The automotive industry is undergoing the biggest transformation in its history. Megatrends such as digitization, autonomous driving and electromobility are determining developments – not only for manufacturers but also for suppliers.
Electromobility is on the threshold to the mass market. In Germany, sales of electric vehicles doubled last year, according to the industry association VDA. There are two main reasons for the development of alternative drive units: in the coming decades, the energy requirements of industrialized and emerging countries will continue to rise, while resources such as oil are becoming increasingly scarce. On top of that, automakers have been set climate policy targets to reduce CO2 emissions.
“In light of these targets, it is paramount for the automotive industry to find suitable mass-market alternatives,” says Michael Kluger, Head of the Forum Electromobility e. V. “Electromobility is not a self-contained system. It must be viewed holistically together with issues such as power generation, infrastructure and automation.”
There are various alternative technologies to conventional combustion engines: hybrid vehicles that supplement the engine with an electric power unit, alternative fuels such as ethanol or hydrogen-powered fuel cell electric vehicles. The best-known technology, however, is battery-powered electric drive, which draws the required energy from energy storage devices such as lithium-ion batteries.
The advantage of battery electric cars is their efficiency, say their proponents. The batteries are getting cheaper, and the range of the vehicles is increasing at the same time. This has also been confirmed in a study by the consultancy firm McKinsey. It is an important factor because the fear of being stranded with an empty battery is stunting electric vehicle sales. Furthermore, an increase in electromobility also entails a significant increase in electricity consumption.
But despite all the challenges, experts believe electromobility will be in pole position in the contest between the various technologies. It has the potential of becoming the new megatrend in the car sector and a key component of a smart urban lifestyle. Manufacturers have announced a wave of new electric cars for the coming years.
This also poses new challenges to suppliers. Because manufacturing battery cells and modules is very complex, and the technical processes are highly sophisticated. In order to produce batteries for electric cars economically, it takes automated, intelligent systems and experienced suppliers.
“To satisfy the increasing demand for electromobility, automakers are calling for quality and automated solutions in the production of battery modules,” says Dr. Joachim Döhner, expert for battery production at KUKA. “This makes close cooperation between engineering companies and the automotive industry absolutely imperative.” Automation and experienced suppliers can thus contribute to mastering the biggest transformation in the history of the automotive industry and bringing mobility into the future.