Giga-casting and robots: How Volkswagen’s Trinity goals to meet up with Tesla

BERLIN — As Tesla kicks off manufacturing at its new German plant this month, Volkswagen is weeks away from finalizing plans for a 2 billion euro ($2.2 billion) electrical car (EV) manufacturing unit that it hopes will carry it on top of things with its U.S. rival.

Tesla says it might already churn out a Mannequin Y in 10 hours at its new Giga Berlin-Brandenburg manufacturing unit in Gruenheide close to the German capital, whereas it might take Volkswagen 3 times as lengthy to make its ID.3 electrical automobile.

The German auto large now goals to slash manufacturing instances with its “Trinity” EV plant, which must be up and working in 2026, through the use of methods reminiscent of massive die casting and slicing the variety of elements in its vehicles by a number of hundred.

“Our objective is obvious: we wish to set the usual with our manufacturing,” Volkswagen model manufacturing chief Christian Vollmer instructed Reuters in an interview. “If we are able to get to 10 hours, we’ve got achieved one thing massive.”

The carmaker has been bettering productiveness at a price of about 5% a 12 months however should take larger leaps to maintain its higher hand within the European market, Vollmer mentioned, with out offering a brand new proportion goal.

Volkswagen, the world’s second-biggest carmaker behind Japan’s Toyota with a steady of manufacturers from Skoda, Seat and VW to Audi, Porsche and Bentley has a 25% share of the European EV market, forward of Tesla on 13%.

However the strain on German carmakers to each grasp and ramp up EV manufacturing has been intensified by Tesla’s presence within the nation and Volkswagen Chief Govt Herbert Diess has warned Germans should velocity as much as keep away from getting overwhelmed on their very own turf.

‘Ignited the drive’

Volkswagen’s objectives align with a wider development within the business of simplifying product ranges and streamlining manufacturing as carmakers scramble to search out the money to fund the electrical transition – and sustain with rivals like Tesla that do not have to juggle making EVs in addition to vehicles with combustion engines.

“Tesla actually ignited the drive for lowering half counts and making easier merchandise,” Evan Horetsky, a accomplice at McKinsey who was previously in control of engineering at Tesla’s new Brandenburg plant, mentioned. “Legacy producers have a harder time as a result of they’ve to take care of present orders.”

A Tesla spokesperson mentioned one of many causes it might produce its Mannequin Y automobiles in Germany inside a 10-hour timeframe is as a result of it’s makes use of two large casting presses, or giga-presses, making use of 6,000 tonnes of strain to make the rear of the automobile.

Its Gruenheide press store can produce 17 elements in underneath six minutes. With six extra giga-presses on the way in which, Tesla will quickly be making the entrance of the automobile with the giga-press too.

“That is why we’re so quick,” the spokesperson mentioned.

The giga-casting method that VW plans to undertake was popularized by Tesla as an alternative choice to the extra labour-intensive methodology of assembling a number of stamped steel panels with crumple zones to soak up vitality throughout a crash.

German luxurious carmaker BMW has rejected massive castings prior to now on the grounds that the upper prices of restore outweigh the decrease manufacturing prices.

However advocates say automated driving expertise will scale back the frequency of accidents: “Tesla is designing a car that more than likely will not be in a extreme crash,” Cory Steuben, president of producing consulting agency Munro & Associates, mentioned.

‘Human-robot cooperation’

Whereas VW can produce sure fashions such because the Tiguan or Polo in 18 and 14 hours in Germany and Spain respectively, its electrical ID.3 – made in a manufacturing unit juggling six fashions from three Volkswagen manufacturers – nonetheless takes 30 hours to place collectively.

On the Trinity plant, a number of work steps will likely be condensed into one by automation, shrinking the dimensions of the physique store and lowering the variety of jobs requiring uncomfortable bodily labour, Vollmer mentioned, dubbing it an enlargement of “human-robot cooperation”.

Volkswagen doesn’t plan to have giga-presses on the new plant in Wolfsburg and can as a substitute use the gear at its manufacturing unit in Kassel about 160 km (100 miles) away and transport the merchandise by prepare.

U.S. funding financial institution JPMorgan predicts that Tesla’s Gruenheide manufacturing unit will produce about 54,000 vehicles in 2022, 280,000 in 2023 after which 500,000 by 2025.

Volkswagen, which delivered some 452,000 battery-electric automobiles globally final 12 months, has not but set an output goal for Trinity, which is able to use its Scalable Techniques Platform.

It goals to construct 40 million automobiles worldwide on the brand new platform – which mixes a number of inside combustion engine and electrical platforms into one – with half of its international output all-electric by 2030.

Tesla, which produced 936,000 vehicles final 12 months, has mentioned it goals to place 20 million on the street a 12 months by the top of the last decade, or roughly double the present annual manufacturing of Toyota, the world’s largest carmaker now.

Nonetheless, Tesla can anticipate quite a few challenges because it expands in Germany, from securing extra water provides to environmental teams indignant about gentle air pollution and congestion close to the plant to unions nervous a couple of management-heavy works council and wages being pushed down by employees coming in from elsewhere.

“Beginning manufacturing is good, however quantity manufacturing is the onerous half,” Musk instructed a cheering viewers at a pageant on the plant website in October 2021. “It is going to take longer to achieve quantity manufacturing than it took to construct the manufacturing unit.”

Patrick Moore

Patrick is our chief editor and he's very passionate about cars. He has a bachelor's degree in marketing and he studies journalism. His favorite brand is BMW and he drives an X5 series. When he's not writing for, he enjoys spending time with his family and 9 years old son.

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