DETROIT—Vehicle architectures and powertrains are evolving, presenting both opportunities and challenges for auto makers, industry newcomers and the supply chain.
Electrified propulsion will require a new technology road map to safety, greater efficiency and longer range. It also will require consumer buy-in.
Meanwhile, development of connected and autonomous vehicles continues, posing another slew of challenges for the industry to tackle.
All of these were major topics outlined during SAE International's WCX Digital Summit held virtually last week. Here are some highlights.
The armada of battery-electric vehicles starting to fill dealer showrooms won't make a significant impact on sales of internal combustion engine vehicles until 2025.
"If we define the tipping point to be the time when we see ICE vehicles go down and that (decline) be taken up by EV, in 2025 is when that transition will start to happen globally and in the U.S. EV sales will remain relatively flat until that time," said Kiran Govindswamy, vice president of drivetrain, vehicle engineering and noise, vibration and harshness at FEV North America.
While electric motors, power electronics and other EV-specific technologies are ready for mass production, several panelists said the price of EVs will have to be commensurate with that of internal combustion engine vehicles and consumers will need to be confident in their ability to charge the vehicles away from home before EVs start threatening the more than century-long reign of the gasoline engine.
That could take a few years.
FEV's internal data projects that EVs will not be cost competitive with ICE vehicles until about 2028, when the cost of EV batteries reaches $100 per kilowatt hour, down from about $137 today.
General Motors is on a faster schedule. The company is investing $27 billion to bring more than 30 EVs to market by 2025, some with as much as 450 miles of stated range.
"For the women and men of General Motors, that's our mission. We're looking to make that happen as absolutely fast as possible," said Dan Nicholson, GM's vice president of electrification, controls, software and electronics.
Connected and autonomous vehicles bring a lot of benefits to the transportation and mobility spaces.
But broader deployment and adoption of these advanced vehicles could impact the overall energy consumption of these sectors.
A vehicle's level of automation, type of connectivity, class, powertrain type and the type of connected or automated functions it has can all influence its energy consumption, said David Anderson, program manager for energy efficient mobility systems at the U.S. Department of Energy.
Technology adoption, the operating environment and vehicle test procedures all have an impact as well, he said.
A lot of opportunities for reducing energy consumption can come specifically from the light-duty sector, said Chris McCarthy, autonomous vehicle environmental compliance engineer at Ford Motor Co. This includes optimized vehicle usage, reduction of single-occupancy vehicles, more efficient driving and bolstering transportation accessibility.
Collaboration between the public and private sectors will be key to advancing smart cities of the future.
Public-private partnerships are key for mutually beneficial technology deployments and can help expedite these deployments, said Blaine Leonard, transportation technology engineer at the Utah Department of Transportation.
"As an agency, we used to have the luxury of allowing new developments to mature over time," Leonard said. "In this environment today, with these kinds of technologies, it's just moving too fast to afford us that kind of time.
"The government agency has to alter its own culture to some degree to accept risk. We're sort of prone to not doing that," Leonard added. Part of accepting risk means allocating portions of public budgets toward new technologies.
"It's tough sometimes to turn these large ships. We just have to do that."