The Challenges of Transitioning to Electric Vehicles

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Why Does the Transition to EVs Remain Anything But Simple? | Future Business

Electric Vehicles (EVs) should, in theory, be a given within corporate fleets. But the reality is more complex. Glancing back down history, EVs are not actually that new. For many years, the humble UK milk float was the perfect example of an electrically powered vehicle that was a regular, and indeed successful sight on Britain’s streets. Evidently then, EVs can and do work, so why the relative lack of them within today’s corporate fleets? Certainly, major car producers are not afraid to invest in them.

Volvo Cars has just announced it will invest SEK 10 billion in its Torslanda manufacturing plant in Sweden, in preparation for the production of that next generation of fully electric cars.

The investments follow another recent announcement by Volvo Cars and Northvolt, the leading battery cell company, to invest an additional SEK 30 billion in the development and manufacturing of high-quality, tailor-made batteries for the next generation of pure electric Volvo models.

Both investment plans represent new steps towards Volvo Cars’ ambition to be a fully electric car company by 2030 and reflect the company’s commitment to a long-term future in its hometown of Gothenburg.

Corporate manufacturers therefore are not shy to hold their money up. The cars and the pipeline are on the way.

Electric Vehicles Only by 2030?

“With these investments, we take an important step towards our all-electric future and prepare for even more advanced and better electric Volvos,” said Håkan Samuelsson, Chief Executive of Volvo Cars. “Torslanda is our largest plant and will play a crucial role in our ongoing transformation as we move towards becoming a pure electric car maker by 2030.”

The introduction of mega-casting of aluminium body parts for the next generation of electric Volvo models is the most significant and exciting change implemented as part of the investment package. Mega-casting creates a number of benefits in terms of sustainability, cost and car performance during the car’s lifetime.

Such technological advances are becoming more common as global manufacturers hasten EV takeup. Casting major parts of the floor structure of the car as one single aluminium part reduces weight, which in turn improves the energy efficiency and thereby the electric range of the car.

This also allows Volvo designers to optimally use the available space inside the cabin and luggage area, boosting the overall versatility of the car.

Other benefits from mega-casting include reduced complexity in the manufacturing process. That in turn creates cost savings in terms of material use and logistics, reducing the overall environmental footprint across the manufacturing and supply chain networks. All a bonus for both price and savvy green minds.

The upgrade of the paint shop involves the installation of new machinery and implementing new processes, which are expected to support the ongoing reduction of paint shop energy consumption and emissions.

And a new battery assembly plant will integrate battery cells and modules in the floor structure of the car, while the assembly shop is being refurbished for the accommodation of the fully electric cars – for example, with a new ‘marriage point’ where the top body and the floor of the car meet for the first time.

The logistics areas will be refurbished, improving material flow and optimising the transport of goods and parts into the plant. “Today is a great day for the Torslanda plant because we are making it fit for the future with this investment package,” said Javier Varela, Head of Engineering and Operations at Volvo Cars.

“Our future as a company is all-electric and that requires a variety of upgrades across the plant to ensure that Torslanda can continue to build premium electric cars of the highest quality.”

A note on logistics: the Torslanda plant has an annual production capacity of 300,000 cars and is one of Volvo Cars’ longest-operating manufacturing facilities and currently operates on three shifts and employs around 6,500 people.

So, surely these cars would be the perfect company car for UK or indeed EU fleets? Investment is strong and the direction of travel is set.

IEA Analysis

The International Energy Agency (IEA) says there were ten million electric cars on the world’s roads at the end of 2020, following a decade of rapid growth. Electric car registrations increased by 41 per cent in 2020, despite the pandemic-related worldwide downturn in car sales in which global car sales dropped 16 per cent.

Around three million electric cars were sold globally (a 4.6 per cent sales share), and Europe overtook the People’s Republic of China as the world’s largest electric vehicle (EV) market for the first time.

Further, of the world’s top 20 vehicle manufacturers, which represented around 90 per cent of new car registrations in 2020, 18 have stated plans to widen their portfolio of models and to rapidly scale up the production of light-duty electric vehicles.

It all sounds like more good news. But here is the kicker; IEA says governments need to put in place policies to promote the roll-out of zero-emission vehicles in the medium and heavy-duty vehicle segments and the corresponding fast-charging infrastructure.

Glance down any UK street; do you see charging points for vehicles? Glance across any haulage yard and ask the same question. It isn’t the vehicles or investment that are lacking, it’s how to get the juice in them. IEA says the 2020s will need to see more than just the mass adoption of EVs by car makers to meet climate goals.

In the short term, countries must continue to implement, enforce and tighten measures such as CO2 and fuel economy standards and EV mandates. But IEA also recommends that taxing gasoline and diesel at rates that reflect their environmental and human health impacts can provide government revenue, reduce their negative impacts and hasten the transition to electric mobility.

Further, it calls for differentiated taxation of vehicles and fuels that reflect their environmental performance and can further align markets with the climate benefits of EVs.

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