ZURICH, Switzerland—According to a new report sponsored by ABB Robotics, battery manufacturers are in desperate need of automation. It claims that current plans for 80 new battery gigafactories are insufficient to meet future demand.
The “Electric Vehicle Battery Supply Chain Analysis” predicts that 2036will be the “changeover year” when all-electric passenger vehicles overtake sales of internal combustion engine-equipped equivalents. However, concerns over EV battery supply pose a serious risk to the growth of electricity as a clean propulsion future.
Although Asia is currently No. 1 in EV battery production, the ABB report says Europe will make up vital ground over the next few years, while U.S. manufacturers also plan significant increases in capacity. But, to achieve that production goal, battery pack assembly plants must be located close to or within car assembly facilities.
“Automation is key to increasing assembly safety, quality and traceability and delivering battery technologies cost effectively, which is critical to the expansion of electric vehicles,” explains Tanja Vainio, managing director of ABB Robotics Auto Tier 1 Business Line. “Co-locating battery pack assembly not only boosts sustainability by reducing transportation, it increases flexibility.
“We believe that building a robust battery supply chain will create a distinct competitive advantage for OEMs, setting a trend toward maximum production flexibility, whether battery pack production is insourced or outsourced, to further reduce costs and boost productivity,” says Vainio.
According to Vainio, the high price of EVs will increasingly create a barrier to further market penetration. To reduce vehicle cost, improving battery manufacturing productivity is essential.
“Increasingly, we see that higher productivity and lower costs are driven by assembling battery cells straight into packs,” Vainio points out. “Working in partnership with manufacturers, using systems and knowledge to increase productivity, quality and safety levels, as well as reduce finished pack costs through automated assembly, is vital if EVs are to meet their required cost and adoption targets.
“With production speed and flexibility essential to the successful scale-up of the EV battery industry, our cellular production architecture enables manufacturers to quickly validate a cell design and then roll out production cells globally with uniform quality, safety and productivity standards,” claims Vainio. “Roll-outs can be scaled to demand with the flexibility to adjust capacity in real time.
“A cellular approach to production is easily integrated alongside existing lines,” adds Vainio. “If the demand curve moves, cells can be added or removed quickly to maintain accurate production scale. Our robots are designed to be quickly repurposed as needed, boosting flexibility and adding to our sustainable approach by maximizing the life of each robot we build.”