Giga-Casting and Robots: How Volkswagen’s Trinity Aims to Catch Up With Tesla


As Tesla kicks off manufacturing at its new German plant this month, Volkswagen is weeks away from finalising plans for a EUR 2 billion (roughly Rs. 16,930 crore) electrical automobile (EV) manufacturing facility that it hopes will deliver it up to velocity with its US rival.

Tesla says it may possibly already churn out a Model Y in 10 hours at its new Giga Berlin-Brandenburg manufacturing facility in Gruenheide close to the German capital, whereas it may possibly take Volkswagen 3 times as lengthy to make its ID.3 electrical automotive.

The German auto big now goals to slash manufacturing occasions with its “Trinity” EV plant, which ought to be up and operating in 2026, through the use of strategies equivalent to giant die casting and chopping the variety of elements in its vehicles by a number of hundred.

“Our goal is clear: we want to set the standard with our production,” Volkswagen model manufacturing chief Christian Vollmer instructed Reuters in an interview. “If we can get to 10 hours, we have achieved something big.”

The carmaker has been enhancing productiveness at a price of about 5 p.c a yr however should take greater leaps to maintain its higher hand within the European market, Vollmer mentioned, with out offering a brand new share goal.

Volkswagen, the world’s second-biggest carmaker behind Japan’s Toyota with a secure of manufacturers from Skoda, Seat and VW to Audi, Porsche and Bentley has a 25 p.c share of the European EV market, forward of Tesla on 13percent.

However the strain on German carmakers to each grasp and ramp up EV manufacturing has been intensified by Tesla’s presence within the nation and Volkswagen Chief Govt Herbert Diess has warned Germans should velocity up to keep away from getting crushed on their very own turf.

‘IGNITED THE DRIVE’

Volkswagen’s targets align with a wider pattern within the business of simplifying product ranges and streamlining manufacturing as carmakers scramble to discover the money to fund the electrical transition – and sustain with rivals like Tesla that do not have to juggle making EVs in addition to vehicles with combustion engines.

“Tesla really ignited the drive for reducing part counts and making simpler products,” Evan Horetsky, a accomplice at McKinsey who was previously accountable for engineering at Tesla’s new Brandenburg plant, mentioned. “Legacy manufacturers have a more difficult time because they have to maintain current orders.”

A Tesla spokesperson mentioned one of many causes it may possibly produce its Mannequin Y autos in Germany inside a 10-hour timeframe is as a result of it’s makes use of two big casting presses, or giga-presses, making use of 6,000 tonnes of strain to make the rear of the automotive.

Its Gruenheide press store can produce 17 elements in underneath six minutes. With six extra giga-presses on the way in which, Tesla will quickly be making the entrance of the automotive with the giga-press too.

“That’s why we’re so fast,” the spokesperson mentioned.

The giga-casting method that VW plans to undertake was popularised by Tesla instead to the extra labour-intensive methodology of assembling a number of stamped steel panels with crumple zones to take in vitality throughout a crash.

German luxurious carmaker BMW has rejected giant castings up to now on the grounds that the upper prices of restore outweigh the decrease manufacturing prices.

However advocates say automated driving expertise will scale back the frequency of accidents: “Tesla is designing a vehicle that most likely won’t be in a severe crash,” Cory Steuben, president of producing consulting agency Munro & Associates, mentioned.

‘HUMAN-ROBOT COOPERATION’

Whereas VW can produce sure fashions such because the Tiguan or Polo in 18 and 14 hours in Germany and Spain respectively, its electrical ID.3 – made in a manufacturing facility juggling six fashions from three Volkswagen manufacturers – nonetheless takes 30 hours to put collectively.

On the Trinity plant, a number of work steps shall be condensed into one via automation, shrinking the scale of the physique store and lowering the variety of jobs requiring uncomfortable bodily labour, Vollmer mentioned, dubbing it an enlargement of “human-robot cooperation”.

Volkswagen doesn’t plan to have giga-presses on the new plant in Wolfsburg and will as an alternative use the tools at its manufacturing facility in Kassel about 160 km (100 miles) away and transport the merchandise by practice.

US funding financial institution JPMorgan predicts that Tesla’s Gruenheide manufacturing facility will produce about 54,000 vehicles in 2022, 280,000 in 2023 and then 500,000 by 2025.

Volkswagen, which delivered some 452,000 battery-electric autos globally final yr, has not but set an output goal for Trinity, which is able to use its Scalable Techniques Platform.

It goals to construct 40 million autos worldwide on the brand new platform – which mixes a number of inside combustion engine and electrical platforms into one – with half of its world output all-electric by 2030.

Tesla, which produced 936,000 vehicles final yr, has mentioned it goals to put 20 million on the highway a yr by the tip of the last decade, or roughly double the present annual manufacturing of Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker now.

Nonetheless, Tesla can anticipate quite a few challenges because it expands in Germany, from securing extra water provides to environmental teams indignant about mild air pollution and congestion close to the plant to unions apprehensive a couple of management-heavy works council and wages being pushed down by employees coming in from elsewhere.

“Starting production is nice, but volume production is the hard part,” Musk instructed a cheering viewers at a competition on the plant web site in October 2021. “It will take longer to reach volume production than it took to build the factory.”

© Thomson Reuters 2022




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