“The future is electric” might be self evident to many, and clearly governments, companies and investors have put a lot of capital into this future. A cursory look at any Auto from the past two years in most parts of the world shows that Electrification is no more just a on-off R&D project meant to be buried the second a bad financial quarter arrives.
However, to help answer the question raised in the title of this article, I would like people to really think about the below list of skills and consider which apply to EV/HEV and which are required ONLY for IC Engines.
- Requirements Engineering
- Function/Algorithm development
- Modelbased Development & Autocode
- Software Integration and Software Verfication
- CAN, FlexRay, LIN, Ethernet
- Functional Safety (ISO26262)
- ECU development and test
- HIL testing
- SIL testing with virtual ECUs
- Diagnostics Development
- Vehicle testing
- Certification documentation
- ADAS features
- FMI (Functional Mockup Interface), XIL-API
- FMEA, Boundary diagrams, Systems Engineering
- Vehicle comfort features, Connectivity features
- CAD, CAE, CFD
Get where I am going with this?
Much that the automotive industry has developed over the last 100-odd years remains perfectly applicable to any kind of a vehicle. The tools, methods and process remain the same, even if the development/test artefacts themselves are different.
Firms that already acquired some or many of the above skills are likely to find adapting to the Electrified highway of the future a lot easier. Equally, a bulk of future jobs will also require these set of skills.
There ARE several areas that require specialized domain expertise in Electric Vehicle subsystems or Combustion processes. For example:
- Engine calibration for emissions optimization vs HEV/EV calibration
- Component selection and sizing
- Power electronics, exclusive components (pumps, DC-DC, inverters etc)
- Motor and Battery simulations
- Different objectives with CAE/CFD/CAD
Clearly, training institutes, OEM programs and Universities which offer EV-specific programs are not wrong in doing so. Equally clearly, it is insufficient!
In order to be truly future ready, it is very important to pay attention to ALL the skills required to innovate and develop safe, clean vehicles for the future.
But how about combustion? Surely I don’t need to know that, do I?
Well, the short answer is “you do” as most EV and HEV programs today are simply converted IC Engine vehicles, often with the same model name. Keep in mind that not everyone out there is designing EVs bottom up from a clean sheet like Tesla did!
Even if you are working on a small car project which might be best suited for EV, there’s a pretty good chance you have to at least understand the performance specifications of the original vehicle.
However, many other vehicle classes are likely to stick to a hybrid approach (retaining a smaller ICE), or simply kick the electrification ball further down the road. So it makes a lot of sense to make sure you are at least familiar with combustion concepts in order to get a job or even better understand the xEV you are making.
This is something that EV startups should pay particular attention to, as it could be the difference between making simple Proof-of-Concept applications to impress an investor and safe vehicles that can actually be mass produced one day!