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LATEST TRENDS IN E-MOBILITY Electric cars in the fast lane

May 25, 2022

Electric vehicles are gaining strong momentum in the automotive market. High growth rates in new registrations are already driving the cable and wire industry to invest in ever more modern technology. Electro-mobility is undoubtedly electrifying suppliers. The article highlights the technology at play, especially with reference to cables.

In Europe alone, electric vehicle sales have nearly tripled since 2019, reports the Alix Partners Global Automotive Outlook 2021. In addition, the analysis reveals that investment in electro-mobility will grow much faster by 2025 than expected last year — globally by more than 41% and in Europe by above 52%. In addition to the ecological aspect, the promotion of the switch to electro-mobility (e-mobility) by governments is also likely to play an important role. As many as 14 EU countries and China plan to ban the sale of internal combustion vehicles by 2035 at the latest, the report points out. These surely are electrifying prospects.

Cables of higher quality

The right ‘cornering stability’ will be decisive for the future development of suppliers. Because the cable, wire and tube industry have to take into account that, for example, the exhaust and fuel system, the combustion engine and the low-voltage electrical system are not required for the less complicated electric drive. Nevertheless, the prospects are lucrative. In the wake of mobility, more and higher-quality cables are on the shopping list of car manufacturers. The component is required in the charging cable from the charging station to the vehicle system and from the charging port to the battery.

Cables transport the current via the inverter to the electric motor. The interior wiring supplies power to other high-voltage components, such as air-conditioning compressors or electric heating and cooling. Powerful wires and cables are needed to keep vehicles from sputtering. However, as high-voltage cable production continues to grow, it is unlikely to be profitable without further automation and specialised machinery.

Huge market potential

“The market potential is huge,” a spokesperson for Wafios, a globally leading company for the manufacture of wire and tube working machines and with significant activities in the cold forming industry, emphatically points out. That is why the company is accelerating its transformation in the field of modern drives by investing EUR 10 million in a new e-mobility campus at their former Südwerk site in Reutlingen, Germany. In the future, Wafios’ mobility activities will be bundled in the campus admeasuring 1,800 sq metres. “Machine development, the customer centre up to the production of prototype and sample parts as well as the commissioning of customer machines will be under one roof on the campus in the future,” the company emphasises.

Complete production lines

Also, Wafios is forging a new alliance with the machine manufacturer Gehring, the company is pooling know-how in order to jointly offer the global automotive industry complete turnkey production lines for hairpin stators. In this way, Gehring’s experience in designing systems for automotive series production and Wafios’ technology in the field of straightening technology and wire forming, which is particularly important for the production of hairpins, will be combined. The fast pace of high-volume production, with electric motors being built in sub-minute cycles, poses a high challenge for stator manufacturing and its very complex wire-bending processes, according to Wafios. The cooperation could offer efficient, process-capable and future-proof end-to-end solutions. The aim is to transfer existing technology to mass production and to improve the efficiency of electric motors.

Trumpf is also experiencing electro-mobility as a growth-promoting stimulus. A central role is played here by a laser whose development the laser specialist has pushed as part of its e-mobility strategy and which, according to the company, is proving to be very suitable for welding copper. Copper is considered the most important material for conducting electricity and is indispensable in an electric car. The laser can be used to efficiently weld copper for the high-performance electronics of electric cars. “The shift toward electro-mobility offers great opportunities for the German industry,” emphasises Christian Schmitz, Managing Director for Laser Technology, Trumpf. The company expects further growth for its own business because of the transformation of the automotive industry.

Increasing demand for cables

The breakthrough of e-mobility is leading to a rapidly increasing demand for high-voltage cables. Manufacturers of on-board electrical systems are looking for ways to “automate the processing of these complex, multi-core cables with additional shielding,” explains DiIT, a manufacturer of software solutions for manufacturing execution and ‘kunden spezifischer kabelsatz’ (KSK) production that means exemplarily the test of individual variants of one product and logistics. In their view, in addition to throughput, automatic quality control also plays an important role.

Therefore, the standardisation of interfaces is finally picking up speed. In principle, manufacturers of wire processing machines are still defining their own interface specifications. “The integration of machines into an MES system therefore involves considerable effort in most cases,” an industry expert states. The times of proprietary interfaces should also be over for good in the cable processing industry. For this reason, a VDMA working group was formed at the end of 2021 with the goal of developing an industry standard based on the OPC and UA industry standards.

Continuous digital twins

Many manufacturers of on-board electrical systems are already working with digital twins. They are used at every stage of the engineering and manufacturing process. “What has been missing so far, however, is continuity. Each stage uses its own digital twin, independent of the others,” explains DiIT. To enable continuous traceability and quality assurance, however, the information model of an on-board electrical system must be applicable across all stages—from engineering to installation and ideally even to the use of the on-board electrical system in the vehicle. In the ARENA 2036 research campus, which is an innovation platform for the mobility and production of the future, renowned vehicle manufacturers, cable assemblers, machine manufacturers, software houses and other companies have now joined forces to advance continuous digital twins.

Change of products and processes

The changes associated with the switch from combustion to electric vehicle technology are therefore fundamental and affect products and processes. Also, “competencies such as blow moulding, pipe extrusion and machining technology are losing importance, while processes such as coiling and forming technologies for parts made of aluminium and magnesium are gaining,” explains the VDA, an association of the automotive industry. To continue the road to success, the wire and cable industry must therefore steer flexibly in the right direction. Then it heads for high profits at full throttle. As the international meeting place for the wire and tube industries will open their doors in Düsseldorf, Germany, from June 20-24, 2022, companies from all over the world will present innovative solutions from the wire, cable, tube, and pipe industries.

Courtesy: Messe Düsseldorf

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