Written by James Eaton, Co-Founder and CEO of start-up and electric vehicle battery pack developer IONETIC
After five consecutive months of growth in new car registrations in the EU at the end of 2022, automakers have cautious cause for optimism in 2023. The electric vehicle market is leading the charge in hopes for continued recovery; in the UK, battery-electric vehicles achieved their largest-ever monthly market share in December at 32.9%, while also recording the strongest growth in new UK registrations out of all fuel types in 2022 – 40.1% higher than in 2021.1
With that growth, naturally, different vehicle-makers are putting more time and resource into seeking a larger portion of the pie. Particularly in the automotive industry, manufacturers need to develop a product that is competitive not just at launch, or even a year afterwards, but is also future proofed at its core, to maximise appeal throughout its model cycle.
Keeping costs down while developing a product with a strong and long lifecycle is a large enough challenge for a leading OEM, but even more so for smaller manufacturers and niche vehicle-makers.
As any vehicle manufacturer will testify to, the most critical component to get right is an electric vehicle’s battery pack. Its significance goes far beyond simply powering the vehicle; it is pivotal to its reliability, performance, range, safety, and total cost. When you consider that the end-to-end investment needed to develop an effective electric vehicle battery pack can reach upwards of £50 million, it becomes clear how important an intelligent, efficient, and cost-effective development and manufacturing strategy is.
The considerations for developing a competitive battery pack solution stem from the very start of the value chain: security of supply. A dependable supply chain will help to mitigate costly delays in getting the battery packs from source to vehicle production line – facilitating higher vehicle output and maximum opportunity to capitalise on consumer demand. With more stringent Rules of Origin legislation in the UK due in 2027, and varying prices, vehicle manufacturers need to plan accordingly and streamline costs by opting for a simplified, onshore supply chain for their battery pack solutions.
When it comes to conceptualising the battery pack, maintaining a nimble design philosophy, and keeping optimisation front-of-mind is key. Instead of selecting an off-the-shelf solution, optimising a battery pack for a specific use-case will facilitate a well-rounded balance of performance, range, and mass – yielding a comprehensive offering that will attract and retain strong consumer interest.
Much of the cost associated with battery pack production, ultimately, can be pinned on the manufacturing stage. The order volumes traditionally required by battery pack suppliers in the first place are often prohibitive for smaller vehicle manufacturers, so securing flexibility in this respect will help manage the cost per unit, and therefore enable a manufacturer to introduce a vehicle to the market at a more competitive price-point.
At this stage, you may well be thinking: “all of these factors don’t traditionally mix”. It’s true – they usually don’t; a bespoke, well-optimised battery pack with a low order quantity would traditionally bring high development- and unit-costs, while cheaper off-the-shelf solutions don’t provide a performance-competitive package.
Manufacturers need a battery pack solution that efficiently blends customised design with the ability to reduce costs. When considering the challenges that OEMs and niche vehicle-makers face in creating a competitive battery pack, that’s exactly what the IONETIC team set out to resolve. We not only developed bespoke software to provide a customised design model in a matter of days, cutting costly design time, but also offer end-to-end management of the entire process. This leads right up to production – with our first prototype-manufacturing capability being delivered in our UK-based facility opening later this year, ahead of mass-production in the near future.
With unprecedented levels of consumer interest and manufacturer participation, it’s a truly exciting time to be in the electric vehicle sector. By seeking novel solutions to help this rapidly growing space expand further and create more sparks of innovation, I’m personally excited to think of where it could take us next.
1 The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, Chip crisis subdues new car market but EVs now second only to petrol, January 2023.