• Madani Sahari

Automotive technology roadmap to guide EEV development

HIGH technological capability is predominant to realize the nation’s aspiration to develop the country as the hub for energy-efficient vehicle (EEV) manufacturing.

Malaysia now possesses the fundamental technologies to support the development of the EEV industry, acquired from the nation’s involvement in the conventional automotive manufacturing thus far. However, Malaysia still lacks some critical EEV-specific technological requirements.

Malaysia Automotive Technology Roadmap (MATR), one of the six blueprints recently revealed, will serve as the guidelines in steering the automotive community in the nation’s adoption and adaption of and innovative approach towards EEV manufacturing. Relating to the entire automotive ecosystem, MATR identifies the relevant technologies that are  needed to enhance the existing technologies, and  the non-existing technologies essential for EEV manufacturing  for acquisition and development.

 Vehicle weight is fundamental for EEV, especially to achieve the lower fuel consumption per specified kilometers distance traveled. Continuous import of light materials for EEV parts and components production, such as primary ingot of aluminium and magnesium, will not help in the longer term competitiveness of the local EEV manufacturing.

As such, local upstream aluminium recycling activities need equipment upgrading with metallurgical knowledge of the material, which are able to produce the right primary alloys meeting the specifications for the downstream parts and components production processes. Reactivating the installation of the earlier planned aluminium processing plant such as in Samalaju, Bintulu,  may be the long-term alternative to support the expected growing of aluminium demand by EEV manufacturing.

High-end technology, particularly the castings die design and engineering, coupled with sound knowledge in production processes and the metallurgical aspects of the material, are crucial for the manufacturing of high quality aluminium parts and components. In this respect, the present local die design and making ability in the middle-stream operation of the automotive ecosystem needs enhancement.

Magnesium alloy  is another lightweight material  that has gained  useful application for automotive parts, and little is known of the existence of this material parts being manufactured in the local automotive industrial scene. On similar account, magnesium parts manufacturing needs for further development locally to support the EEV initiative.

Metal composites, a combination within the metallic matrix with strong fibrous material, are important materials that have entered components manufacturing  for engineering applications. 

Aluminium composite has shown its potential engineering applications and more so in automotive. Adoption and adaption of this composite technology among the local automotive research and development  and engineering community is the way forward to support the nation’s EEV venture and its components demands.

Malaysia’s petrochemical industry has been in existence since the national oil production commenced. Plastic raw materials were in production, but the types of plastics produced are limited  only to those that are commonly used in the current conventional vehicles  such as dashboard and other lower-end interior fittings.

Advanced engineering raw plastic materials are generally imported, such as those of the polymeric group, and are shaped into components by   local plastic vendors. Henceforth, MATR planned the development of more advanced plastics and polymeric materials in the upstream activities for the consumption by the downstream automotive parts processes.

Composite materials, reinforced plastics or polymeric materials with strong fiber have been the alternative routes to replace the heavy metallic components in automotive application to achieve weight reduction. Processing technology and product development using composite for automotive components will be a new game plan among the local vendors to remain competitive.

Ability to process and   develop products using the above advanced materials will be futile without the supports of high technical ability of the mold and die makers. MATR identifies the importance to upgrade these middle-stream industries that not only able to design and machine, but are also knowledgeable enough to produce various sizes and quality of  mold and die with appropriate heat-treatment and fine finishing being incorporated. Enhancement of other critical technologies and engineering abilities among the industrial players within the downstream activities are also re-routed by the MATR implementation plans.

Digital engineering and prototyping, foundry practices, “green” power train design and development, new processes and advanced manufacturing are among technologies identified for further development or enhancement.

On the other hand, recycling and remanufacturing technologies are among  priorities identified for adoption and adaption within the aftermarket sector of the automotive ecosystem. Testing technologies applicable at various stages of a vehicle life span, from prototyping, pre-production to post production; Vehicle Type Approval  and Vehicle End-of-life  are highlighted in the MATR with the acquisition and development route proposed.

Automotive vehicles are evolving from the current conventional internal combustion engine to hybrid to electric, and finally to fuel-cell power train. MATR suggests the possible entrance time frame of those vehicles types into the local marketplace. Accordingly, it is essential that the local automotive industrial community to acquire the essential technologies in anticipation of the vehicles future presence in the local scene. Coordinated manpower development planning to support the technology acquisition processes is essential for Malaysia to embark on the manufacturing of those types of vehicles in the future.

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