Complexity and bill-of-material comparison of Aptiv electrical architectures and harnesses for ICE and electric vehicles. (Aptiv)

For Aptiv, more EVs mean more profit with SVA

Moving to high-voltage ‘smart’ vehicle architectures (SVA) offers OEMs significant savings in vehicle mass, simplicity and cost.

It’s well known that the auto industry is shifting to electric power. But even keen-eyed electric-vehicle (EV) watchers might be a bit surprised to learn just how rapidly EV adoption is about to take off, according to mobility-tech supplier Aptiv. Aptiv is betting big on this rapid growth and the dramatic changes that could provide the company with a winning hand.

Bill Presley, president of Signal & Power Solutions (S&PS) at Aptiv, said during a recent media briefing that Aptiv is planning for an EV segment that will grow faster than recent analyst predictions suggest. He pointed to IHS Markit's predictions for 2025 that have been revised upwards of ten times over the past six years. He also said EV sales estimates for 2030 have tripled in the last three years. The continuing decline in the cost of batteries, ever-stricter emissions regulations and rapid growth in charging infrastructure all are playing into the revisions. IHS is among many forecasting organizations that have had to adjust their figures.

"If you look at the BEV forecast across the board, they've been revised upwards dramatically compared to just a few years ago," Pressley said. "There's consensus building around expectations of battery electric vehicles achieving 10 to 15 percent penetration in 2025 and 25 to 30 percent penetration in 2030."

EV vs. ICE costs
More EVs might be good for the environment, but these zero-emission vehicles will be even better for Aptiv’s bottom line, he noted. Boston Consulting Group recently predicted that the additional cost for an EV compared to a traditional gas-powered internal-combustion-engine (ICE) vehicle will drop to around $4,500 by 2025, which presents a “significant” growth opportunity for Aptiv, Presley said.

The reason? The many Aptiv components that might find a home in future EVs compared to today’s ICE vehicles. “[In] ICE vehicles, Aptiv SPS has content of about $500 on an average vehicle," he said. "A battery-electric vehicle will present an opportunity to grow that content by two to three times... to around $1,200 per vehicle content.”

A basic configuration of a high-voltage electric vehicle architecture (EVA). (Aptiv)

That increase could mean substantial changes for Aptiv, Presley said, because the company has deals to include at least some content in half of the electrified platforms automakers are launching through 2022. The content takes the form of wiring, busbars, connectors, chargers and more. But there are any number of suppliers who can offer automakers those components; Aptiv believes it has an advantage with its high-voltage smart vehicle architecture (SVA), especially when compared to EVs that were not designed to be EVs.

On a typical electric-only SUV that is built on an internal combustion engine (ICE) platform, the wiring harness weighs around 8 kg (18 lb.) more than the one used in the same vehicle powered by a fossil-fuel engine, according to Aptiv's global core engineering VP, Eric Rowland. Moving to a dedicated EV platform lets automakers eliminate more than 5 kg (11 lb.) of “pure wiring waste,” including that caused by different packaging constraints.

Other ways for Aptiv’s OEM customers to save weight by adopting the SVA in the coming years include smart fusing, fewer connection points and simplifying the system, Rowland explained. "Our mission is to make [the SVA] smaller, to make it lighter and to make it more cost-effective for the customer so that they can scale that across their platforms and yield better performance for their consumers," Presley said.

Developing and deploying the full SVA will take time. In 2023, vehicles that use Aptiv’s Smart Electrical Centers (SECs), a precursor to SVA, will realize at least a 10% wiring weight savings throughout the vehicle. In 2025, the SECs will evolve into full zonal architecture that brings with it at least a 20% weight savings, the company claims. The full SVA, due in 2028 or perhaps later, will offer at least a 30% weight savings.

SVA enables automated assembly
Aptiv conducted a study with a "major European OEM" to see what the real-world savings would be for the mid-term full zonal architecture and determined it would be worth 8.5 kg (19 lb.) in weight savings and $55 in reduced cost per vehicle. The savings were found by eliminating nine ECU housings, brackets, relays, fuses, terminals and more than 300 wires, Rowland said.

The SVA will reduce automaker costs not only by simplifying and lightening up future EVs, but also by making these vehicles easier to build. An EV built using SVA has up to twice the automation potential during the production process, since the SVA is being designed to use simpler connections and shorter wires. Compared to the 20-40% automation for wires that Aptiv said is possible in a domain-oriented architecture, the automation potential for the wires in an SVA vehicle is between 40 and 80%.

"We have the product portfolio that spans the entire electrical architecture and we have that end-to-end systems knowledge that ensure that, through SVA, our customers get the smallest, lightest, most cost-effective solution possible," Presley said. "That translates directly into performance for their vehicles."

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