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What are the best selling points for mass-produced EVs today?

McKinsey & Company, an American worldwide management consulting firm headquartered in New York City, New York, along with A2Mac1, a firm that provides benchmarking and analysis to the global auto industry, have analyzed design choices that can help pave the way to profitable mass-market EVs.

Interestingly, the report singles out several benchmarks in design, technologies and overall architecture of models that have been key talking points with fans, advocates, and owners.

McKinsey and A2Mac1 concluded that the trend in increasing global sales will continue, pointing out that established original equipment producers (OEM) have announced the launches of more than 100 new battery electric vehicle (BEV) models by 2024. This alone will potentially grow the EV share of the automotive market by 35 percent in China, Europe, and the U.S. by 2030.

A read of the whole report is worthwhile, of course, but Green Car Reports has gotten to the meat of the article, breaking it down into four issues that are important to the consumer when looking to buy an electric vehicle, with the biggest concern being the battery.

The Tesla Model 3 Sedan

The Tesla Model 3 Sedan

Electric-car range is now “enough” at 200 miles or more
One issue with EVs has been the concern about how much battery range is enough? Then there is the added worry about finding a charging station while traveling. Then there is the concern over which batteries hold their charge capacity over time – and which do not.

An EVs battery pack is probably the most expensive part of the vehicle. In a study published in February 2016 by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), battery prices fell 65 percent since 2010, and 35 percent in 2015 alone. The study concluded that battery costs are on a trajectory to make electric vehicles without government subsidies as affordable as internal combustion engine cars in most countries by 2022.

With battery prices coming down, OEMs were able to concentrate on developing batteries that hold their charge longer, increasing the range of the vehicle. And according to McKinsey, “The average range of our set of benchmarked EVs has surpassed 300 kilometers (or 185 miles),”

That is a far cry from the 70 to 80 miles of earlier cars (meaning 45 to 60 in winter weather) that clearly wasn’t enough. McKinsey writes: “This indicates that the long-awaited EV volume segment—“midsize EVs for the masses”—may be on the verge of becoming reality.”

A Nissan LEAF vehicle recharging in Amsterdam  the Netherlands.

A Nissan LEAF vehicle recharging in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.

Vehicles designed from the start as electric cars have an advantage
What does this mean, you ask? McKinsey’s article explains it this way – Manufacturers need to design an electric vehicle entirely around the EV concept, without the combustion engine elements. This will mean fewer compromises in design and more flexibility. They call this “native EV platforms.”

The lack of a combustion engine, transmission and cooling elements under the hood allows for a more cab-forward design and a lot more cabin space. And because a native EV platform doesn’t have to deal with making compromises, this means having a bigger battery pack, which in turn correlates with a higher range.

There is evidence that native EVs have a 25 percent larger battery pack volume compared to non-native EVs. One reason is that the body structure can be fit around the battery pack and does not have to be integrated into an existing architecture.

Premier Christy Clark arrived at the 2016 Globe Conference on Sustainability and Innovation in a blu...

Premier Christy Clark arrived at the 2016 Globe Conference on Sustainability and Innovation in a blue Chevrolet Volt.
Province of BC

Integration of electric-drive powertrains is increasing
There are early indications that EVs are moving towards practices common in mass-market EVs, offering powertrain options. And this is also important in native EVs, according to A2Mac1.

For example, battery packs can house a varying number of active cells while keeping the same outer shape, and variable drivetrain technologies can allow OEMs to produce rear-wheel, front-wheel, and all-wheel drive on a single platform. While benchmarking has revealed a continued trend towards EV powertrain integration, with many parts of the power electronics moving closer together and being integrated into fewer modules, there is still not a “mainstream” powertrain design, yet.

The Nissan Leaf and the Chevrolet Volt are two examples of EVs where the powertrain electronic components have been integrated, reduced in size and installed closer to the motor and charger in the car.

File photo: Cutaway rendering of the battery pack in the Chevrolet Volt.

File photo: Cutaway rendering of the battery pack in the Chevrolet Volt.
General Motors

Battery thermal management still varies
A battery’s thermal management system (TMS) is probably as important as the battery cell chemistry. The battery cell’s life depends on the TMS. You could describe it like this – As batteries go to higher and higher charging levels, the TMS has to work harder to dissipate the heat.

Tesla’s superchargers are already at 120 kW with 150 kW planned for the future. Tesla and General Motors use liquid Glycol as a coolant for their EV batteries. Both systems transfer the heat formed to a refrigeration cycle and use electric resistance heating in cold weather. Tesla and GM’s coolant system allows their battery packs to hold their energy capacity longer than Nissan’s which use passive air cooling.

General Motors announced Tuesday  January 26  2010 it will be the first major U.S. automaker to desi...

General Motors announced Tuesday, January 26, 2010 it will be the first major U.S. automaker to design and manufacture electric motors, a key enabler for hybrid and electric vehicles. Pictured is the GM Powertrain Engineering Development Center where electric motor testing and development takes place Friday, January 15, 2010 in Pontiac, Michigan.
General Motors

We now have a new generation of consumers who are computer literate and well-versed in the technologies used in electric vehicles today. With tech-savvy consumers, OEMs are obligated to include levels of technology around advanced-driver-assistance systems (ADAS), connectivity, and other trends that are redefining the driver experience and travel strategies.

To this end, OEMs are increasingly integrating the control of a wide range of interior functions into a more central, “smartphone-like” user interface (HMI). In the McKinsey article, they write: “We observed EVs in our benchmark that have as few as seven physical buttons in the interior, compared with 50 to 60 in many standard ICEs.”

McKinsey and A2Mac1 summarize the report very nicely, saying: “we may see an era of profitable mass-market EVs on the horizon, driven by design trends toward flexibility, integration, and simplification that maximizes customer value, and under the clear governance of cost efficiency for mass producibility.”

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We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our dear friend Karen Graham, who served as Editor-at-Large at Digital Journal. She was 78 years old. Karen's view of what is happening in our world was colored by her love of history and how the past influences events taking place today. Her belief in humankind's part in the care of the planet and our environment has led her to focus on the need for action in dealing with climate change. It was said by Geoffrey C. Ward, "Journalism is merely history's first draft." Everyone who writes about what is happening today is indeed, writing a small part of our history.

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