Knowledge Center


SIMPLER: Inside Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles mean greatly simplified manufacturing. Here’s a look.

When asked to compare the number of components in an internal combustion engine and an electric vehicle powertrain, consultant Paul Eichenberg, managing director of Chief Strategist, replied, “It’s like apples and oranges.” 

Eichenberg added, “The e-Golf has many tiny redundant parts like bus bars, fuses, brackets, relays, etc., not metal castings, stampings, forgings and injection molded components.” With the last grouping being characteristic of ICEs.

But the differences in fruit notwithstanding, there is a fundamental simplicity of the electric powertrain compared to the conventional ICE.

Ever wonder why the start-up vehicle manufacturers like Lucid, Lordstown Motors and Nikola all have electric powertrains (yes, even a hydrogen-fueled vehicle is an electric vehicle)?

Because of the complexity of the powertrain.

As the industry becomes more electrified, the number of large manufactured components—whether it is blocks, bellhousing, pistons or connecting rods—is going to give way to fewer parts.



479 dedicated parts

  • Engine (Including Air and Cooling Systems) - 294

  • Exhaust - 28

  • Fuel System - 37

  • Transmission - 120


2018 E-GOLF

371 dedicated parts

  • Inverter – 33

  • DC/DC Converter - 27

  • Battery Pack - 168

  • High voltage cables - 15

  • ECU - 2

  • On-Board Charger - 71

  • E-Drive (including gear box) – 55


The Lucid Air. Luxury EV with an estimated range of 517 miles per charge. (Image: Lucid Motors)

Volkswagen ID.3

The Volkswagen ID.3 model (which is not coming to the U.S.) have a two-stage, one-speed gearbox. The vehicle has a 150-kW drive system. The drive unit uses two smaller cogs rather than one large one in order to make the unit compact. The motor provides maximum torque of 310 Nm across a wide range of speeds; the maximum speed—99 mph—is reached at 16,000 rpm. Because the electric drive system is so quiet, the machining of the components must be precise so as there is no unwanted noise generated during operation. (Image: Volkswagen)

Mercedes eCitaro

The fully electric Mercedes eCitaro is a city bus. It uses a ZF AVE 130 electric portal axle with electric motors at the wheel hubs. The peak output of each motor is 125 kW and torque is 485 Nm. Power is from lithium ion batteries that have a total capacity of 292 kWh. The batteries are packaged in up to 12 modules. Because of city bus driving conditions, the range is from 106 miles (think of summer with the air con running) to 174 miles (ideal conditions). (Image: Mercedes)

Porsche Taycan

The two-speed transmission that is used on the rear axle of the Porsche Taycan. The first gear is used from the start and second gear has a ratio of approximately 8:1, facilitating the top speed of 161 mph. There are three shafts. There are two spur gear stages and a planetary gear set. (Image: Porsche)

Audi e-tron S

Audi has developed an “S” version for its e-tron and e-tron Sportback models which makes the models the first electric cars worldwide with three motors in mass production. The are two motors on the rear axle and one on the front. The front motor provides 124 kW of power (150 kW in boost mode). In the back there are two that provide a combined 196 kW (264 kW in boost). All in at the max there is 370 kW of boost power and 717.6 lb-ft of torque. The top speed—electronically limited—is 130.5 mph. The vehicles are nominally RWD, with the front motor being unpowered until the driver accelerates harder or wheel slip is detected. The vehicle provides electric all-wheel drive with torque vectoring. There is no mechanical rear differential, as each motor sends power to a wheel via a transmission. (Image: Audi)


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