Electric Vehicle Adoption Creates a New Need for Specialty Parts
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Electric Vehicle Adoption Creates a New Need for Specialty Parts

May 11, 2023

The electric vehicle (EV) revolution is well underway, with sales in 2022 doubling that of the previous year, 3 to 6 percent of the total U.S. market, and up 25 percent so far in 2023.

Some of this increase is directly related to more EVs coming to market. They are now available in a wider range of shapes and sizes, from MINI Coopers to GMC Hummers, which means companies that makes things like tires, brakes and aftermarket parts have new customers to conquer.

Though EVs have less consumable parts than a traditional vehicle - very few fluids, no air or oil filters - they still need some parts replacements as they go about their lifecycle. Now more frequently than not, when someone repairs a part on an electric SUV, truck or sedan, it is likely with something built specifically for the new powertrain technology.

EV tires have different requirements than those on an internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles. With regenerative braking that recharges the battery without using the mechanical brakes, traditional brake pads get old and brittle before they wear down.

Tires on EVs wear down faster than tires for ICE vehicles, both because of the extra instant torque from the motor and the extra weight of the overall package. Bridgestone now joins several other tiremakers including Michelin and Goodyear in formulating tires specifically for EVs.

The Bridgestone Turanza EV incorporates renewable and recycled materials including recycled carbon black from end-of-life tires, synthetic rubber derived from recycled plastic bags and bottles, renewable soybean oil and rice husk silica derived from rice husks.

"Our research suggests that EVs go through a set of tires roughly 30-40 percent more quickly than their comparable ICE counterparts, which is one element of what we hope to address with the Bridgestone Turanza EV. Electric vehicles, in comparison to their ICE counterparts, continuously generate high torque, which accelerates tire wear," Will Robbins, director of consumer product strategy, Bridgestone Americas told Newsweek.

The Turanza was developed in just two years, about half the time it takes to develop traditional car tires. Bridgestone says the PeakLife formulation, created to decrease wear, was prioritized over the others. It was also able to leverage current technology into the fold.

"This next-generation polymer technology focuses on improved wear resistance, which can help extend tread life, and is engineered to deliver lower levels of rolling resistance to help increase vehicle range. We see a bonding rate with silica of roughly 50% compared with perhaps 20% on conventional polymers," said Robbins.

It claims a 50,000-mile warranty thanks to the new rubber polymer. The low rolling resistance ENLITEN tire also has a quieter tread design, important with no engine noise to cover it up. Bridgestone also says the tire has wet braking and handling on par with original equipment tires.

Brake pads and brake discs for electric vehicles also require different characteristics than their ICE counterparts. The new Brembo Beyond EV kit includes a new EV disc and pad range. Brembo says the new components are quieter and last longer. That's important when the pads rarely get used due to the regenerative braking effect of the motor.

"The use of regenerative braking results in the scarce use of traditional braking. Over time this leads to corrosion of the components which compromises their safe use and reduces their life," Roberto Caravati, aftermarket global business unit Chief Operating Officer for the Brembo Group told Newsweek.

It also has a treatment that prevents corrosion while using a copper-free friction material with a galvanized backing plate that reduces both dust and noise. Brembo says its goal was to create a brake kit that was quiet and resistant to corrosion, but one that also minimized residual drag. It also has to be able to handle the extra weight of an electric vehicle.

The cost of sustainability is significant, though companies usually find relief in economies of scale. Bridgestone says it considers the new materials an investment.

"We generally see a cost premium for renewable and sustainable materials as we work with our suppliers to scale production and availability of these technologies. We consider this to be an investment in sustainability that will allow us to work towards our long-term goal of 100 percent renewable and recycled material by 2050," said Robbins.

The aftermarket for electric vehicle parts is also exploding, especially for one of the longest-running EVs, Tesla. The SEMA show in Las Vegas brings together thousands of specialty brands making everything from suspension parts to body kits to wheels.

KW Suspension, one of the big players, now has a full selection of performance springs and shocks for the Tesla and Ford Mustang Mach-E. ESE Carbon is creating lightweight, carbon fiber wheels to counteract some of the weight that EVs bring along.

ADRO, a company that produces body kits for vehicles from its design base in California, has kits for the Tesla Model Y and Model 3. The kits are engineered and manufactured in South Korea.

AlphaRex began producing aftermarket head and taillights for internal combustion engine vehicles like Chevrolet Silverados and Ford Mustangs, but now has a section for upgrading your Tesla too.

Luis Morales, Director of EV Technology at SEMA told Newsweek that it now has a special section of the Las Vegas Convention Center dedicated just to EVs during the weeklong show. In 2019 it had five vendors, in 2021 it had 10 and last year it had 60 companies hawking parts for electric vehicles. The next show is in October and Morales wouldn't be surprised to hit triple digits.

Brembo's Caravati agrees, and makes the same case for plug-in hybrid models, which can suffer from the same fates as battery electric vehicle brakes and tires.

"Absolutely yes. Electric vehicles have such peculiarities that they will increasingly require the use of dedicated components. Moreover, we can anticipate that we will soon be launching a similar product line for hybrid vehicles too," he said.