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We can’t reach EV transition targets in time, warns global automotive industry

15 March 2023

A new survey has revealed that more than half of manufacturers believe that targets for EV adoption aren’t achievable within regulatory timelines.

New global research, commissioned by ABB Robotics and industry publication Automotive Manufacturing Solutions, revealed that 59 percent of respondents believe the shift to pure electric vehicle production is not achievable within current legislative timelines.

The respondents surveyed highlighted challenges in adapting to a new battery supply chain, concerns over high levels of capital investment required, shortages of raw materials, suitable infrastructure and lack of grid capacity.

Although 28 percent expressed the opinion that the deadlines were achievable, they also indicated there would be significant challenges, while 18 percent believed the present targets would never be met. Only 11 percent believed that all regional targets for EV adoption by 2030-2040 were realistic.

“The automotive industry is acutely aware of the stresses and strains involved in meeting the proposed regional timetables for reaching full EV production,” said Joerg Reger, Managing Director of ABB Robotics Automotive Business Line.

Automation is key to making production more resilient, efficient and faster to meet these targets, which is why we’re seeing high demand for our robots that specialise in EV powertrain assembly. These solutions radically reduce build times, improve flexibility, further simplify the production process and ultimately drive down production costs.”

The survey also highlighted the challenges involved in adapting to a new battery supply chain, cited as a key barrier by 19 percent of respondents, while 16 percent had concerns over the high levels of capital investment required.

Shortages of raw materials, suitable infrastructure, and lack of grid capacity were also high on the list of issues yet to be resolved.

Elsewhere, the lack of charging infrastructure was quoted as the single biggest constraint to EV adoption by more than a quarter (26 percent) of those surveyed, while 17% highlighted high vehicle prices as the principal barrier to EV growth.

ABB Robotics continues to develop and implement flexible, modular production cells that are digitally connected and networked, and served by intelligent autonomous mobile robots. This increased level of flexible automation provides a solution to labour shortages and can be scaled up or down depending on demand for a particular vehicle, or redeployed across a factory, avoiding the need for significant capital expenditure.

When it comes to implementation, ABB’s RobotStudio programming and simulation software avoids any disruption to production by enabling users to build, test and refine their robot set-up virtually, before a single robot is deployed.

The flexible manufacturing model makes production more resilient, efficient and faster, and supports automotive customers currently introducing more EV powertrains alongside the production of internal combustion engines.

“The survey confirms the automotive industry challenges – that manufacturing is under strain and disrupted supply chains are under considerable stress,” said Daniel Harrison, Automotive Analyst at Automotive Manufacturing Solutions.

“This is likely to be the ‘new never normal’, which poses considerable challenges to how quickly the industry can transition to electrification and also wider manufacturing sustainability targets, especially during a period of great economic uncertainty.

“Furthermore, within that context, challenges remain in the availability and cost of labour and how quickly large workforces can be reskilled.”

Sustainable manufacturing, a more positive outlook
When questioned about delivering sustainable manufacturing, industry leaders were more positive, with 80 percent predicting sustainability is achievable. Only four percent felt it would not be possible.

Of those surveyed, only those in America (16 percent) felt that regulatory compliance was a key obstacle (compared to seven percent in Europe and just five percent in Asia).

However, almost a quarter (24 percent) of all respondents suggested that the high capital expenditure required was the primary challenge to achieving sustainable manufacturing.

With robots becoming increasingly easier to access, integrate and use – particularly with developments in collaborative robots and software like ABB’s RobotStudio, which makes planning and programming faster and more efficient – automation will be the key enabler in the delivery of sustainable manufacturing.

The ABB survey includes close to 600 global industry experts, from vehicle manufacturers, and supplies at all levels of management, engineering and other key professionals throughout the automotive world.

Read more and download the ABB & AMS Automotive Manufacturing Outlook Survey and infographics here.

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