EV makers say the materials used are common, and repairs aren’t always more expensive
The details that Rivian and Lucid Motors shared during this year’s SEMA Show about the structural composition of their vehicles are consistent with Ducker Carlisle’s prediction that the use of aluminum and composite materials will continue to rise through the end of the decade, with battery electric vehicles (BEVs) making up two-thirds of the market.
Dan Black, senior director of collision services engineering at Rivian, and Matthew Petta, technical director of Lucid body repair, spoke and took questions from the audience during this year’s Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) OEM Collision Repair Technology Summit session, held November 2 in Las vigas.
The R1T and R1S are identical from the B-pillar forward, and the rest of the two cars are built with common materials, Black said.
“Aluminum extrusions are not repairable because they are just meant to absorb energy and lose all their value after that point in time,” Black said. “The side of the body is made of traditional steel. The great thing about traditional steel is that where you can MIG weld, spot weld — all those traditional methods that you could do in the past, you can do it on this type of product as well.” Our yellow components In this entire layout they are all vehicles.You have a header panel attached to the windshield across the entire head of the vehicle.
“The lift gate at the rear is all composite on the R1S, and then at the rear of the R1T, we have aluminum. Then the front nose, that’s all TPO – nothing unique and different; the same common materials used throughout the entire industry.”
He added that one of the unique elements is the front upper fascia, which features custom thicknesses where the radar is located. “In that area, it cannot be intentionally fixed because the radar needs to be seen through. If there is any additional obstruction, it will not be able to do what it is intended to do, which is to assist with other safety features. Aluminum inserts are strategically placed in High voltage system protection areas.
The Lucid Air is made of approximately 95% aluminum including a combination of stamps, castings and extrusions including the A- and B-pillars and roof, Beta said. “It’s all about making the car as light as possible.”
“We’ve got an aluminum stiffening beam in the doors, and then we’ve actually incorporated the casting components into the doors as well. We’re only replacing four components at the front of the car — the torque boxes, or the ring towers and the front crash bars… It’s all about trying to reduce leakage. Components into the car.
When asked at what point in car design do companies consider repairability and the complexity of incorporating it into the design, Peta answered that he and his team “the “The last line of defence.”
“When an engineer wants to change a part or is going to introduce a new part, we have to approve everything,” he said. “We get notified and then we look at all the engineering notes and say, ‘Is this fixable or does it affect the existing procedure?’ Sometimes we have to come back and say, ‘Hey guys, what you did is not possible for us to fix in the body shop,’ and if “It was a part buried so deep in the car, it meant you had to start over from the drawing board.”
Rivian is working to ensure any changes are interchangeable with the existing design to ensure they don’t deviate too much from the current strategy and product in the market, Black said. Rivian also doesn’t want to introduce additional complexity regarding service parts, he said.
In terms of the investments that repair facilities have to make, or would need to make if accepted into Rivian or Lucid’s certified repair programs, it’s not as much as one might assume.
The main investment is the battery lift table, which can be chosen from what is already available in the industry, Black said. “We write the recommendations but we also set the threshold.”
The maximum is 3,000 pounds and may require some specific configurations, he said.
“We’ll sell you a jig specific to our battery application to ensure stability in that case, so there are some simple unique tools… (and) adapt to that particular piece of equipment that you’re using.”
There’s some crossover between Rivian and Lucid in equipment and tools when it comes to battery trays and advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), Beta added, adding that repairers can use what’s already available, like some welding and fastening tools.
Lucid is also trying to use 3D printing a lot, which Beta said is “hugely underutilized” for repairability.
“A lot of our custom tools that you might use to align the panel, align the radar mounts — things like that — are 3D printed. We make them out of a strong material like ABS with carbon fiber,” Pita said.
That brings the price down from $300 to $12 to $15, he said.
Black and Peta were also asked if it was true that their cars were more expensive to repair. Some procedures can be a little more difficult, but common procedures like quarter panels, hindquarters and quarter skins are not, Petta said. For example, replacing quarter hides takes 2.5 hours after disassembly with all tools laid out and ready to use.
