It is no secret that the automotive industry has faced several challenges in recent years — from supply chain delays and rising inflation to skills and labour shortages.
Still, these disruptions have not stopped car manufacturers from working to meet changing demands and develop the vehicle fleet of the future.
Consumer expectations for advanced digital features and the need for more eco-friendly, affordable alternatives to fossil fuels are increasing momentum within the electric vehicle (EV) market, which has gained significant traction in the post-pandemic world. In 2023, experts predict that the autonomous capabilities of EVs will reach new levels, with partially self-driving vehicles hitting our roads on an unprecedented scale.
However, realising the electrification of the car market will be no simple feat. Producing the next generation of motor vehicles will require automotive electronics manufacturers to remain adaptive in the face of mounting economic obstacles and technological demands, with sustainability, affordability and connectivity at the forefront of 2023 industry trends.
Driving automotive autonomy
The EV market is expected to remain the automotive industry’s most lucrative sector, with estimates suggesting EV sales could increase by 25% to 10.8 million units in 2023.
This growth is attributed to a combination of factors — starting with the gradual transition from polluting fossil fuels. The UK government has banned the sale of new fossil-fuel cars by 2030 to help meet net-zero targets, and the EU will follow suit by 2035, bolstering the need for more affordable and reliable EVs.
Additionally, the energy crisis has deepened following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, causing persistent increases in the cost of motor fuel. As such, there is a growing demand for economical hybrid and battery-powered vehicles that lower carbon emissions and mitigate the impact of fluctuating fuel prices.
In efforts to evolve the EV market, several automotive manufacturers — including Tesla, Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Hyundai — are shifting from electrification to automation and launching vehicle models with ‘level 3’ automated driving features, integrating technology that takes over some aspects of driving when engaged.
Drivers can expect more self-driving cars in 2023 following an amendment to UN Regulation No. 157. This revision will allow automated lane changes and extend the maximum speed for autonomous passenger cars and light-duty vehicles from 60 km/h to 130 km/h on motorways.
Industry 4.0 technologies like the internet of things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) are facilitating these new and improved capabilities for electric and autonomous vehicles, allowing car designers to emulate the connectivity and convenience we have become accustomed to in the increasingly digital world.
However, implementing these enhanced features requires millions of extra lines of code and adds another degree of complexity to the manufacturing process. So, what must automotive electronics providers do to ensure they continue to meet expectations?
Manufacturing the future
Original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have a fresh set of challenges ahead of them in the new year, as inflation, supply insecurity and skills gaps threaten progress.
Semiconductors remain scarce, and the availability of lithium — a core material to the lithium-ion battery cells that power most EVs — is also uncertain due to the possibility of zero-covid policies halting production in China, one of the world’s largest lithium refiners. So, many countries are looking to boost domestic production of this and other vital materials to ensure consistent supply.
However, mining lithium damages the environment, prompting sustainable electronics researchers to seek alternative energy sources for EVs — such as hydrogen fuel cells. In the meantime, OEMs must improve end-of-life recycling for existing lithium batteries to regenerate supply and prevent toxins from e-waste from harming the environment.
Battery health will become a defining factor for how well EVs can hold their value in the second-hand battery EV (BEV) market, which grew by 44.1% in the third quarter of 2022. Increasing BEVs’ driving range will also help mitigate the lack of global charging infrastructure that discourages many drivers from opting for a battery-powered car.
Moving forward, more automakers will embrace the benefits of wireless connectivity to strengthen user experiences with integrated safety and entertainment features and gain a constant stream of operational data to improve performance and maintenance. To support these digital components, automotive electronics manufacturers must upskill across the board to compete with software and tech companies at the forefront of development within this field.
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