Electric Vehicles: The Impact on the Metalcasting Industry
Electric vehicle manufacturing has been on the rise over the last few years. In the last decade, sales of electric vehicles have increased from only 20,000 to over two million. This uptick in EV sales will impact automotive parts manufacturers, including metalcasters and foundries.
Internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles have been around for a century and have little left regarding innovation. Electric vehicles (EVs) are becoming more attractive to consumers due to both being new and being considered more environmentally friendly due to the lack of CO2 emissions. Regulations around automotive manufacturing also make it more difficult (and expensive) for auto manufacturers to justify using combustion engines long-term.
These factors, among others, will play a role in determining the future of different automotive parts manufacturers, including metalcasters and foundries that create automotive castings for combustion engines.
Foundries play an essential role in manufacturing parts for ICE vehicles. Even during times of recession or low demand for automobiles, many foundries that manufactured car parts were stable. ICE vehicles often need hundreds of castings for their engines, gearboxes, and other components. On the other hand, electric cars require significantly fewer castings per engine. EVs also need fewer parts than combustion engine vehicles, reducing the need for foundry metals.
As the electric vehicle market grows, the stability of primarily gray iron automotive foundries may weaken, at least at first. But in the long term, there may be greater demand for different types of foundry metals, such as aluminum, as electric vehicles still require many metal parts.
Aluminum Casting’s Application in Electric Vehicles
We’ve already begun to see an impact on the metal industry due to the demand for electric vehicles. EVs run on a battery and must be lighter to increase energy efficiency and travel further. Aluminum castings are much more lightweight than steel castings. They still offer good strength and are a contender for the “future” of electric vehicle casting.
As electric vehicles become more mainstream and affordable to produce, aluminum will likely be in greater demand. Aluminum castings are more environmentally friendly since melting aluminum requires less energy than iron, and the castings are also 100% recyclable.
Most electric vehicles adopt a “skateboard” foundational build, where the bottom of the car is constructed using a solid metal plate (usually made of aluminum or zinc). While this won’t completely replace the demand for iron or steel castings, it is a good sign for the metalcasting and metal industries.
Electric Vehicles’ Impact on Metalcasting Jobs
Whenever there is a transition in a large industry like the automotive industry, there will inevitably be an initial loss of jobs. According to Modern Casting, “In an interview published in 2019, Morgan Stanley’s Adam Jonas said there are about 11 million employed in the global automotive supply chain, and 3 million could lose their jobs due to electrification. These job losses will have a ripple effect that will include metalcasters,”
However, given previous trends, the job losses will be followed by a spike in job openings within the next few years.
Ultimately, foundries will inevitably be affected by these changes. Casting is a stable industry. It’s unlikely that metalcasting workers will be hit as hard as repair shops or parts distributors. There will be demand for metal castings regardless of whether or not we use ICE vehicles or EVs.
The Future of Automotive Metalcasting
While EVs may initially impact the metalcasting industry, it is impossible to say how it will play out. Though, automotive metalcasting will most likely transition from one casting type to another.
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