Currently reading: Volvo to invest £800m to upgrade Torslanda plant for EVs
Firm will introduce mega-casting and a battery assembly plant, while refitting its paint shop and logistics area

Volvo will invest more than £800 million to upgrade its largest factory to prepare for its shift to all-electric vehicle production, introducing a battery assembly plant and new technology to create aluminium parts. 

The firm, which will go EV-only by 2030, will over the next few years upgrade its largest plant in Torslanda, Sweden, focusing on sustainable technologies and manufacturing processes. 

Volvo will introduce mega-casting as part of the factory revamp, a method of producing aluminium parts that the manufacturer says “creates a number of benefits” in terms of sustainability, cost and car performance. 

Mega-casting, a process also used by Tesla to build the Model Y compact crossover, involves producing major components of the car as a single aluminium part, rather than several smaller ones. 

Volvo says the process will “improve energy efficiency” and allow its designers to make better use of space inside the cabin and luggage areas of the car. Other claimed benefits include cost savings and a reduced environmental footprint. 

“What we are looking into as a starting point is to cast the rear floor, where we replace 100 parts with one, Mikael Fermér, Volvo’s vehicle platform architect, told Autocar. “That has some obvious benefits such as reduced manufacturing complexity.

“What I think is really exciting is the design flexibility you get. It will allow for something completely new where you can optimise the product for every vehicle or every segment in a way that you cannot do with a traditional platform where you have predefined scaling.”

Other changes to the factory will include the addition of a new battery assembly plant, which will be used to integrate battery cells and modules into the floor structure of Volvo’s cars. 

The company’s logistics area will also be refurbished and the paint shop upgraded with new machinery and processes expected to contribute to a reduction in energy consumption and emissions. 

“With these investments, we take an important step towards our all-electric future and prepare for even more advanced and better electric Volvos,” said Volvo CEO Håkan Samuelsson. 

“Torslanda is our largest plant and will play a crucial role in our ongoing transformation as we move towards becoming a pure electric car maker by 2030.”

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Q&A with Mikael Fermér, vehicle platform architect, Volvo 

Why is mega-casting such an exciting development for Volvo?

“What we are looking into as a starting point is to cast the rear floor, where we replace 100 parts with one. That has some obvious benefits such as reduced manufacturing complexity.

“What I think is really exciting is the design flexibility you get. It will allow for something completely new where you can optimise the product for every vehicle or every segment in a way that you cannot do with a traditional platform where you have predefined scaling of how you should make it longer, higher and so on.  

“It's a huge flexibility and that’s especially important now as we’re going into electrification and we should expect some technological steps to take place. It’s good to have an architecture where you can adapt.” 

How does this help to reduce Volvo’s environmental footprint? 

“That is super-important for us. Looking at the material, if we take a steel floor and compare that with a mega-cast aluminium floor, we see that we can reduce the CO2 emissions by roughly 35%.

“There are some things you need to think about. First, we want to have as much secondary aluminium as possible. We are targeting 50%. We are also looking into alloys with up to 100% recycled aluminium but they are still not up to the standards we are setting out. Secondary aluminium is important. 

“We’re also only sourcing primary aluminium from suppliers that can provide low-CO2 aluminium and we have signed up to do that. Basically, that means aluminium with less than four kilos of CO2 per kilo of aluminium. 

“Then when you come into the production facility, you also have almost 100% material utilisation - the material you bring in will be transformed with parts without scrap and everything you cut off will be put back into the furnace. That’s very different from steel when you have around 45% scrap that you have to remelt and so on. 

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“Finally, at the end of the vehicle’s life, this big chunk of aluminium is a great asset and something you can bring back again in another loop to reuse that material.”

When can we expect this process to begin?

“Mega-casting will be introduced with our fully electric platform and it will be put into production in the middle of the decade.” 

How do these parts affect the performance and drive of a car? 

“I don’t think you would see much of a difference - it would reduce the weight a bit. When it comes to stiffness, we’re fulfilling the requirement we have so it would be the same if it was steel.”

How about the efficiency of your electric models?

“In production you would get an increase in efficiency, but more importantly what we have seen is that when you cast a structure you can sculpt tighter around your wheels, suspension, powertrain and the seats compared with steel. 

"By going tighter, you can, for instance, lower the seat by around 15mm. You can lower the roofline, and then you reduce the complete cross-section of the car. That has a big influence on the range and that is more significant than what you get from the weight reduction.” 

What are the first models we can expect to be manufactured this way?

"The model has not been presented externally yet - the only thing we can say is that it’s coming with this new electric platform around 2025."

Does the battery plant support the construction of the batteries themselves? 

"This mega-casting has an interface with the battery. The rear part of the battery is attached to this floor, but otherwise there is no connection right now."

Are there any significant monetary savings to be made using mega-casting? 

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"I would say so, yes. The investment to start up this kind of production is a heavy investment, but the good thing is that when you have your second generation with a new floorline, that is totally taken away. 

"Once you have the investment, it’s very cheap. You don’t have to wait until the next generation because if we have some major technology shifts early on, that would call for a rebuild of the floorline for a traditional platform. Now, you don’t even have to stop production. So you can update it in parallel, and when you’re ready, you just plug it in. 

Do you envision any manufacturing changes in the future

"We will see. The reason for this being possible now is the size of the machines available. The machines we need are 8000-tonne clamping force machines. They were not available this year or the year before. The machines will be bigger and bigger and I'm thinking about what we can do next. It’s basically your imagination which puts the limit on what you can do - your imagination, and the size of the machines."

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Comments
4
Add a comment…
Marc 8 February 2022

...another Chinese incursion.

This time it's right on our doorstep.

lee44 8 February 2022

Stop with the asian hate.  #endrasism 

Marc 8 February 2022
#lee44
Citytiger 8 February 2022

Replace 100 parts with 1 may be cheaper for the manufacturer, but will it be cheaper for the consumer or insurance companies in the event of an accident? I suspect not. 

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