The rise of inexpensive Chinese electric vehicles has upped the pressure on legacy automakers who have turned to suppliers, from producers of battery materials to chipmakers, to squeeze out costs and develop affordable EVs quicker than previously planned.

"Automakers are really now only turning to affordable vehicles, knowing they've got to or they will lose out to Chinese manufacturers," said Andy Palmer, chairman of U.K. startup Brill Power, which has developed hardware and software to boost EV battery management system performance.

Palmer, formerly Aston Martin's CEO, said Brill Power's products could boost EV range by 60% and enable smaller batteries. The battery is an EV's most costly component.