Green mobility: Electric and self-driving cars are the answer

The Protolabs study explores aspects and challenges that the automotive industry will face in the next 7 years on the road to green mobility.

Investments of approximately $ 330 billion have already been announced in the automotive sector, between now and 2025; of these, 42 billion allocated by the German group Volkswagen announces the launch of 6 Giga factories in the EU by 2030 with a focus on battery production. The latter, together with software, are considered as the main differentiating points in the market for electric (EV) and autonomous driving (AV) cars, as well as strategic for achieving the transition to complete green mobility.

Investments that are definitely in line with the plan Renewal of Europepresented May 18, 2022 by European Commission in response to the current energy crisis, triggered by the current geopolitical upheavals, but present for several years, mainly due to the energy dependence of fossil sources in the main European countries.

The car sector, it was said, which for more than a century has based billions of people’s mobility on the (relative) convenience of fossil fuels, and which in almost 13 years will have to find a way to move more and more. people and goods, as from 2035 in Europe it will no longer be possible to sell vehicles powered by petrol, diesel or gas. The amount of investment promises well, it definitely marks the path to the green mobility of what will be the cars of the future: electric and self-driving.

The road to green mobility, although marked, does not seem to be going downhill, thanks to the many factors that concentrate as in a perfect storm: the scarcity of raw materials such as lithium and materials to produce microchips, combined with it significant increase in transport costs, the lack of qualified staff and the rise in energy prices, which on the one hand accelerates the green transition but on the other hand slows it down due to the ongoing increases in production costs.

However, such a paradigm shift does not happen overnight: there is a need to recharge infrastructure, batteries, new types of sensors, new and increasingly connected equipment, radar and video cameras and a lot of expertise. It is no coincidence that hundreds of new companies are born in the world, often start-ups, which in this revolution see an opportunity to create new products, which very often have very short delivery times to quickly conquer market shares and be adopted by the big ones. car manufacturers before others.

All of this would have been unthinkable even just about ten years ago: just remember the design, construction, and commissioning times of a mold for a single component, exorbitant cost of producing only a few or many pieces.

Digital manufacturing also means, and for greater clarity, the subset of manufacturing industry technologies that use automation software and a network of connected machines (f. Traditional manufacturing sector – it will be the protagonist in the production of the cars of the future, the protagonists in green mobility. Because? Because the sector needs extreme speed and flexibility in quantities, and that it must be able to be used throughout the life cycle of an electric and self-driving car, from component prototyping, to design validation, to production of parts in reduced quantities intended for mechanical tests, up to production of individual spare parts, which avoids decades of stock costs for individual pieces.

As it turns out, there is (unfortunately) not a single solution to the new challenges posed by the revolution in the sector. But the study of Protolabs tries to analyze more in depth the electric and self-driving car sector by identifying some tactics that can help overcome the difficulties of achieving green mobility:

  • try to identify local suppliers to limit transportation costs;
  • outsource some phases of the commissioning of a product, typically prototyping, the production of the pre-series and the first production batches, to reduce the cost of molds and subsequent modifications and ultimately include the number of pieces to reduce the waste (production after request);
  • identify a single supplier that offers multiple technologies, including complementary ones, to reduce times and optimize the use of materials based on production technologies;
  • identify a supplier who can guarantee high quality, also thanks to post-production processing services, in order to avoid re-entry of lots and deviations that extend test and inspection times (and market access, which favors competitors).

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