Automotive manufacturers are gradually upgrading their production facilities to accommodate the growing demand for electric vehicles. Here’s how.
2023 is shaping up to be the year when the electric vehicle (EV) revolution takes off. Last year, analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance claimed that sales of internal combustion engine vehicles is now in permanent decline, while EV sales are surging. In Germany, EV sales now make up 33% of Europe’s largest car market, with near identical numbers reported in the UK.
The time has come for automotive manufacturers to accelerate production of EVs and slowly phase out the gas-guzzlers of old. Their future depends on it in a world where consumers are increasingly conscious of their environmental impacts, yet where EVs are accessible to the many rather than the wealthy few.
Here are four ways automakers are rising to that challenge:
Unsurprisingly, adding EVs to an automaker’s line-up requires major changes to production facilities. This constitutes an enormous capital expense, with companies like General Motors investing half a billion to prepare their facilities for the transition.
One of the most significant challenges is the weight of EVs. EVs are up to 30% heavier than their combustion-engine counterparts due to batteries and the stronger components required to handle them. This places greater pressure on things like conveyor belts and robotic arms, which need to be replaced or modified to handle the extra load.
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A digital twin is a virtual representation of a real-world object. In automotive manufacturing, this might be a specific component of a vehicle, the whole vehicle, a production line, or even the entire factory. Digital twinning combines highly sophisticated computer aided design (CAD) with big data analytics and machine learning to enable prototyping in a risk-free environment.
For example, automakers might create a digital representation of an existing production line, using internet-connected sensors to provide real-time data and insights from the shop floor. However, in the digital environment, they can add, remove, upgrade, and tweak components safely to quickly identify the best operational parameters.
Given the substantial costs involved in upgrading production facilities for EV manufacturing, it is essential to invest in automation. Automation goes beyond shop floor robotics to incorporate machine learning, the internet of things (IoT), machine vision, artificial intelligence (AI), and augmented and virtual reality.
With the fourth industrial revolution now well underway, forward-thinking automakers are now looking to the potential applications of Industry 5.0. In the Industry 5.0 paradigm, the focus is on having smart machines working alongside people to achieve greater resilience, efficiency, and sustainability – rather than automation on its own.
It’s no secret that automotive manufacturing is a major producer of CO2 and other emissions. The manufacture of EVs is not necessarily any cleaner either, not least because of the many rare earth materials required to build batteries and other components.
Despite this, the transition to net zero remains a top long-term priority for the industry. To that end, environmental sustainability must be a key strategic goal for any automaker upgrading its production lines for EV manufacturing. This requires incorporating circularity and recycling, carbon offsetting, emerging material innovations and, of course, close attention to a constantly evolving regulatory landscape.
The ICM Summit 2023 takes place on May 17 in Frankfurt, Germany. The event will explore the rising prevalence of automation and the transition to net zero in automotive manufacturing. Download the brochure today to find out more.