CUYAHOGA FALLS, Ohio—Change is coming to the automotive industry. The big question is how fast.
Auto makers are on the verge of launching hundreds of electric platforms during the course of the decade, and, in turn, auto parts suppliers need to walk the line of focusing on its existing business and investing for the future.
"This is the 'cool factor' of the automotive world, where everybody wants the latest and greatest," Jeff Andrasik, product testing manager and senior test engineer at Smithers, said during a presentation at the recent Hose Manufacturers Conference in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
"It's fair to ask with EVs being around for almost as long as gas-powered vehicles what's different now. A lot of this is being driven by global regulation, especially in China, where very strong incentives for EV development have been created."
Andrasik said there are several factors accelerating the development of electric vehicles, most notably government regulations and incentives. China and Japan are leading the way in terms of acceptance—and, being two dominant countries in one of the world's biggest markets, that in turn has pushed the industry to adapting.
But they're not alone. Andrasik said South Korea wants to be at 57 miles per gallon by 2020 while the European Union wants to hit 81 miles per gallon by 2030. Rising fuel efficiency requirements are pushing the automotive industry toward electric platforms.
Consumer response varies depending on the region, however, as the U.S. market is slower to catch on. That said, Andrasik said densely populated areas tend to prefer electric vehicles. EVs also are seen as the first step to achieving an autonomous reality—where the driver can take a back seat as the car drives itself.
But before the industry gets that far, there are still a number of hurdles to overcome. Mainly, the range of electric vehicles, recharge times and the lack of a charging infrastructure.
"Once you get beyond central Michigan, there are no EV charging stations on I-75 going north," Andrasik said.
David Antanaitis—global lead engineer for brake calipers, corner assemblies, jounce hoses, wheel speed sensors and brake cooling ducts at General Motors—echoed Andrasik's reality check with one of his own. The cost of the battery will need to come down for EVs to achieve widespread acceptance. And certain key raw materials to produce batteries are either limited, come from politically unstable regions of the world or both.