How a single part could change the automotive industry

The wiring harness is a low cost car part that connects the wires together. But producing the parts caused problems in the auto industry. Some predict that this simple piece could accelerate the shift from gasoline-powered cars to electric cars.

The war in Ukraine has limited the supply of the cable harness. Ukraine typically produces wiring harnesses for hundreds of thousands of new vehicles every year.

Low-wage workers assemble these necessary auto parts using wire, plastic, and rubber.

Auto industry experts say the lack of wiring harnesses for gasoline engines could make electric vehicles (EVs) more popular. They use a kind of lighter, machine-made harness.

Most new cars around the world are still gasoline-powered, but sales of electric vehicles rose to four million last year. Michigan auto expert Sandy Munro estimates that electric vehicles will account for half of global new car sales by 2028. terrible fast,” Munro said.

Due to supply problems caused by the war in Ukraine, automakers tried to manufacture the harnesses in other countries with low labor costs.

Mercedes-Benz was able to import harnesses from Mexico. Some Japanese suppliers are increasing their production in Morocco. Others are looking for new producers in countries like Tunisia, Poland, Serbia and Romania.

The Tesla model

Automakers are also exploring new ways to manufacture wiring harnesses.

Adrian Hallmark is the head of Bentley. He said the British carmaker feared losing 30-40% of its car production for 2022 due to the lack of harnesses.

“The Ukraine crisis threatened to completely shut down our factory for several months, much longer than we did for COVID.”

He added that supply issues had increased Bentley’s interest in developing a simple harness for electric vehicles. This new harness would be controlled by a central computer. Bentley, a division of Volkswagen, plans a group of products by 2030.

Electric car manufacturers such as Tesla are using new, simpler wiring harnesses. Machines can put them together. They are also lighter, which is important because less weight allows electric vehicles to go further.

Change model

Walter Glück is responsible for the harness supply of the German company Leoni. He said Leoni was working with automakers on new, automatique methods of manufacturing electrical harnesses for electric vehicles. Leoni develops harnesses made up of six to eight distinct parts. These harnesses will be simple enough to use automated production.

CelLink, a new company based in the US state of California, has developed a fully automated “dish”flex harness” which is easy to install.

CelLink head Kevin Coakley said nearly one million electric vehicles are fitted with CelLink harnesses.

The company is working on electric vehicles with several automakers and plans to build another plant in Europe, he said.

Coakley said his company could ship redesigned harnesses in two weeks. Previously, it took up to 26 weeks to change a traditional harness.

Dan Ratliff is an investor at Fontinalis Partners, an investment firm based in Detroit, Michigan. He said automakers want to make vehicles faster. This new harness would make that possible.

For many years, the industry didn’t need to act quickly to redesign a part like the wiring harness, but Tesla changed that, Ratliff added.

“On the EV side, it’s just go, go, go.”

I am Mario Ritter, Jr.

Nick Carey and Christina Amann reported this story for Reuters. Matthew Caputo adapted it for VOA Learning English.


words in this story

terribly) –adv. very, extremely

automate – v. run or operate (something, such as a plant or system) using machines, computers, etc., instead of people to do the work

flex – nm an electrical cable containing two or more wires that is connected to an electrical device.

install -v. to put a part in place when constructing or assembling a device such as a machine

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