While the automotive industry has traditionally pulled back on advanced technology during recessions and economic downturn, the current state of the pandemic-impacted economy has left many wondering whether or not vehicle electrification will power through. Do automakers and suppliers still consider vehicle electrification advanced research? Or is it now being considered product development?

The road to vehicle electrification does not have a clear finish line, but many competitors are still racing for efficiency to get closer to a more sustainable future. Major automakers are continuing to add fleets of electric vehicles to their product lines. In contrast, major auto suppliers continue to produce electronic hardware and software in-house to maintain efficiency and competitiveness.

The race, however, does present many challenges for those involved. Some of those challenges include changing the culture surrounding vehicle electrification, as well as being able to create a scalable product that meets evolving customer expectations.

With the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the customer experience for purchasing vehicles has dramatically shifted to a mostly digital platform. Instead of finding new ways to bring customers to the stores, many dealers are now looking for more ways to bring the experience to customer’s homes, such as contactless home vehicle deliveries. Many industry leaders don’t consider potential electric vehicle customers to be the traditional customer, therefore this behavior change allows many automakers to offer these potential electric vehicle customers a unique and new customer experience.

On Tuesday, August 4th, 2020, Brett Smith, Director, Technology Research at the Center for Automotive Research, was joined in a CAR MBS session by Dustin Krause, Director, e-Mobility North America of Volkswagen of America, and Dr. Jorg Trampler, Head of Engineering Center North America, Car Powertrain Technology of ZF Friedrichshafen. The panel discussed the current momentum of battery electric vehicles and how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted momentum.

Volkswagen plans to release the ID.4 by 2021, which will be the first vehicle of their fully electric I.D. Series vehicle fleet to be sold in the United States. ZF Friedrichshafen is currently working on a next generation of fully electric vehicle drives, which will be scalable from 80 kilowatts to more than 200 kilowatts of electric power.

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