Switching From Combustion Engines to Electric Drive Production with Ford UK

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The implementation of new regulations and policies from governments to meet their CO2 emission targets is a hugely welcome step in the fight against climate change. However, it means that there are challenges facing some of the more emission-intensive industries, such as automotive. Managing a smooth transition into electrification is a significant challenge for many large automotive OEMs. This becomes a particularly pressing matter, when considering the capital costs of traditional manufacturing facilities and the investment required to implement new technologies to enable electric vehicle (EV) production.


A New EV Plant with Repurposed ICE Machinery

Some OEMs are beginning to explore how existing machines, equipment and infrastructure could be repurposed for EV production. As part of the E:PriME project, HSSMI supported Ford UK in identifying what elements at one of its internal combustion engine (ICE) plants could be used in the creation of an EV powertrain manufacturing facility.


The Strategy

Phase 1: Methodology

Firstly, HSSMI established a methodology to compare ICE specific processes with EV motor manufacturing processes and therefore understand their suitability. This involved an analysis of the ICE Bill of Process, which was then contrasted with a newly developed Bill of Process for EV components. The existing plant floor systems for, for example plant floor IT systems and plant support areas, were adapted from ICE to EV production.

Siemens, who were also part of this project, provided information on the support dates for the Siemens automation currently fitted to each machine that was being considered for reuse. The support date for the automation is an important consideration when it comes to the decision to reuse a machine or not. If the EV line needs to be in production beyond the support date of the automation, then a retrofit may be required. This could create an additional cost, which may mean that it is cheaper to buy a new machine rather than retrofit an existing machine.

Phase 2: Layouts

The next phase was to configure the equipment that was identified as suitable and create equivalent EV production layouts. By establishing the layouts, it was possible to calculate the conveyor and gantry reuse potential, as well as the modifications required to adapt the machines and parts transportation system.

Phase 3: Costing

The individual EV production line layouts were integrated into a single facility to allow for a holistic overview of how all the elements would interact with each other. This enabled systems within the Plant Systems Engineering function, such as IT and software for example, to be assessed in terms of reuse. The results of this assessment factored into the final step of the process, where the final costs of modifying each production line from ICE to EV were generated. The cost estimations showed a significantly lower necessary investment, as compared to a completely new facility, and therefore proved the benefits of implementing a reuse strategy.


Strategy Finds Over 80% of ICEMachinery Can Be Repurposed for EV Production

As part of the strategy, each Ford ICE production line on the site was assessed, and the key pieces of equipment were classified against the following categories:

Reused EV line: Equipment reused in EV layout created;

Reuse, minimal retool required: Equipment deemed flexible enough to accommodate major component change, e.g. robots / CNC machines;

ICE specific, major re-tool required: Equipment requiring modification to the fundamental base machine, e.g. honing machines.

The chart shows that over 80% of ICE machinery can be repurposed for EV production. Only 8% of the total equipment across the line is deemed unsuitable for EV conversion. Similar studies were carried out for each ICE manufacturing line.

This work was carried out as part of E:PriME, which was a collaborative project between Ford Motor Company, JW Froehlich, Siemens, National Instruments, Skillnet, Signal Noise, and HSSMI, carried out with funding from the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) and Innovate UK.


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