New vendors are rushing to plug into the electric car market

WOKING, England, Jan 23 (Reuters) – The global auto industry has committed $1.2 trillion to the development of electric vehicles (EVs), providing a golden opportunity for new suppliers to grab contracts supplying everything from batteries to motors and inverters.

Startups specializing in batteries and coatings to protect electric vehicle parts, and suppliers traditionally focused on niche motorsports or Formula One (F1) racing, have sought electric vehicle contracts. Automakers design platforms to last a decade, so high-volume models can generate significant revenue for years.

The next generation of electric vehicles is expected to arrive around 2025, and many automakers have asked for help to fill gaps in their expertise, providing a window of opportunity for new suppliers.

“We went back to the days of Henry Ford where everyone was like ‘how do you make these things work properly? “says Nick Fry, CEO of F1 engineering and technology company McLaren Applied.

“This is a huge opportunity for companies like ours.”

Acquired from McLaren by private equity firm Greybull Capital in 2021, McLaren Applied has adapted an efficient inverter developed for F1 racing for electric vehicles. An inverter helps control the flow of electricity to and from the battery.

The IPG5 silicon carbide inverter weighs only 5.5 kg (12 lbs) and can extend the range of an electric vehicle by more than 7%. Fry says McLaren Applied is working with around 20 automakers and suppliers, and the inverter will appear in high-volume luxury electric vehicle models from January 2025.

Mainstream automakers often prefer to develop EV components in-house and own the technology themselves. After years of pandemic-related parts shortages, they are wary of overreliance on suppliers.

“We simply cannot afford to depend on third parties making these investments for us,” said Tim Slatter, director of Ford (FN) in Britain.

Traditional suppliers, such as German heavyweights Bosch and Continental (CONG.DE), are also investing heavily in electric vehicles and other technologies to stay ahead in a rapidly changing industry.

But smaller companies say there are still opportunities, especially with low-volume manufacturers who can’t afford huge investments in electric vehicles, or luxury and high-performance automakers looking for more. ‘an advantage.

Croatian Rimac, an electric hypercar maker partly owned by Germany’s Porsche AG (P911_p.DE) which also supplies battery systems and powertrain components to other automakers, said a manufacturer Undisclosed German automaker would use a Rimac battery system in a high-performance model – with annual production of around 40,000 units – starting this year, with more signed.

“We have to be 20%, 30% better than they can do and then they work with us,” CEO Mate Rimac said. “If they can make a 100 kilowatt hour battery, we have to make a 130 kilowatt battery in the same dimensions for the same cost.”

NO TIME TO WASTE

Some vendors like Cambridge, Mass.-based Actnano have a long-standing relationship with electric vehicle pioneer Tesla (TSLA.O). Actnano has developed a coating that protects electric vehicle parts from condensation and has expanded into advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), as well as other automakers including Volvo (VOLCARb. ST), Ford, BMW (BMWG.DE) and Porsche.

Californian startup CelLink has developed a fully automated, flat and easy-to-install “flex harness” instead of a wire harness to bundle and guide cables in a vehicle. CEO Kevin Coakley did not identify the customers, but said CelLink’s harnesses have been installed in around one million electric vehicles. Only Tesla has this scale.

Coakley said CelLink was working with US and European automakers, and with a European battery maker on battery wiring.

Others focus on low-volume manufacturers, such as UK startup Ionetic, which is developing batteries that would be too expensive for small businesses to manufacture.

“Currently, electrification is too expensive, which is why some manufacturers are delaying the launch of their electrification,” said CEO James Eaton.

Since 1971 Swindon Powertrain has been developing powerful motorsport engines. But it has also developed batteries, electric powertrains, electric axles and works with around 20 customers, including automakers and a manufacturer of electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

“I realized that if we don’t accept this, we will end up working for museums,” said general manager Raphael Caille.

But time may be running out.

Mate Rimac says major automakers have been scrambling over the past three years to deploy electric vehicles and now have strategies largely in place.

“For those who haven’t signed projects, I don’t know how long the window of opportunity will remain open,” he said.

($1 = 0.8226 pounds)

Reporting by Nick Carey Editing by Mark Potter

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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