Electric vehicles – should they be built from a dedicated EV architecture, or on existing platforms?

With the rapid tightening of emissions regulations in markets around the world, the pure internal combustion engine as a common propulsion method is being put to a corner. Hybrid electrification is not without an answer either; several countries have set deadlines for sales of new cars in the future to be strictly zero emissions.

Ultimately, therefore, they will be purely electric vehicles. When these are presented by their manufacturers, they usually fall into one of two categories: a fully electric redesign of an existing fossil fuel model or a brand new car based on a dedicated architecture for electric batteries and, in some cases, plug-in hybrid and light hybrid applications as well.

Whichever route you take – bespoke platform or existing architecture – each has its merits and limitations. The Volkswagen ID.3 on the modular MEB platform for electric vehicles is an example of the dedicated platform path for electric vehicles.

Dedicated EV platform

A dedicated platform designed specifically for EV applications gives the automaker the ability to create a truly unique identity, while making the most of the fact that electric powertrains don’t require as much space for cooling systems and the like. auxiliary equipment of an internal combustion engine, with the engine itself.

One popular approach is the ‘skateboard’ platform adopted by several manufacturers such as the Hyundai Motor Group with its E-GMP platform that underpins the Kia EV6 and General Motors’ Ultium platform, among others, which locates the large battery in the center. from the “floor” of the vehicle, freeing up space for luggage and occupants.

Designing a whole new vehicle architecture is no easy task, with all the systems to integrate. Incomplete development of systems, including software, could launch particularly tricky balls of curve. The flip side of the EV’s origins is the adaptation of an existing architecture for the use of a battery-powered electric powertrain.

Adaptation of an existing platform based on ICE

Adapting an existing model to use a fully electric powertrain retains some familiarity for its users in terms of the exterior styling as well as the packaging of the interior of the car, not to mention the relatively lower development costs compared to to the design, engineering and finally the manufacture of an all-new product on a separate branch of the automaker’s family tree.

The Mercedes-Benz EQA is one example. While its EQ branding identifies the compact SUV as part of the all-electric lineup, it’s actually backed up by the Modular Front Architecture 2 (MFA2) which was designed as the basis for internal combustion models.

And its construction proves it, because while battery-powered electric powertrains should take up less space than their ICE counterparts, such benefits require a dedicated EV platform to get the most out of it. In the case of the MFA2 used for the EQA, it actually loses 105 liters of luggage capacity to reach 340 liters, compared to 435 liters for the GLA based on the MF2.

Of course, Mercedes-Benz already has a dedicated EV platform in the Electric Vehicle (EVA) architecture that underpins the larger EQ models such as the EQS, EQE and their SUV variants, and The automaker’s shift to an EV-only approach from 2025 means it’s on track to use dedicated platforms for its EV models.

That said, BMW has also taken the approach of using the existing foundations for its i4, which is very recognizable as a relation to the 4 Series Gran Coupé. This may be a way to speed up its EV development plans to be on track for the brand to present 25 electrified models by 2023, more than half of which will be fully electric.

This approach is also the one adopted by Audi, probably also based on ambitious targets for the deployment of EV products. As far as European manufacturers are concerned, these are motivated at least in large part by the legislation sounding the end of ICE vehicles in Europe, as well as in several other markets beyond.

Therefore, while the different approaches to electric vehicle development among manufacturers may previously have been dependent on available resources and perceived customer preferences, there is also another factor – time.

These days, automakers are also racing against the clock – or more precisely, the calendar – to get their product lines electrified enough to not only stay relevant, but where the law requires, to stay on course. the market and ultimately continue to be a concern.

The author’s opinion? There are places for both, not least because existing platforms, by definition, are already a certain age to start. Today’s architecture based on the past and internal combustion-based thinking is still a valuable way to achieve the end of electric vehicles, especially when entire product lines are literally numbering their days. The dedicated EV architecture, on the other hand, lays the foundation for greater long-term progress.

Again, dear readers, provide your comments, thoughts, and observations below.

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