The demand for low-cost and short development cycles of new models promotes the development of automotive modular platforms.
An automotive modular platform includes the design and assembly of all sub-systems of a car in a modular manner, and the standardized design and production of auto parts in the form of modules, and the final ‘assembly’ according to the positioning of models.
Unlike the traditional automotive platform which is only for models at the same single level, the modular platform reduces R&D and production costs and shortens the development cycle of new models. At the same time, it facilitates to unify quality standards and improve the overall strength of products.
Since Volkswagen launched the MQB platform in 2012, international automakers (including Toyota, Renault-Nissan, Mercedes-Benz, BMW, etc.) and Chinese counterparts (like Changan, Geely, and GAC) have all released their own modular platforms, covering multiple levels and models.
It is an inevitable trend to build a dedicated modular platform for electric vehicles
At present, new energy vehicles have represented the main direction of the transformation and development of the global automotive industry. In 2020, 3.125 million new energy vehicles were sold worldwide with a year-on-year increase of 41.4%. The figure is expected to reach 15 million by 2026.
In this context, it is a mainstream trend to build a dedicated modular platform for electric vehicles. Compared with the oil-to-electricity platform, the modular platform features advantages like longer mileage and better safety. At present, most companies have launched or planned to launch their exclusive platforms for electric vehicles. In addition, companies including Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, and PSA that use the oil-to-electricity mode to produce new energy vehicles have also begun to study and unveil their own dedicated platforms for electric vehicles that are being developed.
Electric vehicle modular platforms are mainly proposed by traditional automakers that follow the product layout of the fuel vehicle model when manufacturing electric vehicles, but they are more inclined to build a wide range of electric vehicle product lines to meet the demand of different consumers in different market segments. Therefore, modular platforms extend to electric vehicles.
The emerging automakers represented by Tesla adhere to the principle of short product lines, and pay more attention to the design advantages of a single model and the software upgrade of the entire vehicle. Modular platforms are of little significance to them.
Fewer platforms and core platforms embody the development direction
Under normal circumstances, automakers offer multiple modular platforms for different models, and each modular platform covers a limited range of models. In the future, they will focus on reducing the number of platforms, emphasizing core platforms, and raising the output of core platforms. The move will help further reduce costs and improve efficiency of R&D and production.
At present, Volkswagen, BMW, and GM have announced their platform integration plans. In the future, they will prioritize the development of core platforms instead of the existing multiple platforms.
Brand new E/E architecture pushes transformation of the profit model of automotive industry
While launching modular platforms, some automakers have begun to upgrade their E/E architectures to ‘domain integration’ or even ‘centralized’ style. For example, the Geely SEA architecture adopts a brand-new E/E architecture which integrates three domains, and it will introduce a centralized architecture in the future. In the future, with the development of modular platforms, it is expected that the E/E architecture of automobiles will be upgraded.
However, due to the adoption of the automotive E/E architecture, the on-board software system has to be re-integrated, which will gradually shift the profit model of the automotive industry from the hardware-oriented mode to the software and services-oriented mode. Currently, Volkswagen has stated that it will launch a new business model for the Scalable Systems Platform (SSP) in 2024.
Modular body is expected to be mass-produced
Modular body means that the combination of the same chassis and different modular compartments can be used in different scenarios to improve vehicle utilization. At present, traditional automakers and emerging technology companies including Fiat, Mercedes-Benz, Rinspeed, Rivian, Schaeffler, etc. have launched concept cars with interchangeable bodies.
Although most of the current modular cars are concept cars, some companies have put mass production on the agenda.