Playing the catch-up game: How CAD software can help established car companies win the electric car race

It's fair to say the car market has changed a great deal since the first Ford Model Ts rolled off the production line at the turn of the 20th century.

Volvo designed the modern three-point seatbelt back in 1959, ushering in the modern restraint system found in nearly every vehicle. Mercedes-Benz delivered second-generation anti-lock braking systems in 1978, the first system able to keep drivers in control during emergency braking. These are but two of countless more. The fact of the matter is, innovation has been a mainstay of the automotive industry.

However, while the major auto makers have continued to push the bounds of what's possible in terms of safety, design, navigation and even internal combustion engine (ICE) technology, they've let one technology push ahead – the electric drive train.

This article will take a look at the growth of the electric vehicle market, and how the major auto makers can use powerful computer aided design (CAD) software to follow suit.

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The EVe of a new age of motoring

Accelerating the world's transition toward sustainable transport. That's the mission statement of electric car maker Tesla Motors, and it's a message unique to the US company. It's also one that, along with powerful, safe and stylish vehicles, is helping the world start to realise cars can be so much more.

In a sign of just how large the electric car market could become, BGR noted Tesla sold 50,000 Model S sedans in 2015, and Reuters reported the company received nearly 400,000 orders for the Model 3 sedan – the company's mass-market electric vehicle set for release in late 2017.

Secretive electric car start-up Faraday Future, famous now for the crazy FFZERO1 electric concept car, continues to make headlines with claims that the "the future is coming" in the form of all-electric, connected and autonomous vehicles.

It certainly sounds like a different future, but it's clearly one that people are starting to get behind. As for the established automotive giants sticking to their internal combustion guns and neglecting electric cars? Change may need to come quickly.

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A significant clutch: Shifting into electrics

At this point in time, most car makers have developed at least one electric vehicle. Nissan have the Leaf, BMW have the i3 and i8, Renault have the Kangoo Z.E and Mitsubishi have the i-MiEV family of cars. These are just a few – and there's awareness of the potential of the electric car market.

However, as relatively new entrants like Tesla show, there's a desire for more powerful and capable electric vehicles than what's currently available. It's time for the established auto makers to turn to new design tools to improve components, performance and of course, design.

It's certainly no small challenge: internal combustion engine construction has been the name of the game for well over 100 years, and any major shift means serious changes to design, engineering and manufacturing. Take the motor as one clear example. Unlike ICE cars, electric cars feature a small motor usually placed between the rear wheels, with a battery pack under the floor of the car to provide charge. It's an entirely new way of designing vehicles.

This is where CAD software can provide significant value.

Capable CAD software

These auto makers will need to turn to new tools to better design and then understand how the various electrical components work within new cars. Tools like SOLIDWORKS, for example, bring all of the expected CAD software features, including the ability to easily prototype new parts, as well as a host of powerful optional extras.

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Visualize, for example, allows design teams to put together near-photo realistic imagery of their vehicles, which can then be shown to stakeholders. There's also Simulation, which lets engineers put battery and motor components to the test in a digital environment. For example, engineers could test battery pack heat resistance, and how this affects the chassis of the car.

Simulation also allows for accurate wind testing – something that's especially important when it comes to electric car design. Drag coefficients need to be as low as possible in order to ensure the cars aren't consuming more power than is actually necessary to drive along the road.

To learn more about these packages for SOLIDWORKS, as well as the various other options, reach out to Dassault today.