Ram Chandrasekaran, principal analyst at Wood Mackenzie and a veteran of Ford's hybrid technology research, said that each approach offered benefits right now, but that dedicated platforms are clearly the future.
"There is no doubt in my mind that a dedicated EV platform will make for better electric vehicles," Chandrasekaran said. "However, developing a platform can be a multi-billion-dollar proposition. If you develop a dedicated platform, you need to sell a certain number of EVs before you break even."
That number is likely to be very high, he said, noting that even though Volkswagen is predicting it will sell 22 million electric vehicles in the next decade, it is still hoping to share its new MEB electric platform with Ford to help reach the breakeven point.
"The cost advantages of a dedicated platform will not be apparent in the short term," he said. "But over the long-term, they will or can lead to a better product that will no doubt reduce overall cost and increase profitability."
The consulting company McKinsey echoed that view in a recent report, saying, “Purpose-built EV platforms are lower in material cost and allow better performance in range, acceleration, and interior space. They do, however, come with additional investments in new, stand-alone platforms, leading to higher fixed-cost allocation, especially when initially produced in lower volumes."
According to McKinsey, electric vehicles can cost about $12,000 more per vehicle to build than internal combustion-powered ones, and as a result, automakers “stand to lose money on almost every EV sold, which is clearly unsustainable.”
Dedicated platforms can help to close the gap, McKinsey said in the report. “We believe OEMs can reduce their EV costs by $5,700 to $7,100 by pursuing strategic decontenting paired with a dedicated EV platform,” the consultancy said.
A number of automakers are using or developing dedicated electric vehicle platforms. In addition to Volkswagen, which will roll out the first vehicles on MEB this year, Honda, Hyundai and the Renault-Nissan alliance are all developing such platforms. Others, such as PSA Group, are building electric vehicles on so-called multi-energy architecture.