R&D Market Q&A: The future is in electric
Gary Bireta, Project Executive in IMEG’s Detroit office and firm leader in R&D facilities, discusses the trends and outlook for the future of electric vehicle production and R&D in the following Q&A.
Q: What is your outlook on electric vehicle (EV) production for 2021 and beyond?
A: We see a very strong outlook for the coming years. Many states are enacting legislation to mandate electrification by 2030 or 2035. This new federal administration charter — coupled with existing corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) and carbon reduction requirements — will only further the demand for EV R&D and production.
Q: How does the growing focus on EVs affect research and development facilities?
A: New test facilities require a larger power service, switchgear, and ventilation. If the supplied power is greater than the service from street, a local provider will need to be scheduled; however, that may create a long lead time along with a larger transformer. The backup power will also need to be increased. More simulation equipment is required for testing; this also creates greater risks to the facility itself.
Q: How can engineering design help these facilities be prepared for and adapt to these changes?
A: Designing test facilities with diversification to test different propulsion types – along with creating standard specifications and designs – allows IMEG to reduce the time needed for individual applications and to design and transform test facilities to adapt to electrification. Having standards for modifying test facilities allows our projects to be designed faster so clients can be ready for these vehicles at their site — though many will need additional infrastructure.
Q: What are some strategies that help reduce cost and risk and provide for flexibility as the industry continues to evolve?
A: We design test cells to be useful for multiple applications to maximize a facility’s flexibility and potential. Using common details and specifications allows clients to broaden their R&D capabilities.
Q: Are there any new regulations, industry trends, or other factors automotive clients need to be aware of from a design standpoint?
A: While there are no new codes yet, clients should still be aware of the additional safety protocols needed in these facilities. Electric vehicle batteries come with their own challenges — fire hazards from overheating, gases released, etc. So, it’s important to consider increased ventilation and safety measures.
Q: What additional information should clients consider as they respond to/prepare for the growth of EV R&D and production?
A: In addition to the enhanced safety practices and protocols, clients also need to consider negotiating utility rates due to higher usage at peak times; peak load management; fire protection enhancement in testing areas; increased ventilation requirements; and more aggressive load characteristics when recapturing the test simulation power. They should also be aware of constraints, due to shortages of labor and materials, in acquiring infrastructure, semiconductors, and lithium-ion batteries.