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A New Driving Force: Automotive “Electric Dreams”

Do you remember the song, Together in Electric Dreams?

It was an international hit in 1984 – written by my fellow Italian, Giorgio Moroder with some help from British composer Philip Oakey. It’s a bit of a classic. It spoke to a generation on the cusp of the computer age and explored the possibilities of “electric-everything.”

Through my work with Rockwell Automation, I am privileged to help many leading automotive manufacturers – and some new “start-up” disrupters – make their own electric dreams a reality. ?

Today, the future of electric vehicles is particularly bright, due to three key drivers:

    1. Technology Maturity. Electric vehicles, including hybrids, have been around for some time and are now well tested on a consumer scale. New players like Fisker and Tesla are pushing the boundaries with offerings that extend beyond “city runarounds” to high-performance and luxury vehicles.
    2. Environmental Mandates. Electric vehicles are critical to meeting the important and ambitious global commitment to reduce emissions.
    3. The “Uber-factor.” Rideshare services are changing car ownership patterns. In fact, the notion of car ownership may very well be confined to history and classic car enthusiasts inside a generation. Electric, driverless cars promise to be safer and more efficient – and consumers will simply pay time or mileage to use them.

Car manufacturers – and even the likes of Google and Apple – are well aware of these drivers and are heavily invested in e-strategies. And mainstream automakers are setting ambitious goals. For example, Volvo openly states its intention to introduce only electric or hybrid models as soon as 2019 – next year!

These and other developments could result in an increase in the number of electric vehicles produced from just a fraction of a percent to more than 50 percent in 10 to 15 years.??

The Role of Data-Intensive Manufacturing

To capture the promise of a burgeoning electric vehicle market, car manufacturers must overcome a variety of hurdles – including the odd interesting alliance. Perhaps most important, manufacturers must adopt a more connected, data-intensive approach to manufacturing to optimize electric vehicle production and satisfy demand.

Start-up electric vehicle manufacturers can learn much from traditional automakers. For example, see how a Connected Enterprise approach has helped Kia achieve a 70% reduction in safety downtime and enabled Jaguar Land Rover to improve business performance.

At the same time, traditional car manufacturers are beginning to emulate new business models and ad hoc technology development popularized by the start-ups. Better data integration – plus more accessible and actionable data – are key to the success of these approaches as well.

Overcoming the Infrastructure Hurdle

And what about that other hurdle the electric vehicle market is facing – batteries and charging infrastructure? Certainly, it’s in everyone’s interest to overcome these obstacles and there has been exciting progress.

For example, Fisker filed patents in 2017 for flexible solid-state battery technology that is one-third the cost of equivalent batteries today, is much lighter, and could charge a 500-mile battery in about a minute. Fisker expects this technology to be available for automotive applications within four to five years. At the same time, there have been significant infrastructure gains – with Europe leading the way in ultra-fast charging stations. ??

The Bottom Line?

The latest developments foreshadow a seismic shift in transportation not seen since humans retired horses and jumped into the car.

At Rockwell Automation, we trace our lineage back to 1903, the same year Henry Ford established the Ford Motor Company. And we’ve been focused on enabling the evolution of the automotive industry ever since. Now, a new era is taking shape – and we’re committed to helping the automotive sector come “together in electric dreams.”

Learn more about our innovative solutions for the automotive industry.

Paolo Butti
Paolo Butti
Director Industry and OEM - EMEA, Rockwell Automation
Paolo leads a team of highly experienced Industry Managers and OEM Segment Leaders, as well Strategic Account Managers. He coordinates our strategy and execution plan, driving key plays, selecting key focused accounts and balancing short term goals with mid-long term achievements within core industries and segments. Paolo has a discrete manufacturing background across a wide range of industries and functions. He joined Rockwell Automation in 2012, after 5 years in Comau (part of Fiat Chrysler Group), working as an automation domain expert on vehicle production systems and robotics. He received his PH.D in Electronics Engineering from the Politecnico di Milano in 1997.

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