Electric vehicle (EV) makers and charging companies often capture the spotlight when it comes to investing discussions in this growing segment of the automotive industry. But there are plenty of pick-and-shovel companies that work tirelessly behind the scenes -- from parts and components suppliers to lithium and copper producers to battery makers.

Magna International (MGA 0.55%), Dana (DAN -0.16%), and the Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF (LIT -1.30%) are three less-obvious ways to invest in the EV industry. Here's what makes each of these hidden gem investments worth considering now.

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Magna's piece of the electric vehicle pie is growing

Lee Samaha (Magna International): The key to Magna's investment case lies in its components' relevance to EV production. Management argues that Magna's exposure to areas like fuel tanks, manual transmissions, and four-wheel drive (products that are not relevant for EVs) is relatively small. Meanwhile, its exposure to body exteriors and structures (aspects of vehicles that are not impacted by the shift from internal combustion engines to EVs) is large, and it's investing in its already significant and expanding line of products that benefit from the shift.

The latter includes battery enclosures and powertrain electrification. For example, it recently announced it was making a $470 million investment in expanding its operations in Ontario, Canada, to produce battery enclosures for EVs, among them, the popular Ford (F -0.84%) F150 Lightning. 

As such, the company's long-term future looks bright. Management believes it can grow its sales at a faster rate than overall light vehicle production growth as it increases its content per vehicle in EVs. 

But in the near term, Magna's profit margin and cash flow generation are being negatively impacted by a combination of high inflation (a common theme in the auto industry) and investments needed to fuel growth. Still, if Magna can reach its target of $1.8 billion in free cash flow in 2025, this $16.3 billion market cap company will look like an excellent value at today's price.

Power your portfolio with Dana 

Scott Levine (Dana): Looking for EV exposure but uninterested in the risks tied to investing in an individual EV maker? Dana is a stock you may want to hitch a ride with.

A leading designer and manufacturer of energy management solutions, Dana has a history of supporting automakers that stretches back to 1904 -- and now, with operations in 31 countries, it supports a lot of automakers. Dana's customer list includes many of the world's largest automakers, including Ford, Stellantis, and Tata Motors.

While the company supplies parts for internal combustion vehicles, it has made a concerted effort in the past several years to position itself for growth in the EV market, acquiring companies with EV expertise such as TM4 and Prestolite E-Propulsion Systems. Now, Dana supplies EV makers with thermal management products for EV motors and inverters, as well as solutions for battery cooling. In 2023, Dana plans on supplying products to leading EV manufacturers such as Rivian and Nikola, as well as Ford for its Lightning F-150. Illustrating how prominent a role EVs will play in Dana's future, the company recently reported that EVs account for 65% of its $900 million backlog through 2025.

While Dana's products are in high demand from EV makers, its stock hasn't enjoyed the same popularity with investors. After the company reported disappointing fourth-quarter financial results, the share price tumbled. But one underwhelming earnings report shouldn't dissuade long-term investors from recognizing the company's potential. With a history that stretches back more than a century, Dana has withstood plenty of bumps in the road. Nothing in the company's recent results indicates that it has hit a pothole that it can't recover from, meaning patient investors can pick up shares while they sit in the bargain bin.

The simplest way to invest in EV battery production

Daniel Foelber (Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF): EV exchange-traded funds (ETFs) come in all shapes and sizes. But most of them are centered around automakers and technology companies. The Global X Lithium and Battery Tech ETF is unique because it focuses more on the suppliers, not the consumer-facing products. In this vein, it provides a catch-all way to invest in the industry.

Albemarle is a major U.S.-based lithium supplier and is the top holding in the ETF. Samsung SDI, a crucial EV battery supplier, is the second-largest holding.

The ETF's third-largest holding is Panasonic, which is the main battery supplier for Tesla. The two companies have a joint venture tasked with making batteries at Tesla's factory in Nevada. The recently announced expansion includes more opportunities for Panasonic to supply battery cells for assembly at the factory.

Aside from lithium and battery companies, the ETF also owns automakers that are investing heavily in their own battery technology. For example, Tesla and Chinese EV giant BYD are both top 10 holdings in the Global X Lithium and Battery Tech ETF.

Another advantage of this ETF is that it allows U.S. investors to easily gain exposure to companies not listed on U.S. exchanges. Buying shares of Samsung or Panasonic can be challenging through some brokerages, and a hassle given that the hours of the exchanges they trade on are far different than the NYSE or Nasdaq.

The biggest drawback of the Global X Lithium & Battery Tech ETF is its relatively high expense ratio of 0.75%. But that's not too unusual a ratio for thematic ETFs focused on specific industries or types of stock. And the fee seems worth the price, given the ETF's diversity and its exposure to foreign stocks.