ABB production centre

EV transition targets are ‘not achievable’ within current timelines, industry says

Image credit: ABB

Manufacturers have named challenges in adapting to a new battery supply chain, concerns over the investment, shortages of raw materials and lack of grid capacity as barriers to the transition to electric vehicles (EVs).

New global research commissioned by ABB Robotics and Automotive Manufacturing Solutions, revealed that 59 per cent of respondents believe the shift to pure EV production is not achievable within current legislative timelines. 

The survey included almost 600 global industry experts, from vehicle manufacturers and suppliers at all levels of management, engineering and other key professionals throughout the automotive world.

Of these respondents, only 11 per cent believed that all regional targets for EV adoption by 2030-2040 were realistic. Around 28 per cent said the deadlines were achievable, and 18 per cent believed the present targets would never be met. 

In contrast, 80 per cent of respondents said the shift to sustainable manufacturing is achievable, although challenging. 

“The automotive industry is acutely aware of the stresses and strains involved in meeting the proposed regional timetables for reaching full EV production,” said Joerg Reger, managing director of ABB Robotics Automotive Business Line.

“Automation is key to making production more resilient, efficient and faster to meet these targets, which is why we’re seeing high demand for our robots that specialise in EV powertrain assembly. These solutions radically reduce build times, improve flexibility, further simplify the production process and ultimately drive down production costs.”

The respondents cited a variety of reasons for their opinions. The need to adapt to a new battery supply chain, the high levels of capital investment required, shortages of raw materials, suitable infrastructure and lack of grid capacity were the most common barriers identified.

The lack of charging infrastructure was quoted as the single biggest constraint to EV adoption by more than a quarter (26 per cent) of those surveyed, while 17 per cent highlighted high vehicle prices as the principal barrier to EV growth.

“The survey confirms the automotive industry challenges – that manufacturing is under strain and disrupted supply chains are under considerable stress,” said Daniel Harrison, automotive analyst at Automotive Manufacturing Solutions.

“This is likely to be the ‘new never normal’, which poses considerable challenges to how quickly the industry can transition to electrification and also wider manufacturing sustainability targets, especially during a period of great economic uncertainty.”

Despite their low-carbon emissions, EVs have recently been the focus of concerns regarding their suitability for cold climates. 

Magazine What Car? recently tested a dozen EVs in cold weather to test how long they were able to drive before stopping. The experiment showed the Funky Cat First Edition by Ora had the biggest discrepancy between the actual and official range of the cars analysed, with the Nissan Ariya being the car that got closest to its advertised range. The Tesla Model Y was in second place. 

“More and more people own or are considering electric cars, and it’s important that they understand the pros and cons of this technology, especially in terms of how far they are likely to go between charges," said Will Nightingale, who leads What Car?’s test team. 

A government spokesperson said: “The UK remains Europe’s most attractive destination for investment, and we are determined to ensure it remains one of the best locations in the world for automotive manufacturing, too.

“Our success is evidenced by the £1bn investment in Sunderland in 2021, and we are building on this through a major investment programme to electrify our supply chain and create jobs.”

Last week, the European Parliament formally approved a law to effectively ban new sales of carbon-emitting petrol and diesel cars by 2035, as part of its push for EVs. However, at the eleventh hour, Germany and Italy launched an attempt to undermine the EU’s decision

The EU rules trail similar measures put in place by the UK, which announced in 2020 that a ban on new diesel and petrol cars would be instituted by 2030.

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