A Brief Overview
The industrialist and engineer Henry Ford pioneered the mass production of cars in the early 1900s. By World War One, his Detroit assembly lines were turning out almost half a million vehicles a year. Ford’s innovation and business genius made car ownership an affordable reality for millions of Americans and transformed society and the economy in the process.
Ford’s revolutionary approach to design and manufacturing was a benchmark in the history of the automotive industry. He exploited the technologies of the time to maximum effect and combined them with an almost intuitive understanding of consumer demand and marketing. Although electricity was one of the keys to the successful manufacturing process, electrical components were basically absent from early vehicle designs.
The demands of World War Two drove the research and development of electrical components, but the new technology filtered down to civilian industry relatively slowly. Prior to the 1950s, only 1% of vehicle components were electric – usually dashboard radios.
You may also be interested in:
Moving Forward with Electric Cars
There were technical improvements such as electric alternators and ignition systems, and America’s post-war confidence was reflected in bigger and more ostentatious cars, but basic vehicle designs remained unchanged.
The 1970s saw another revolution in the automotive industry as Japanese and US manufacturers competed to integrate new electronic and computer technology into the next generation of vehicles.
Key goals were increased fuel economy, enhanced vehicle performance, better driver safety, and overall convenience and user satisfaction. With the development of the lithium-ion battery, electrically powered cars suddenly became a viable proposition.
Today, electric vehicles are a mainstream product that is gradually winning consumer confidence. They are predicted to gain a larger market share until they effectively replace vehicles powered by fossil fuels.
There is now a significant public will to reduce the carbon footprint and also to improve air quality and reduce noise pollution, particularly in major cities. Many countries will also be relieved to reduce their dependence on expensive oil imports. Demanding regulatory rules in many EV markets are setting challenging key performance indicators for the entire electric vehicle manufacturing industry. Any company that can meet – or outperform – these KPIs is at a clear advantage over its competitors.
As we approach the threshold of 6G internet availability, there is a potential for autonomous (driverless) electric vehicles that would have been considered science fiction even a generation ago.
Trends in Electric and Autonomous Vehicles
The cost of producing lithium-ion batteries for vehicles has reduced sixfold over the past decade. Mass production of high-quality electric cars isn’t just viable, it’s rapidly closing the gap with the manufacturing costs of traditional diesel and gasoline-propelled cars. Tesla and Mitsubishi pioneered the market – and Tesla grew exponentially on the back of its research. ICL is further transforming the market with its innovative range of lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries. LFP batteries are produced in accordance with ICL’s sustainable business philosophy. The research and development behind them draws on the company’s deep expertise across the fields of mining, chemical engineering, and high-tech manufacturing.
General Motors and other companies are rapidly shifting towards electric vehicles, particularly as more jurisdictions start legislating in favor of electric vehicles. There is a growing realization that highly polluting traditional vehicles will be phased out in the Western world.
The fundamental shift towards electric cars is creating all kinds of associated design challenges – and major economic opportunities. Cars require power and battery charging points, they need ever more sophisticated computer systems and algorithms, and there are likely to be major innovations in the generation and distribution of electricity.
One of the major considerations for designers, manufacturers, insurance companies, and legislators – not to mention drivers – is the safety of electric cars. A particular concern is to reduce the fire hazard inherent in battery-powered electro-mechanical systems. The importance of flame retardance in cars cannot be overstated.