In 2020, there were nearly 2M electric vehicles registered in the U.S., a three-fold-plus increase since 2016. According to research from McKinsey, by 2035, the largest automotive markets globally (namely Europe, the United States, and China) will be nearly all electric.
That infrastructure for parts and supplies is larger than it’s ever been, and continues to grow. With more automakers turning to their partners for new designs, workflows, and processes, it’s that much more imperative that those engineering teams work with an experienced vendor. Mistakes are not only costly and inconvenient, they can tarnish the brand. Defects don’t make for good press (just ask Tesla).
Selecting and working with the right vendor is critical, especially as EVs hit critical mass with consumers.
Tesla’s “Rework Burdens” Are Costly and Avoidable
Tesla has maybe done more than any single automaker to scale EV production in the U.S. That doesn’t mean the process has been smooth.
In 2018, the then-Freemont, California-based manufacturer, according to this story, was struggling to keep up with capacity. Inevitably, corners were getting cut. Insiders within the company regularly saw a higher number of defects in cars than is normally seen in the industry. The issue? The company was sacrificing quality to keep up with production, and spending “less time to vet suppliers than is typical in auto manufacturing.”
The flawed parts, instead of being designed and machined correctly the first time, were being sent to local shops, including paint shops, for a range of fixes including door frames, torque boxes, shock mounts, and doublers.
In comparison to the Big Three (all of which have committed to a 50% EV fleet by 2030), Tesla’s volume is still a boutique business. That means that each mistake has a true impact on the bottom line. Today, the company can more than make up for those margins, thanks to its stock price.
Tesla’s cars also have a price tag, and an image, that still attract a luxury car buyer. Those prices are not real-world, and everyday consumers will simply not accept the vast inconvenience of waiting on a back-ordered part in exchange for a status symbol.
That company also has had the advantage of an almost fan-like zeal for its products. The average consumer is far less patient, and will have a far higher set of expectations for quality, and reliability. That average consumer also could never afford a Tesla.
To get to that critical mass, automakers need to work with parts manufacturers that get it right, and for the right price, the first time.
Why Overmolded Parts for EVs?
In the first half of 2021, EV car sales doubled. You could argue that in the first decade of this century, EVs were a status symbol and had an almost faddish appeal. With wider adoption, car buyers will normalize the expectations and buying volumes. In response, the industry is already starting to scale, and scale quickly.
Overmolding has been a popular and well-adopted process in the automotive space for a long time. Composite, overmolded materials are going to be increasingly sought after for EVs for one big reason: Weight. Thermoplastics are strong, support short cycle times, and can mimic the strength of some metal parts without being nearly as heavy (or costly).
Overmolding also leads to faster prototyping, ideal for custom parts. Specifically engineered resins could provide even more durability and precision. Plastic parts are also more affordable, yet another way to reduce the sticker price. Those components can serve a range of applications, like battery housings and dash covers, and introduce the flexibility needed as EV standards (charging ports, etc.) continue to be established.
Manufacturability in Parts Design
Before a part is designed, you need to consult with experienced professionals who can help you reduce high scrap rates, deliver on promised material time lines, and prevent other costly tooling design errors.
The design process should include:
- Capability studies: Fully ensuring that the part will hold tolerances and other critical characteristics (CCs) before it goes into production.
- Advanced product quality planning (APQP): In short, proactively optimize a part that mitigates risks and potential parts failure down the line.
- Feasibility reviews: Using specialized software to predict stress patterns and plan for them.
Avoid Mishaps with a One-Stop Metal Stamping and Overmolding Shop
In the U.S., electric vehicles are becoming the norm, and will slowly take over the marketplace. With that market share, OEMs and manufacturers need to work with vendors that have the knowledge and creativity to reduce weight, and help those automakers achieve the efficiency that consumers have come to expect.
An experienced partner with internal engineering resources provides the intelligence you need immediately. When you use a single supplier for both overmolded parts and metal stamping, you’re setting up your team to avoid the Tesla problem. Namely, working with dozens of suppliers that only add to the issues of quality and consistency.
A single partner takes complete autonomy of the entire process. In addition to accountability, working with one vendor limits communication errors and part incompatibility. The more secondary processes that your vendor can provide, such as chrome plating, heat treating, and others, the more you add back valuable time to your production schedule.
Additionally, one metal stamping and overmolding vendor for an EV part further reduces shipping costs and turnaround times. With all of the supply chain issues that 2020 introduced, it’s critical to cut down on opportunities for shipping delays, production backups, and other operational deficiencies that add costly time delays to your production workflows.
LMC Industries has experience making overmolded and metal stamped parts. We’ve worked as a critical partner in the automotive industry for decades. As the industry continues its generational shift toward EVs, our team is available to discuss how to avoid costly errors, reworks, and modifications once the part is in production.
Contact us today to speak with an LMC expert.
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