The automotive industry is one of the industries where rapid prototyping is most commonly applied. CNC auto/car parts always play an important part during the R&D and marketing periods. As new energy vehicles are developing very fast, prototyping manufacturers need to consider how to be deeper involved in the trend.

1. Global new energy vehicle trends

New policies

In January 2023, governments around the world adjusted their government subsidy policies for electric vehicles almost simultaneously. It has caused significant disruption to EV sales in 2022. Because customers either have bought EVs early for 2022‘s subsidies or plan to delay purchases for 2023's subsidies. These adjustments have already negatively impacted orders in 2023 and would continue throughout 2023.

Some of the policy adjustments in major EV markets include the elimination of subsidies in China, Norway, Sweden, and the UK, and France, Germany, and the Netherlands continue to cut subsidies. There are also a few markets where consumers will continue to benefit or enjoy increased subsidies in 2023, depending on the brand of the electric vehicle. The U.S. is one of those markets.

New energy cars are flooding China's shopping malls to grab market share. According to media reports, more than 80 car brands opened stores in shopping malls in 2021, most of which are new energy brands, and there is often a gorgeous scene of a shopping mall introducing multiple new energy brands. 

Sales trends

According to Statista, revenue in the Electric Vehicles market is projected to reach US$457.60bn in 2023, with an annual growth rate (CAGR 2023-2027) of 17.02%.

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However, the regional growth pattern has shifted, with EVs in Europe experiencing a more modest 15% increase due to weak overall vehicle markets and persistent component shortages exacerbated by the war in Ukraine. 

In contrast, EV sales in the USA and Canada increased by 48% despite a weak overall light vehicle market, which fell by 8% year-on-year. The second half of 2022 saw a slight recovery in auto markets compared to the low results of H2 2021, but global light vehicle sales for 2022 were still 0.5% lower than in 2021 and 15% below pre-2020 levels.

Despite the real estate crisis, COVID-19 outbreaks, and lockdowns in China, NEV sales continued to thrive, with an impressive 82% year-on-year increase. BYD more than tripled its sales to 1.85 million units, securing the top spot in the global sales ranking if their 944,500 PHEV sales are included. However, if BEVs are counted only, Tesla still leads by a wide margin with 1.31 million units delivered in 2022.

Market trends

The growth rate of the new energy vehicle market has shown a significant increase, and there is still a lot of room for future growth. New energy vehicles stand for the future trend of automobile development, which is powered by clean energy such as electricity and fuel cells. Because they bring air and noise pollution reduction, driving experience improvement, and cost decrease.

However, there are still many challenges on the path. Governments need to give more policy support to accelerate charging pile construction and new technologies development and improve the safety and reliability of NEVs. More consumers need to embrace NEVs. To satisfy consumer demand, automotive companies need to keep innovating and launching more affordable and competitive products.

2. Prototyping manufacturers should be a partner than just a supplier

The new energy vehicle market is projected to keep growing. Automotive makers will surely advance accordingly, including building their R&D systems, innovating technologies, and updating new products. They may majorly focus on the below factors.

Electrification of all vehicle types

All types of vehicles will soon turn electric-driven because of emission reduction and stricter environmental regulations. That means, apart from cars, buses, trucks, and even motorcycles will go electric.

Longer range

Limited range is one of their greatest problems. New battery technology advancements make electric vehicles more practical for daily use.

Increased charging infrastructure

Governments and businesses are investing to build more charging infrastructure to support the growing number of electric vehicles to run worry-free on the road. They are building more public charging stations and fast charging networks and providing home charging solutions.

Self-driving capabilities

Many automotive manufacturers are integrating self-driving abilities into their electric vehicles to make driving safer and more efficient while reducing emissions. However, it is hard to say if self-driving would be safer or riskier. Time will tell.

New battery types

Battery companies are researching new battery types such as solid-state batteries to replace present commonly-used lithium-ion batteries for higher energy density and shorter charging times.

Rapid prototyping is a process that cannot be avoided in new product development. How can prototyping manufacturers grow together with the NEV industry?

(1) Pay close attention to new energy vehicle industry developments

China considers 2022 an important year of new energy vehicle development. Other countries have formulated a series of policies to stimulate their development. All are signs that the new energy vehicle industry is prosperous now. In addition to focusing on everyday production routines like reaction injection molding and CNC parts, prototyping companies should keep a close eye on the new energy vehicle industry. So that we can react quickly whenever those new energy vehicle manufacturers require making CNC auto/car parts prototypes such as car bumper molding for new product development and marketing.

(2) Improve machines, technologies, and manufacturing skills

Among all the prototyping technologies, 3D printing has continued to develop, and CNC machining follows closely. Take car bumper molding, for example, nearly all prototyping processes can be involved, including CNC machining, vacuum casting, 3D printing, sheet metal fabrication, and reaction injection molding. For this reason, prototyping suppliers should continuously improve their manufacturing capabilities to meet the ever-changing demands of the new energy vehicle industry, such as newly designed CNC machined auto/car parts prototyping or short-run RIM car bumper molding.

Based on current technological trends, it is predicted that the hardware components of automobiles, such as bumpers, grills, and car bodies, will need to be modified to accommodate new software advancements. It will require a series of tests and prototypes, and CNC machining is the most effective method for creating one-off prototypes. 

CNC car/auto parts are particularly useful for creating physical models of new vehicle designs, allowing designers to refine the design before moving on to more expensive production processes. These prototypes also enable testing of the performance and durability of new components before committing to expensive production runs. A complete NEV model assembled with CNC car/auto parts can be used to showcase the design at trade shows and financing road shows. For low-volume runs of NEV parts and components, rapid molding such as RIM for car bumper molding is a better solution, especially for testing purposes like crash testing.

Makers of CNC car/auto parts must keep up with the changing needs of NEV manufacturers by introducing the latest CNC machines, while RIM technology for car bumper molding must also evolve. Chinese prototyping manufacturers can learn from more developed technologies in Western countries to stay competitive.

(3) Reserve related talents in advance

Prototyping requires programming skills. The programming of 5-axis and 6-axis CNC machines is not easy. It is suggested that prototyping companies reserve programmer talents in advance. Of course, it is impossible to be good at making every part of a car. It is good practice to dive into one field. For instance, you can focus on improving the capacity of manufacturing car lamps or car bumper molding. Concentrating resources on one thing makes it more likely to succeed. 

Ensure that you identify the particular field in which you wish to excel and secure talented individuals ahead of time. For instance, if you aim to specialize in car bumper molding, it would be wise to hire experts who are skilled in the latest RIM techniques.

Despite being just a conventional role of executor, there are many ways for prototyping manufacturers to be partners in the new energy vehicle industry. I believe, shortly, prototyping companies will not just make but create CNC auto/car parts together with vehicle manufacturers. X Rapid Technologies will be one of them, though it is a long way to go.