In a 2020 article titled ‘Combustion Junction?’ the notion of the “many tentacles” of the transition to electric vehicles was brought up. This is a good way to describe the transition, because it does involve a multi-faceted approach, and many different branches of activity that always seem to be in flux to some degree. And one such branch that tends to go somewhat overlooked alongside larger questions (such as how we reshape infrastructure or how regulations change) is that of printed circuit boards in EVs.
PCBs are already at the heart of much of what modern electric vehicles do. Without covering each and every detail, suffice it to say that circuit boards are the brains being electric functions, and are thus more important to EVs than they’ve ever been to ordinary vehicles in the past. To some extent, the more advanced our PCBs get, the more capable our electric vehicles will be.
It is largely for this reason in fact that the broader market for automotive PCBs is expected to grow fairly significantly in the coming years. Per Businesswire, a forecasted CAGR of 6.23% for the period between 2017 and 2024 has been attributed to “rising integration of convenience, advanced safety and comfort systems in automobiles, increasing demand for electric vehicles,” and more. In short, the transition to electric and more intelligent vehicles is producing greater demand for hit-end automotive PCBs.
This makes PCBs well worth discussing in any attempt to illustrate or forecast the near future with respect to the electric vehicle revolution. And fortunately, a number of advancements in the PCB design process appear to bode well for this aspect of EV design and construction ultimately meeting demand.
The most significant factor at play is that PCB design now takes place almost entirely via advanced software. While some will naturally think of printed circuit boards in very mechanical terms, designers build them from start to finish as virtual schematics. This allows for creativity and experimentation in incredible detail, as well as for simulation and testing before production. The software allowing for all of this has vastly improved our capability to build PCBs that meet the needs of modern challenges like EV production.
Ease of Collaboration
The same types of software that enable modern PCB design in general have also made it much easier for teams of designers to collaborate — effectively multiplying both creative input and engineering know-how for any given project. As explained by Altium, entire teams can now collaborate on projects such that all design activity is visible and designers can work remotely on the same PCB schematics, at the same time. This too can only help to improve the quality and capability of end products for use in EVs.
Designing PCBs through software and with digital collaboration in play speeds up the total production process. But it’s also worth mentioning that there are other factors in play — such as cloud-based file sharing, speedier manufacturing methods, and even 3D printing — that are helping to produce end products more quickly. As EV production is presumably ramped up in the coming years, the ability of third-party engineers to not only conceive of but also produce PCBs as quickly as possible will be crucial.
All of this bodes well for reaching important goals with regard to the EV revolution. According to Scientific American, that would mean reaching a point at which 90% of U.S. cars are fully electric by 2050. Looking ahead to that point, it’s difficult to say whether or not we’re on track. But because of the existing advancement just noted with regard to circuit design, it appears that PCB requirements will likely not be holding us back.
Nevertheless, it’s an area to watch for those interested in EVs. Because again, the more advanced our PCBs become, the more capable our EVs will be.
Post written by Bradley Noble