An Interview with Manos Polioudis, Head of Powertrain at ARRIVAL

What’s your role and responsibility within your current organisation, and how does it fit in with the wider industry?

I am currently leading the powertrain organisation within Arrival. Our responsibility lies into designing, developing, and testing the mechanical components of the drivetrain, along with their integration. This means motor, gearboxes and inverter all combined into a single unit.

Talk us through your career to date, what have been the stand-out moments for you?

My engineering degree is from National Technical University of Athens. I started working with electric vehicles since my student years. Following graduation, I moved into Sweden to work for Volvo Trucks. This gave me a foothold on the automotive engineering world and has been an eye-opening experience for me. Following Volvo Trucks, I moved in the UK to work in Jaguar Land Rover, to their new EV platform. This resulted into one of the biggest projects of my career which was the Jaguar I-Pace.

Fast forward some years, I joined a small (then) start up company. It was one of the best decisions of my career, moving into a very dynamic organisation. Since then (3 years ago) Arrival has grown massively and now I am leading a team of 40 engineers designing the best powertrains in the industry.

What engineering projects are you currently working on?

Currently, I work within the Arrival Van, Arrival Bus and Arrival Car projects. These are the backbone of the Arrival product portfolio, and they are packed with great technology and features. Truly great products!  I am always amazed by the amount of technology and features, and how this will change the way we perform commercial and ride hailing applications.

How do you ensure that the technical knowledge and research required in product development is translated to commercially successful products?

It is always a team sport. Automotive engineering is a team effort. The product that comes out of the (micro)factory is the combined knowledge of big engineering teams. Knowledge is useless if it sits on the individual and not the organisation. What needs to be carefully managed is organisational knowledge, and that builds up with time and communication. So, in order to properly translate technical knowledge in a product you need to actively promote the communication and cooperation of the engineers. We have many talented team members, and what gives us the strength to execute correctly and properly is the quick and on point communication.

Could you explain the process you follow when designing a new product?

Customer Customer Customer. It is the cornerstone of product development. You need to put the customer in the centre and understand his needs. If the customer’s needs are known, the product development process has a guide. A true North. Many times, as engineers we confuse our assumption of what the customer wants, with what the customer actually wants. This is the reason you see a lot of products packed with useless features.

How has the powertrain technology you have been developing changed in the years you’ve been working in engineering?

The main shift in powertrain technology, the last 15 years, is undoubtedly the electrification.  This change created a whole new world of engineering requirements that were not present with the ICE engines. The technical execution has become more difficult, due to the fundamental difference in the torque production. I think the areas that are the most challenging for the industry with regards to new powertrains is cooling (because the temperatures on EV components are not that high as in ICE) and NVH. EV powertrains have lower temperatures, that makes cooling more challenging, and also very low noise profiles, making the design of quiet gears a whole level different.

Regarding supporting the technology side, during the last 15 years, tools and software have progressed a lot, and the engineering process has become much more scientific and targeted.

Why are you involved in our show and what do you hope to get out of it?

Keeping up with the industry and learning about the latest developments. Also, networking with like-minded peers because our industry has strength through cooperation.

If you could have a conversation with any person, alive or dead, who would it be and why?

One of the all-time favourites for every scientist! Galileo Galilei. A man that was able to see so much further his own time, struggling with the system to make them see the truth. Our success today is because some individuals in the past have built the foundation. I would be excited to discuss with one of the pioneers of the modern scientific methods.