Going back to first principles in EVs is opening up new opportunities, says Tata Technologies’ John Johnston | Autocar Professional

The importance of lightweighting has increased in the last 20-25 years and has reached a new level with the advent of electric vehicles, noted John Johnston, Chief Engineer Body Structures, Tata Technologies.

Participating in discussions on day 2 of Autocar Professional’s Lightweighting Conference, he said that the philosophy of rethinking, associated with EVs, does give really big opportunities for vehicle lightweighting. However, the challenge is to do lightweighting in low cost vehicles. 

Further elaborating on the importance of EVs, he said the advantage was that one had a chance to look at proportions. “If you have a platform that meets your attributes and requirements, that’s a huge start in the process of developing vehicles.”

Taking the example of megacastings, he said he would like to see where the future is headed with these. “I think there is a call for a real independent analysis of traditional, versus megacastings,” he added.

What has changed fundamentally is that it is all in the initial planning. “We find that vehicle packaging and dimensions can be whetted at the conception stage,” so getting the targets right in the beginning helps to save costs and time, he said. Talking on megacastings, he said that if it has to be adopted for the Indian market, the whole (vehicle) lifecycle support process needs to adapt to it.

Further elaborating on 20 year trends, he said that the US led the charge with advanced, high strength steels, while Japan was slow to adopt this, and in Indian market, some indigenous companies could adopt high strength steels.

The cost challenge involved in weight reduction becomes an issue, which needs to be addressed, and this is where we need new technologies to work in partnership, he added.

Talking from his experience of working with clients, he said that with the correct use of structural adhesives, one can get the weight and costs down. “For me, the use of structural adhesives is a bit of a ‘mecca’, because if you use it correctly, you get a bit of cost and weight saving, which is quite difficult in our industry,” he added.

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