Today, the automotive industry’s nightmare is a basic low-cost wiring harness connecting cable. Some feel it may help accelerate the demise of gasoline engines.
The war in Ukraine suspended the production of wire harnesses, which are used in hundreds of thousands of new automobiles each year. However, the supply crisis could speed some traditional manufacturers’ plans of going back to machine-made EV harnesses.
“This is just one more rationale for the industry to make the transition to electric quicker,” said Sam Fiorani, head of production forecasting firm AutoForecast Solutions.
“Supply-chain disruptions such as the Ukraine crisis had prompted the company to talk to suppliers about shifting away from the cheap-labour wire harness model,” said Nissan CEO Makoto Uchida.
The auto industry had a direct hit due to the Ukrainian supply constraints. But, according to car manufacturers and dealers, plants remained operational during the early days of the conflict due to the persistence of their staff, who kept a small supply of parts running despite power shortages, air raid warnings, and curfews.
Due to a harness shortage, Bentley CEO Adrian Hallmark predicted that the company would lose 30-40% of its 2022 car production. “The Ukraine crisis threatened to shut down our factory for months, far longer than COVID.”
According to Hallmark, Bentley’s focus and investment in developing a simple harness for EVs controlled by a central computer have increased due to supply concerns.
Many of the CEOs and experts questioned indicated that fossil-fuel vehicles, which are facing approaching limits in Europe and China, would not be relevant to justify redesigning them to utilise next-generation harnesses.
“I wouldn’t put a penny into internal combustion engines now,” said Michigan-based auto consultant Sandy Munro, who estimates EVs will make up half of the global new car sales by 2028.
“The future is coming up awful fast.”
BMW is also considering employing modular wire harnesses, which would require less cable, saving space.
CelLink, a California-based company, has developed a fully automated “flex harness” that has received $250 million in funding from companies including BMW, Lear Corp., and Robert Bosch. CelLink’s harnesses have been installed in roughly a million electric vehicles, according to CEO Kevin Coakley.
Coakley claims that his company can offer customised items in two weeks, even though changing a conventional wire harness can take up to 26 weeks.
According to Dan Ratliff, a principal at Detroit-based venture capital firm Fontinalis Partners, this is what manufacturers want as they transition to EVs.