The equipment manufacturers which have a focus on the EV battery industry have a huge challenge. High increasing demands push for mass production of batteries. In the meanwhile the principles of Industry 4.0 need to be applied to increase output, quality, flexibility, sustainability and efficiency. Unlike the current (Asian) suppliers of batteries the Western suppliers are facing higher energy costs and tougher consumer demands on environmental friendly production. The customers in Europe and US will not accept that they will drive clean cars on a dirty battery. European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič has also indicated that batteries that do not meet green standards could be banned from the European market. France and Germany in particular are pushing the idea of ‘green batteries’.
To accomplish the new giga factories the machine builders in especially Europe and US need to ramp up. Not only in the manufacturing of battery cells, but also in setting up processes for battery re-use and battery recycling. Since the new factories are going to be build close to the consumers in Europe and US and the availability of basic materials is very limited in these continents, the future can only be secured if recollection of these materials is organized properly. Since these materials are also a big part of the total costs of batteries, this will also lower the price of batteries in the future significantly.
Within the market we see that battery manufacturing is going to be organized by traditional battery producers, automotive OEM’s and cooperation’s between them. Also new producers are popping up which try to introduce new manufacturing principles and locate themselves in interesting new places with for example low energy and/or labour costs or close to the automotive OEM’s. We see a lot of downstream integration of the automotive OEM’s and upstream integration of battery producers, which both are seeking which products needs to be produced by themselves for strategic reasons. In that sense it is also interesting to see what the future of the battery pack will be and if we will see that most cars in the future will be filled with individual battery cells or will keep modules and packs.
The growth of electrical cars will also more and more require dedicated processes for repair, re-use and recycling of battery packs, modules and cells. As stated above the re-use of basic material will be very beneficial and reduces besides the actual costs for these materials also the logistic expenses.
The above mentioned developments requires a huge demand for human capital in the battery industry itself and at suppliers like equipment OEM’s. For sure we need more experts in Europe and US and these experts need to come also from other industries where mass production is more common than the traditional tact time set up in the automotive sector itself. The need for speed is big and this can only be successfully done if experts work together and exchange their progress on specific challenges. The industry will not wait for long development projects for new specific products like sensors but also not for those of complete new designed machinery from specific companies. Development are so fast that the installed machines of today are already old fashion compared with the equipment build in virtual reality which will be placed within weeks and months to come.