The Manufacturing Challenge of Next-Generation Vehicles

In April 2021, President Biden announced new Greenhouse Gas goals of achieving a 50-52% reduction by 2030 from the 2005 levels. One of the fastest aspects of change to come to mind is electronic vehicles. In fact, the announcement references “autoworkers building modern, efficient, electric vehicles and the charging infrastructure to support them.”

The question becomes, however, what is the best way for manufacturers to achieve this, and what are the particular challenges (and solutions) that might arise? These next-generation vehicles will most likely take the form of a hybrid (with an electric motor and an internal combustion engine) vehicle. When people think of electric vehicles, what actually comes to mind is most likely a hybrid, as there are very few solely electric vehicles. A solely electric vehicle lacks an internal combustion engine (ICE) and draws power only from a battery. 

Why Manufacturers Are Focusing on the ICE

If electric vehicles are the future, why is the internal combustion engine so pivotal? The answer is that with the volume of cars produced both nationally and worldwide, it’s impossible to transition overnight from “regular” cars to purely electric vehicles. reported that “OE manufacturers have been challenged with meeting increased CAFE standards – an average of 54.5 miles per gallon for passenger cars and trucks by 2025 here in the United States.” The drive for efficiency is undergirding the shift, then. 

Many manufacturers are turning to turbocharging to help improve the ICE’s performance. Although the term is a current buzzword, it isn’t actually new technology. The technology dates back to the early 1900s, and its use in cars hails back to the 1950s. 

One shift that is new, however, is that many manufacturers are considering creating their own turbochargers rather than outsourcing them. Today’s turbochargers often include microprocessor controls and other microelectronic components. These support the best possible efficiency when it comes to temperature controls, and maintaining temperature differentials in an ICE is critical for performance. The reason this is critical is that a turbocharger is composed of both a “hot” side and a “cold” side. Each of the parts has to fit together seamlessly, with very few gaps.

As one can imagine, the room for error with these components is very low, and in fact, parts need to be produced with minimal tolerances in order to meet safety standards. 

CNC Machining is Critical

One of the best ways to create these parts is to use computer numerically controlled machining, or CNC machining. CNC machining can take the form of milling, turning, and more. Because the tools are controlled by a detailed design that has been turned into a computer program, the final produced components have an incredibly low tolerance. CNC machining is also ideal because you can make use of a variety of metals for the necessary parts. Turbochargers often require stainless steel and aluminum. CNC aluminum can be quickly and efficiently crafted into the exact requirements that a turbocharger needs.  

Although it might not be possible to overhaul our transportation system immediately, utilizing a turbocharger for both hybrid vehicles and vehicles that only use an ICE will speed the process along.

Author: Marty Shumaker