MAN Group
23 Jan 2019

Electrification – Moving vehicles forward



Recent seismic developments in the global market of automotive production make one thing clear: the world is moving towards vehicle electrification sooner rather than later.

In 2017 Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), the largest vehicle maker in the UK, announced that it would be forming a £5.7m partnership with Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) – an associate member of the MAN Group. The partnership would focus on gaining a greater understanding of vehicle electrification. With WMG’s extensive research resources – including its Energy Innovation Centre, a national facility for battery research – this partnership has given JLR vital insight into how electrification can be advanced.

This month, JLR announced the next steps in its electrification investment plan; JLR will be producing electric drive units at their facility in Wolverhampton, with a new battery assembly centre being established at Hams Hall in Birmingham.

As promising as these developments are for the future of electrification in the UK, they form a comparatively minuscule part of the global picture. This month, Reuters published an analysis of public data released by global automakers; it revealed that planned worldwide spending on vehicle electrification has surged to $300 billion.

While the automotive sector has been making gradual progress in the development of electric vehicles, these figures denote a clear sea change in the market – one that manufacturers must understand if they hope to remain relevant.

The profitability of vehicle electrification

At the most basic level, the reason behind such major investments into electrification is simply that they have become a much more profitable prospect over the last few years. With continuous iterations on the technology, electric car manufacturing has become more efficient, and the end results are more attractive to potential customers.

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A survey conducted in 2016 queried license holders on factors putting them off from buying an electric car or van. The clear leading factor was recharging (at 45%), with the majority specifying the availability of charging points. These barriers are being overcome at a sharply accelerating rate; statistics show that the amount of rapid charging stations throughout the UK increased from just over 30 in 2011 to over 4,300 in 2018. About 1,700 of those – almost 40% – were added in 2018 alone.

That acceleration is being reflected in the sales of electric cars themselves: in 2013, only 3,500 were registered in the UK. That number is now over 192,000 and growing. Electric cars are finally making their break into the mainstream, and this rapidly increasing demand is being matched by further investment into electrification research and production. These are exciting developments for the automotive industry, and the long-term rewards of getting involved in electrification are becoming increasingly obvious.

Vehicle electrification and the environment

As the numbers continue to trend towards electric vehicles, they point away from their diesel-powered counterparts, with Leasing Options predicting that electric car sales will overtake diesel cars by 2020. Environmental concerns are a commonly cited reason for customers moving away from Diesel, despite manufactures maintaining their economic and environmental viability.

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An increasingly environmentally-conscious customer base is not the only concern for automakers, or even the most pressing. The UK government recently introduced environmental legislation that will see a phasing-out of traditional fuelled vehicles in 2040 – that may seem far away, but it represents an absolute deadline for the production of vehicles as we know it. There is even pressure from MPs to move the deadline to 2032, so the market may potentially be upended much sooner.

With the end of traditional vehicle production looming, and the increasing viability of emissions-free electric alternatives, the market is headed irreversibly towards a greener future. Rather than fighting it, businesses would do well to tap into the wealth of opportunity that this economic shift represents.

Business opportunities in vehicle electrification

It isn’t only the vehicle manufacturing giants that have everything to gain from the move towards electrification. As members of MAN Group can attest, electrification represents demand for products and services across multiple manufacturing disciplines and these will be covered in more detail throughout a series of blogs on electrification and its impact on MAN Group members.

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Here we take a look at how vehicle electrification is paying dividends for Brandauer, one of the largest presswork and stamping companies in Europe and a founding member of the MAN Group.

A single electric car can have anything between 70 and 150 electric motors, which makes them a particularly exciting opportunity for parts manufacturers and suppliers. Brandauer supply the rising generation of electrical vehicles with electrical steel laminations. Brandauer have the facilities to stamp laminations as little as 0.1 to 0.65mm tick and consistently accurate to within 20 microns. A human hair, for comparison, is 50 microns thick!

With each motor requiring several laminations, the demand for Brandauer’s expertise is exponential. Loose, bonded or interlocked laminations, T-segments and ultra-thin components are available in all grades of electrical steel and its not only the motors in electric vehicles that benefit from this technology. Electrification is a trend closely associated with the manufacture of generators, magnetic coils and transformers and electrical steel laminations are part of the make-up in each and every one of those systems.

Furthermore, Brandauer’s state-of-the-art technology, tooling standards and design capabilities mean that components are available to exact and bespoke specifications – perfect for emerging markets in need of innovative new products.

The Manufacturing Assembly Network is a collaboration of eight sub-contract manufacturers and an engineering design agency.

Its membership includes Alucast, Barkley Plastics, Brandauer, C-MAC SMT, Grove Design, KimberMills, Mec Com, Muller Holdings and PP Control & Automation.

References and further reading:

  1. Environmental concerns
  2. Environmental Legislation
  3. Pressure from MPs
  4. JLR and WMG partnership announcement
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The Manufacturing Assembly Network is a collaboration of 9 sub-contract manufacturers and an engineering design agency.

Its membership includes Alucast, Brandauer, Grove Design, James Lister & Sons, KimberMills International, Muller, Nemco, PP Control & Automation and WMG.

Austin Owens

Managing Director & MAN Co-Chair, Grove Design

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