“The reason repairs are so expensive is because of the technology aspect of it — all the co-driver stuff, all the programming, all the firmware,” Pita said. “If you replace a module in the car, you may have to do firmware updates for a couple of days sometimes to get everything else up to that level.”
He added that if all of this can be simplified and the co-driver calibrations can be reduced to reduce working times, the costs should come down somewhat.
Black agreed and said Rivian is always looking for ways to cut costs.
“The complexity from a repair standpoint, at least from a noisy standpoint on the chassis side, is not there, in my opinion, in terms of what we put into the product, we try to simplify it as much as possible from a repairability standpoint, which ultimately reduces the time investment. So If you can reduce the time investment, this reduces the average cost of repair. This is a kind of trade-off.
An audience member then suggested developing a CIECA standard for service information.
“The standard will be great for consistent process flow and documentation the way you get there,” Black said. “A lot of times, we’re held to internal standards that are somewhat outside of some of our controls… It’s definitely something we’ll take back and investigate how we can improve the accessibility of our content, not just accessing it but navigating it; ensuring that it flows consistently with How other OEMs build their content.
“I think a lot of it will be internal departments,” Peta replied. “We don’t want to separate ourselves from everyone. We’ve been sent this topic a lot… and I agree that would be great for the industry. It would take everyone coming together and falling down ( “I want to shrug my shoulders and just say we need one way to do it.”
In their closing comments, Black stressed that reformers should always arrive at reform actions with every reform, and encouraged PETA to ask questions.
“I don’t care if you looked at the procedure yesterday, it could change tomorrow, especially in the environment I live in that is changing so quickly,” Black said. “Given the rapid change, there are rapid improvements to your content. We don’t know where we stand in this situation from a fixability perspective from today to tomorrow.
“When you guys look at things, if you notice something, even if it’s a typo, send it to us because as we review that, we always discover, ‘We’ve discovered something else,’ we’ve discovered something else, and that makes the procedure better,” Peeta added. “You help us make it better. We help you succeed. It’s a very physical relationship.”
In presentations by Dacre Carlisle during the summit session, Director of Automotive and Materials Abe Abraham and Director and Head of Global Automotive Practice Bertrand Racotto shared that 85% of the market is expected to be light trucks over the next few years, which means more lightweighting. To compensate for the often heavy installation of vehicles.
“The change in mix, the change in market structure, in North America is also because, since coronavirus, we’ve seen the average vehicle price jump from $37,000 for an average new car sold to $46,000,” he said. . “Higher price points also mean larger vehicles of course, but also for automakers, they can make a little bit more margin.”
Racuto added that more margin means more money for additional technology, more aluminum body molding in white, plastic fenders, and more.
“Right now, battery electric vehicles are priced at $66,000 on average, which means automakers have to put more technology out there otherwise the vehicles will be a little more expensive to manufacture,” Racuto said.
Between model years 2027 and 2032, the EPA suggests automakers should reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 66%, but for that to happen, more needs to be done than just increasing the number of electric vehicles going to market, Rakotoa said.
This can come in three ways using eight-, nine- or 10-speed gearboxes in ICE vehicles, reducing the size of the Ecoboost engines; Lighten weight or use alternative or synthetic fuels, such as hydrogen.
Abraham noted that automakers’ preference for vehicles made of homogeneous materials, which are often made from different steel thicknesses, is no longer taken into account.
“In the last 15 years, we have seen a lot of innovation in steel, and of course, aluminum is not a new material to the industry either,” he said. “The use of aluminum today for its purposes is very excellent. In the past, we have seen aluminum being used for performance gains, better handling, better acceleration, better braking, and that transitions to the present as well.
“Aluminum is a very convenient material to work with now for both the OEM and repair markets, but as we continue to evolve with joining techniques, it’s not just about welding a vehicle anymore.”
Featured Image: Lucid Air Pure (Courtesy of Lucid)
(From left) Abe Abraham, Dan Black, Matthew Petta and Bertrand Racuto participate in one of three SCRS OEM Collision Repair Technology Summit sessions on November 2, 2023 during the SEMA Show in Las Vegas. (Courtesy of SCRS)
A white Rivian R1T sat at the Society of Collision Repair Specialists (SCRS) booth during the 2023 SEMA Show. (Courtesy of SCRS)