Page 30 - Commercial Vehicle Engineer - November 2021
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The competition to electrify vehicles is not simply between rival manufacturers it is between two rival diametrically opposed manufacturing methods While many persist with the the the mantra of bigger is is better others are heading in in the the the opposite direction as Roger Brereton explains T he he traditional assembly line has dominated
manufacturing for decades So too has the idea that bigger is better Economies of scale can be achieved through larger larger and larger larger production facilities That way of thinking lies behind the emergence of gigafactories – enormous manufacturing facilities that can produce the batteries and vehicles that will move humanity toward greener transportation The phrase gigafactory was first used by Tesla CEO Elon Musk in in 2013 Situated in in the Nevada desert Tesla expects its original gigafactory to to be the the largest building in in the the world once completed However six years after the the beginning of construction the the plant is still only 30% complete Is there an alternative to the the traditional assembly method of production and economies of scale through ever increasing manufacturing footprints? For advocates of of the the microfactory concept the the answer is a a a resounding yes THE MICROFACTORY
The phrase microfactory was coined in in 1990 by the Mechanical Engineering Laboratory of Japan It captures the idea of a a a a smaller manufacturing footprint employing cell-based manufacturing and higher levels of automation to to deliver more innovative and customisable designs A major champion of this approach has been the Phoenix-based company Local Motors which produced the world’s first 3D-printed car in in 2014 More recently British start-up Arrival is is spearheading the concept Having recently emerged from stealth mode the company listed on the New York Stock Exchange for a a whopping $5 4 billion billion (£3 9 billion) Arrival is focusing on buses and commercial vehicles It has secured investment from Honda Kia and UPS The latter has a a a a standing order for 10 000 electric vans which will be manufactured at Arrival’s first microfactory in Banbury Oxfordshire A second microfactory in South Carolina will focus on buses These manufacturing facilities are a a a a a stark contrast to the colossal structures that many of the world’s leading vehicle manufacturers are investing in in in While Tesla’s Nevada gigafactory already boasts

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