Building an EV is more complex than replacing a combustion engine with an electric motor and a battery pack. EVs require a different approach to design, engineering, and manufacturing, which is where EV platforms come in.
An EV platform is the basic frame or architecture of an EV without the body, the interior, or the powertrain. It is the foundation that supports the rest of the vehicle’s components and systems, such as the battery pack, the electric motor, the suspension, the steering, the brakes, and the electronics. An EV platform also determines the size, shape, performance, range, and features of an EV.
There are four main types of EV platforms: retrofitting, hybrid, dedicated with reuse of parts, and dedicated.
Retrofitting is modifying an existing internal combustion engine (ICE) platform to accommodate an electric powertrain. This approach is the simplest and quickest way to build an EV, as it does not require developing a new platform from scratch. However, it also has some drawbacks, such as:
- Limited design flexibility: Retrofitting forces the EV to fit into the constraints of an ICE platform, which may not be optimal for aerodynamics, weight distribution, passenger space, or cargo capacity.
- Reduced efficiency: Retrofitting may compromise performance and range, as the ICE platform may not be able to accommodate a large enough battery pack or a powerful enough electric motor.
- Higher costs: Retrofitting may incur additional costs for modifying the ICE platform, integrating the electric components, and ensuring safety and reliability.
Some examples of EVs that use retrofitting are:
- Volkswagen E-Golf:
- Ford Focus Electric:
- Tesla Roadster: The first Tesla model was based on a modified Lotus Elise chassis.
- Nissan Leaf: The first mass-market EV was built on a modified version of Nissan’s B platform.
The two examples below show how the manufacturer located the battery and other EV components on retrofitted platforms.
Legacy automakers with a large customer base often design hybrid platforms to accommodate different types of powertrains, such as ICE, plug-in hybrid, or pure electric. This approach gives carmakers more flexibility to adjust to market demand and customer preferences. However, it also has some disadvantages, such as:
- Increased complexity: Hybrid platforms must account for various scenarios and configurations, which may increase the engineering and manufacturing challenges.
- Reduced optimization: Hybrid platforms must balance the trade-offs between different powertrains, which may prevent them from achieving the best possible performance or range for each type. This could be needing to have a larger front to fit a ICE engine or shorter wheelbase because of ICE motor.
- Higher weight: Hybrid platforms must carry extra components and systems for different powertrains, which may add to the vehicle’s weight and reduce efficiency.
Some examples of EVs that use hybrid platforms are:
- Ford Mustang Mach-E: The first Ford EV is built on a modified version of Ford’s C2 platform, which underpins the Ford Escape and Bronco Sport.
- Volvo XC40 Recharge: The first Volvo EV is built on Volvo’s CMA platform, which supports ICE and plug-in hybrid powertrains.
- BMW i7: The new BMW i7 is built on a hybrid platform supporting petrol, PHEV, and EV versions.
Below, you see how the CLAR platform underpins the different variants of the BMW 7 series.
Dedicated with shared components
Some EVs are built on platforms that the carmakers build as dedicated EV platforms but reuse some parts from existing platforms.
These platforms are designed specifically for electric vehicles from the ground up but also incorporate some components or systems from conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) platforms.
Manufacturers may take this approach to save costs, reduce development time, or leverage existing expertise.
The parts reused typically do not negatively affect the design of features of the EV.
Some examples of EV platforms that follow this approach are:
- Audi e-tron: The first Audi EV is built on a modified version of the MLB Evo platform, which Audi also uses for ICE and hybrid models such as the Audi Q7 and Q8. The e-tron platform adapts the MLB Evo’s suspension, steering, and braking systems but also adds a new battery pack, electric motors, and thermal management system.
- BMW iX: The first BMW electric SUV is built on a new platform called CLAR WE (CLuseter ARchitecture With Electric), which is a variant of the CLAR platform that is used for ICE and hybrid models such as the BMW 3 Series and 5 Series. The iX platform uses some of the CLAR’s structural elements, but also incorporates a new battery pack, electric motors, and and thermal management system.
