Platforms to enhance electric vehicles competitiveness : the strategies of VW and Ford

Publication Type:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Puebla, Mexico (2016)


automotive platforms; electric vehicles; Ford Motor Company; Volkswagen Group


The platform's goal is to reduce costs by increasing economies of scale and economies of scope without neglecting the flexibility to meet the needs of consumers and regional demands. In the automotive industry, the production of high volumes on the platforms of conventional gasoline-powered vehicles, by the communization of parts and components, enables a substantial drop in costs, but imposes serious restrictions on the production of electric vehicles (EVs) in these same platforms. The decision making between manufacturing Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs), Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) and Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) on the same Internal Combustion Engine Vehicles (ICEVs) platforms or making them on a new, dedicated platform need to consider, on the one hand, the high costs associated with developing and maintaining a new dedicated platform, despite related to its low scale and, on the other hand, the advantages of developing a new electric car that optimizes the range of the vehicle. Special attention needs to be paid to battery packs. As they are very heavy and bulky, they need a special design, with special features to accommodate it. As the platform of a ICEV is not originally designed to accommodate the significant volume and weight of a battery pack, it is allocate and adapted in available spaces on an ICEV`s chassis, which generally limits significantly the electric range of the electric vehicle, due to restrictions of space available while not compromising the vehicle`s performance and dynamics. Thus, which platform strategies are being adopted by automakers to increase the competitiveness of its electric vehicles? In this article we will present and discuss two distinctly electric vehicles platforms strategies. On one hand, Ford`s strategy with shared EVs in conventional ICEVs platforms to achieve lower costs and enable production of these vehicles in a world-wide basis. On the other hand, the Volkswagen Group, which recently changed its strategy to share the production of its EVs on the same platforms of their ICEVs to a strategy of a dedicated platform for their next generation of electric vehicles. This analysis is based on information and data provided by carmaker`s annual reports, sustainability reports and also by the literature and press releases. Ford`s strategy to make its EVs competitive is to build them in their global high volume platforms. Using global platforms costs are reduced by achieving economies of scale – for both the company and its global suppliers - by enhancing volume world-wide, with commonality of parts and components, and at the same time enabling a reduction in the complexity of the vehicles, converting them to a common base. This design also provides flexibility to achieve Ford`s “electrification” strategy. The goal of the Ford is to offer an “electric matrix”, a wide range of electric vehicles, with a variety of electrified powertrains. Thus, it covers a wide range of vehicle segments, including compact sedans, utility and luxury vehicles. In addition to economies of scale at high-volume global platforms, the sharing of electric components between the various electric vehicles can improve the commonality and decrease costs. The Volkswagen Group`s strategy changed completely in a few years. Initially, the Volkswagen Group announced in 2012 that their electric vehicles would be produced on the same ICEV`s platforms, mostly on its MQB platform, or Modular Transverse Matrix, for all its bands. The MQB was launched as a flexible platform in terms of powertrains, allowing the manufacture of vehicles with different engines on the same platform, including gasoline and diesel ICEVs as well as HEVs, PHEVs and BEVs. Though the MQB was launched as a new concept platform, with high flexibility and capable of accommodating a wide range of vehicles with the significant improvement for its new e-Golf, the VW Group more recently decided to create a new dedicated platform, the MEB (Modular Electric Kit), in order to make BEVs on a new basis, improving an electric range up to 310 miles (about 500 Km). The MEB is designed to manufacture the new generation of BEVs with appropriate space for electric components and large batteries – with much more electric range than the today’s VW Group`s vehicles. Thus, automakers must balance the advantages and disadvantages of building an electric vehicle on the same ICEV`s platform, with an extraordinary benefit of improving economies of scale or build them on a exclusively, dedicated platform, with a more appropriate electric architecture for its EVs, allowing them to overcome the limitations imposed on a shared platform.

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