Automotive design considerations for global market access
How to maximise product performance and minimise time to market
07 June 2022
The introduction of electric vehicles (EVs) has changed the development process for automotive manufacturers of all sizes. These pioneering new technologies have also opened up opportunities for new entrants to the automotive space, with both new automotive brands and new companies developing products to be sold to larger manufacturers within the automotive supply chain.
For decades, combustion engine development programmes have been well understood by the industry, with little deviation from a well-trodden path to market. With new electrification technologies constantly emerging and evolving, the entire automotive supply chain is having to redefine the content of product development programmes, including regional and global performance, robustness and quality standards.
The Tier 1 automotive supplier space is packed with new companies creating innovative technology and disrupting established supply chains, meaning that understanding market expectations and global requirements has never been so crucial to product success.
Patrick Havers, our UK EV Services & Operations Director, discusses the key considerations for companies to access global automotive markets in the context of the rapidly evolving EV landscape.
What are the global market access considerations for automotive suppliers and OEMs?
The approach to global market access varies for companies depending on their scale, organisational experience and the products they're developing. With new technologies being developed for EVs, many younger organisations and start-ups are developing new products for the first time.
With a focus on growing teams to support design and development, knowledge gaps can exist around legislative and certification requirements, as well as the market expectations for demonstration of a mature, if not fully developed, product.
These challenges are also experienced by larger OEMs who are growing their EV or alternative fuel product portfolios; for instance, those developing new EV fluids or hydrogen fuel cells.
Globally, different regions and markets have varying degrees of legislative and certification requirements, this means specific test procedures must be conducted to ensure compliance. Before embarking on your product development journey, it is important to establish the following:
- What are your intended markets?
- What's your product strategy?
- What legislation requirements apply?
- How can you achieve all of the above requirements in the most efficient development plan?
Legislative requirements can be categorised into two distinct areas for consideration, regional and company specific. Different regions have different legislation, with numerous differences between them. For example, bringing EVs to market in North America will have different requirements to China or Europe, so it's important to consider where you're intending your product to be sold. From a customer standpoint, product quality, safety and robustness are the primary drivers, and automotive suppliers must demonstrate these qualities before an OEM will consider or integrate the product into their vehicle.
If your product has multiple intended applications in several regions, it is important to create a combined product design verification plan (DVP) to meet all requirements (some of which can be duplicated or very similar) in the most time efficient and cost-effective way.
When in the new product development lifecycle should you consider global market access requirements?
Typical automotive product development journeys are split into distinct phases – product design, simulation, prototyping, testing, and manufacturing. Each stage of new product development can incur high costs so it's important to establish what your product's goals are from the start. We typically categorise these stages as follows:
- Which region(s) is the product to be sold or used in?
- What are the product safety standards required?
- What are the product certification requirements?
- What level of quality, robustness and durability does your target market expect?
- How do you test to the required standards; what's the test methodology?
- What are your costs, timescales, hardware, and resource requirements to navigate the DVP in the most efficient manner?
- How can you minimise warranty and legal risk from the product once in service?
These areas are crucial, so designing for compliance can help limit the chance of having to go back to the drawing board with your product, reducing re-testing or, in the worst case, having to do product recalls.
Next is product testing. As the global EV market becomes more saturated with new products entering the market, from components to full Drive Unit and Powertrain systems, it's important to ensure that you have gathered sufficient, and third-party verified, performance data on your product as well as proving compliance. Working with a trusted third-party testing specialist can offer you access to a range of specialist automotive testing equipment and expertise that can enable you to push the boundaries of your product and define your product's USP, such as Intertek's 4WD powertrain-in-the-loop cell that can enable very unique test parameters and scenarios such as simulated real-world race tracks or individual dyno wheel slip and surface conditions for off-road vehicles. The ability to combine simulated vehicle systems and real hardware in test is essential to establish a mature Technology Readiness Levels early in your development programme.
Third-party test houses have a unique view of the industry benchmark standards, as well as expertise in a diverse range of areas often not found in-house at a younger manufacturer or in a larger OEM when developing a new product for the first time. This is more relevant than ever given the rapidly evolving, and competitive, world of electric vehicle powertrains, technologies, fluids and of course alternative energy solutions such as hydrogen or synthetic fuels.
The wide-reaching expertise and fast global reach of specialist test and assurance company such as Intertek can drastically improve your ability to refine your product and optimise its development testing so you can push the boundaries of what your product can do and increase your competitive advantage. Furthermore, for newer companies whose target audience is a large automotive OEM, working with industry-recognised independent sources can help your product's credibility.
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