Martin Andersson, strategisk säljare på AFRY inom fordonsindustrin

How is electrification shaping the future of the automotive industry?

Martin Andersson: We face challenges, but above all, we see great opportunities

The automotive industry is undergoing a significant transformation: electrification. With a focus on reducing carbon emissions, improving air quality, and promoting technological innovation, the transition to electric drivetrains is an important part of the climate change efforts.

Martin Andersson is a strategic sales professional at AFRY and works on the transition within the automotive industry from a production perspective.

"With a background in the company that goes back to the 1990s, I have held various roles over the years. From mechanical engineer and project manager to site manager, and now as a sales coordinator for AFRY's comprehensive projects where we take on functional responsibility. My main drive has always been to build and maintain networks, both internally and externally. This central position allows me to establish and maintain important resource and business contacts within an industry I am passionate about.

Currently, it is clear that both inquiries and won projects are highly focused on electrification. The discussions and developments that have been ongoing for several years regarding the products are now being effectively implemented in the production process."

What challenges and opportunities does the electrified automotive industry face?  

"Electrification within the automotive industry and its transformation extend far beyond just the vehicles on the roads; it encompasses everything from sustainable energy production to distribution and expansion of charging infrastructure. While battery technology is constantly evolving, we also face challenges such as limited access to raw materials, especially so-called conflict minerals, which are often mined under unsustainable conditions for people and the environment. Moreover, a joint effort from governments, the industry, and society at large is required.

Despite these obstacles, the long-term opportunities are substantial. Electrification can lead to reduced carbon emissions and lower operating costs, and the technology for pure electric drive is currently leading the development in the passenger car segment. At the same time, alternative fuels like hydrogen are being explored to eventually complement or replace pure battery operation.

Alongside the electrification of drivetrains, the vehicles themselves are undergoing a significant development process. For instance, Tesla has paved the way by thinking beyond traditional chassis construction. Through techniques like megacasting, larger units of car chassis are formed, which differs from the traditional method of welding together steel plates. Additionally, the battery boxes themselves are used as structural components. We at AFRY are proud to be involved in a comprehensive project for the manufacture of battery packs with a Swedish vehicle manufacturer. These projects enable flexible and scalable production of key components for battery manufacturing, which is crucial for the assembly of batteries themselves."

How is vehicle production adapting to future technologies?

"Right now, the production landscape for our Swedish vehicle manufacturers is being redrawn. There is intensive work ongoing to replace established and niche manufacturing with new technology, and it is happening within a very short period without a clearly defined endpoint. One of the most challenging aspects of this transition is the rapid development of battery technology. The technology used today may be outdated within just a decade, making it difficult to make long-term investment decisions.

To meet these challenges, strategies are needed to adapt future production, both in terms of technical content and production volumes. During the transition phase, it is also necessary to manufacture both existing products and new products in parallel. This requires flexible manufacturing methods and smart material handling. Technologies such as Autonomous Mobile Robots (AMR) for internal logistics are increasingly sought after to handle the increased complexity and variation in the manufacturing process.

What challenges does the European automotive industry face in increasing the use of renewable fuels and electric vehicles?

"In a time when Asia is leading the development in this area, Europe faces the challenge of not only finding innovative solutions but also ensuring a competitive automotive production. Today, for example, no European supplier can provide the production system for a complete battery factory.

A year ago, I visited the Auto Embracing car exhibition in Shanghai, which gave me insights into how European and North American cars can be perceived as outdated compared to Chinese brands, all equipped with electric drive and new technology at a very low price. Given the increasing popularity of electric vehicles from manufacturers such as NIO, BYD, and Zeekr on the global stage, it is now more important than ever for Europe to effectively manage the transition to electrification within the automotive industry. Otherwise, we risk falling into the hands of Chinese and Korean suppliers."

a car driving along a road at dusk

How can production adapt to meet the rapidly changing battery technology?

"To remain competitive, there is a central success factor: to be agile and flexible for future changes. There are crucial national initiatives to enhance this capability, and in a couple of them, both I and AFRY have had the privilege to participate. For example, Vinnova finances efforts around both challenge-driven innovation (UDI) and Resource Efficient Use and Development of Reconfigurable Machining Systems (REFUSE). These projects emphasise the importance of reconfigurable production systems, which can be adapted to both new technologies and varying production volumes.  

Another significant change is happening within the procurement of machine equipment and process systems. Vehicle manufacturers are under increased time pressure to quickly bring new products to market. To meet this challenge, many are choosing to involve suppliers early in the design process for production equipment. By collaborating from the start, the lead time from decision to production start can be significantly shortened, enabling a smoother and more efficient adaptation to the rapidly changing demands within battery technology."

What role does AFRY hold in the electrification of the automotive industry?

"We have an important role in accelerating the transition together with our customers. Through more collaborations where we can leverage our broad expertise in battery production and processes, but also in other related areas such as product development (R&D), visualisation, infrastructure, sustainability, power supply, and IT/Cyber Security, we can contribute to driving the automotive industry towards a more electrified and sustainable future."

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