of EV components, which simplify car design; and vehicles’ growing computing content, which requires a consolidation of functions that have traditionally been scattered among different suppliers.
“The main part under the hood is the battery. Due to its size and weight, it makes sense to put it as low as possible to the bottom of the car for stability purposes and the driving experience,” says Michael Schallehn, a partner in the Silicon Valley office of Bain & Company, the consultancy. “The other factor is that the electric motor is super small and closer to the wheels. So that allows you to put the drivetrain [the components that drive the wheels] and the chassis very low into the car and dedicate the rest of the space to the passengers.”
This structure has given rise to the development of a skateboard-like architecture, a standard flat bottom structure containing all the key components which can be easily modified for different models. “If you fast-forward that trend, it takes a lot of the complexity away from the established automotive supply chain,” Schallehn says.
He adds that the evolution of in-car computing, from infotainment systems and the dashboard to today when they cover every automotive function, has made integration more pressing. This will become even more urgent when the industry moves to self-driving vehicles that rely on software that needs to be continually updated. This, says Schallehn, could make it beneficial to have all software development in the hands of one producer rather than a smattering of suppliers, as it is now.