Meeting the Challenges of Compact EV Components through Innovative Manufacturing

16 March, 2023

The shift to electric vehicles has led the automotive industry to explore unknown territories. As our customers are introducing a new wave of cars that require new and specific parts, we must adapt to meet their needs. The creation of new parts demands a different way of manufacturing, which is why we have to introduce new production methods. The production of electric vehicles creates an opportunity to rethink and reshape our manufacturing flow.

This shift in the industry also creates the chance for suppliers and clients to come up with innovative solutions together. This was also the case for VCST when we collaborated with one of our customers to manufacture a complex compound gear pinion for a popular electric vehicle, requiring a new way of working in our manufacturing process.

New cars, new parts

The change to electric vehicles comes with a need for a change in the components of the car. Electric vehicles require more compact components than traditional cars for several reasons:

  • Electric vehicles require smaller and more compact components due to their smaller engine compartments.
  • Reduced weight of the vehicle to increase its range and performance, and compact components contribute to this goal.
  • Compact components also help to improve the efficiency of the electric powertrain by reducing energy losses due to friction and heat dissipation.

This need led to the start of the Edison Project – A project where we introduced skiving and honing in our manufacturing process to meet the needed requirements of the compound gear pinion.

The difficulty in manufacturing this part lies in the need for the part to be as compact as possible. A more compact gear means more precise tooth profiling of a gear. The compound gear pinion for this vehicle ends up in an assembly that consists of three gears. Those pinions will be part of the differential assembly. In this assembly the pinion gears are running at the same speed inside a ring gear around the input shaft, like planets around the sun.

This compound gear is responsible for transmitting the torque from the DC motor (electric machine that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy) towards the wheels. If the tooth profiling is not precise enough, it could result in gears not rotating correctly and eventually cause the vehicle to stop functioning.

New parts, New processes

The new pinion that we needed to make, exists of two parts, both with two different sets of tooth profiling. Creating the part in two pieces complicates the manufacturing flow, because creating these pieces requires more production processes. This leaves more room for error.

That is why VCST looked for a way to manufacture the part in one piece, resulting in a more compact part and very precise tooth profiling, which is exactly what the electric car requires.

Thanks to VCST’s engineering talent, we were able to offer this alternative production strategy for our customer. We did this by implementing a method that was relatively new for VCST: skiving. This is a process used to create internal or external gears with straight or helical teeth. It is a continuous cutting process that uses a full carbide skiving cutter to produce the tooth geometry. The cutter rotates at high speed and removes small amounts of material from the gear blank as it feeds along the gear's axis. Skiving is generally used to produce smaller, high-precision gears that requires an excellent surface finish and low noise and vibration levels. By implementing custom made tooling for this technique, we were able to manufacture the pinion in one piece. Discover more about our different manufacturing methods here.

Changing a two-piece assembly into a one-piece construction eliminated further complications and increased reliability, durability and proved to be simpler and more cost-effective for the customer. With collaboration, commitment and a true partnership approach between our customer and VCST, we were able to meet with the increasing demands on this popular new E-vehicle. We’re looking forward to see what the future of EV manufacturing will bring and what challenging projects we will be a part of. Looking for eDrive solutions? Let’s connect!

More about the Edison Project