These EV platforms are examples of how carmakers can balance between innovation and pragmatism when developing electric vehicles. They offer some advantages over retrofitting or hybrid platforms, such as more design flexibility, better efficiency, and higher performance. However, they may not be as optimal as dedicated EV platforms that are designed from scratch for e-mobility.
Dedicated platforms are platforms that are designed specifically for pure electric vehicles. They are often called bespoke platforms.
They offer maximum design flexibility and optimization for e-mobility. They are also more scalable and adaptable for future development. However, they also have some challenges, such as:
- High investment: Dedicated platforms require huge upfront costs for research and development, testing and validation, and production facilities.
- Long lead time: Dedicated platforms take longer to develop and launch than retrofitting or hybrid platforms.
- Market uncertainty: Dedicated platforms may face risks from changing customer demand or regulatory policies.
Some examples of EVs that use dedicated platforms are:
- Tesla Model S, Model 3, Model X, Model Y: All Tesla models are built on Tesla’s own dedicated EV platforms, which are constantly updated and improved.
- Lucid Air: The first Lucid model is built on Lucid’s LEAP platform, which claims to offer industry-leading performance, range, efficiency, and luxury.
- Hyundai Ioniq 5: The first Hyundai model from its Ioniq sub-brand is built on Hyundai’s E-GMP platform, which promises fast charging, long range, bi-directional power supply, and high performance.
- Volkswagen ID.3 and ID.4: The first Volkswagen EVs are built on Volkswagen’s MEB platform.
Because of the high cost of creating a new EV platform, there are serveral examples of sharing between brands. See examples in the platform overview in the last section of this article.
Below you see examples of use of the scalable MEB platform made by the Volkswagen group. When an EV platform is scalable, it means that it can be easily adapted and modified to fit different types of electric vehicles, such as sedans, SUVs, or trucks. A scalable EV platform allows carmakers to use the same basic structure and components for various models and sizes of EVs, without having to redesign the chassis or the battery pack. This can save costs, reduce development time, and increase efficiency. A scalable EV platform can also be adjusted to meet different customer preferences and market demands, such as performance, range, or features.
Volkswagen is working on a new platform called SSP (Scalable Systems Platform). This platform will underpin all Volkswagen group models in the future. Read more at electrichasgoneaudi.net
The following table shows the most common EV platforms used on models the latest years.
|Platform||Type||EVs built on platform|
|Audi / Porsche PPE||Dedicated||Audi Q6 e-tron|
Audi A6 e-tron
Porsche Macan EV
Porsche Cayenne EV
|Audi / Porsche J1 Performance||Dedicated||Audi e-tron GT|
|Audi MLB EVO||Dedicated w/shared components||Audi e-tron|
Audi Q8 e-tron
|BMW CLAR||Hybrid||BMW i4|
|BMW FAAR||Hybrid||BMW iX1|
|BMW CLAR WE||Dedicated w/shared components||BMW iX|
|Geely SEA1||Dedicated||Polestar 3|
|Geely SEA2||Dedicated||Volvo EX30|
|Geely SEA-S||Dedicated||Lotus Eletre|
|Hyundai E-GMP||Dedicated||Hyundai Ioniq 5|
Hyundai Ioniq 6
|Mercedes EVA 2.0||Dedicated||Mercedes EQE|
Mercedes EQE SUV
Mercedes EQS SUV
|Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi CMF-EV||Dedicated||Renault Megane|
|Tesla Model 3/Y platform||Dedicated||Tesla Model 3|
Tesla Model Y
|Tesla Model S/X platform||Dedicated||Tesla Model S|
Tesla Model X
|Volkswagen MEB||Dedicated||Volkswagen ID.3|
Audi Q4 e-tron
Audi Q5 e-tron