In the last couple of years, skateboard platforms for electric vehicles have been generating buzz in the automotive media. Sameer Jindal – Engineering Director at MG Motor India (Morris Garages), throws some light on the skateboard platforms and discusses the advancements in skateboard platform technologies in India and globally.
What is a skateboard platform?
“Platform” refers to what is commonly, and somewhat erroneously, called the chassis of a car: The belly pan, suspension, mounting points for engine, transmission, doors, gas tank and more. It’s the most expensive, complicated thing an automaker does, so they try to base as many cars as possible on as few platforms as they can.
For example, the current Toyota Camry, Avalon, RAV4 and Lexus ES all share a platform, even though they’re very different vehicles. Electric vehicles from Tesla, Rivian, Byton and Faraday, as well as those from stalwarts like GM, use a new kind of platform referred to as a “skateboard,” generally defined by these traits as per a CNET article:
- A low flat battery – that is the structural belly of the car. It can be lengthened or shortened pretty easily for different models while creating a few intrusions into the floor of the vehicle.
- Compact motors at the ends or corners of the skateboard get out of the way compared to the cumbersome engine, transmission and driveline of most combustion engine cars.
- Drive-by-wire accelerator, brakes, drive control and even steering removes the hard mounting points and intrusions for all those controls.
What is skateboard architecture?
A skateboard is a type of configuration for automotive chassis used for automotive platforms of battery electric vehicles. The skateboard chassis includes a base structure or a platform, which houses the batteries, electric motors, and other electronic components fundamental to an electric vehicle.
History of EV skateboard platforms
Skateboard platforms in India
E-GMP is the first electric-only dedicated platform by Hyundai. It is to be used for Hyundai and Kia automobiles from 2021. Hyundai plans to release 23 battery electric vehicles, including 11 exclusively electric vehicles, using the E-GMP platform.
The BEV-dedicated platform (first for Toyota) was jointly developed with Subaru Corporation. The bZ series is a part of Toyota’s plan to introduce 15 battery electric vehicle models by 2025.
The INGLO platform will underpin all the Mahindra EVs going forward. Mahindra says that INGLO pLATFORM offers a significant reduction in underbody weight, leading to one of the lightest skateboards. The INGLO platform can house battery packs of two different capacities – 60kWh and 80kWh that allow for 175 kW fast-charge and will charge up to 80% in less than 30 minutes.
Mahindra EVs will follow a common battery pack design with lean modules and standardised cell-to-pack technology using two different cell architectures – Blade (for larger battery packs) and Prismatic (for smaller battery packs). The powertrain is formed by motor-inverter-transmission integrated into a single unit, offered with both rear-wheel and all-wheel drive. Mahindra has a tie-up with Volkswagon for the battery packs and motor components.
Some objectives for EV platforms
A skateboard chassis can be used to develop multiple products. Capital investment is very high but, shared with the volume of future products, amortization scope is high across different carlines, and the Bill of material complexity is reduced across carlines.
- Flat floor design
- No transmission tunnel
- Space available under the hood
- Freedom of charger placement
EV components can be quickly and easily replaced. In addition, most of the parts are common across different models, so inventory and supply chain management is easy.
REEcorner X-by-wire technology
Individual wheels can be powered using individual motors. An advantage of excess power to wheels as well as freedom of rotation by multiple motors on different axles – this is the concept of CRAB Movement in Hummer by GM, as an article by e-mobility engineering notes.
REE has taken the skateboard approach a step further and developed a platform with all the functions, from the motors to the controllers, integrated into a wheel unit.
Examples of the evolution of EV architecture
ICE Converted EV Architecture
- TATA: Tata Nexon, Tata Tigor
- MAHINDRA: eVerito, XUV300, eKUV
Combined ICE & EV Architecture
- MG ZS EV
- Tata Altroz (X4 Platform)
- Hyundai Kona EV
Global Skateboard Platform Examples:
- Tesla Skateboard – a platform family based on the skateboard chassis configuration and used for the Model S/X and Model 3/Y sub-platforms.
- Volkswagen Group MEB platform
- Hyundai E-GMP
- Geely SEA platform
- Rivian Skateboard
- Bollinger Skateboard, the chassis basis for Bollinger’s vehicles, and a product sold to coachbuilders.
- XPeng SEPA (Smart Electric Platform Architecture)
- Foxconn MIH, a platform developed by Foxconn for use by vehicle manufacturers
- Gaussin Road truck skateboard
- REE Engineering
- Cenntro iChassis
Future of EV platforms
As the vehicle architecture develops more towards modularity and integration of advanced electronics, internet and navigation techniques into EV technology, these skateboard platforms, which currently are in nascent stages at many companies across the world, will converge. All Big Giants – like GM, Ford, Chrysler and VW started preparing 10 years ago to scrap their multiple platforms and converge them into a few platforms till 2025, and this has been shown in the profitability of these companies in the last 10 years. But with the emergence of TESLA and NEO as the world’s largest profit-making companies in the last 5 years, it is quite evident that the next 25 years in the global automotive space will belong to Electric Vehicle dedicated Platforms and related modular technologies.
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