In the span of just ten years, the intelligent electric vehicle (IEV) industry has undergone significant evolution, with the supply chain experiencing massive transformation. A glance at the past shows original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) like Tesla delving deep into their wallets, investing billions into battery systems, E/E architectures, autonomous driving capabilities, and intelligent cockpits. The story was similar for China’s IEV frontrunners, including NIO, XPeng, and Li Auto.
The initial phase saw these trailblazers spending excessively due to the nascent state of the IEV supply chain. In the early days, it was broadly understood that launching a new IEV required an investment exceeding a billion U.S. dollars. However, today, the revamped supply chain suggests that a fresh IEV can be brought to life with as little as $200 million.
Consolidation or Expansion?
Recent shifts indicate that the pioneers of the IEV sector are taking steps to own their supply chains. BYD of China is extending its influence by making investments in Indonesia to secure its battery needs. Likewise, Tesla is moving towards developing its own computing system, veering away from external suppliers.
But, does this consolidation spell the end for new entrants? Contrarily, the evolving landscape of the IEV supply chain might be fostering a more optimized division of labor.
Leveraging the Evolved Supply Chain
Established IEV OEMs have channelled significant resources into electrification and intelligence. However, newcomers to the IEV market need not mirror this approach. They stand to benefit from the advances of the maturing IEV supply chain. This means they can divert their funds towards unique product designs, customer engagements, and niche usage scenarios.
The Rise of the Skateboard Chassis
The introduction of the skateboard chassis stands out as a pivotal development in the IEV world. This modular platform amalgamates batteries, electric motors, and essential electronic components. It also encompasses fundamental automotive elements, significantly simplifying the engineering and production of IEVs.
Chinese battery giant CATL’s move to create a skateboard chassis that incorporates their battery packs is a testament to this trend. Such innovations mean IEV OEMs can primarily focus on product design, streamlining operations and manpower.
Computing Solutions: An Outsourced Future?
Although many established IEV OEMs are keen on crafting their proprietary computing solutions, there’s a case to be made for newcomers to look outside. With semiconductor heavyweights like Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm venturing into the autonomous driving realm and providing mature solutions, it may be advantageous for IEVs to integrate these ready-made systems instead of channeling huge investments in-house.
Rethinking Autonomous Driving
While large in-house teams for autonomous driving might seem like the way forward, given Tesla’s approach, it’s worth pondering the financial implications. The emergence of specialized technology suppliers for autonomous driving suggests that a lean team, focused on tailoring existing solutions to unique use-cases, might be more efficient.
A Golden Dawn for IEVs
In contrast to traditional internal combustion engine vehicles, the IEV market still showcases vast potential for diversification. The current dynamics of the IEV supply chain make it conducive for newcomers to create their products in a time and cost-effective manner. A properly structured team, a clear product vision, and efficient resource allocation can pave the way for success in the ever-expanding IEV horizon.