Swedish automaker Volvo is ramping up its commitment to build only electric cars by 2030. It says it will invest €1.1 billion to modernize its Torslander factory near Gothenburg and make it ready to manufacture the company’s next generation electric cars. It also says high pressure die-casting technology will be incorporated into the manufacturing process when the upgrades to that factory are completed.
In a press release on February 8, Volvo said,
“With its next generation of pure electric cars, Volvo Cars aims to offer customers a longer range, quicker charging and lower costs, and reach new milestones in automotive safety and sustainability. To realize these ambitions, Volvo Cars will invest [€1.1 billion] in its Torslanda manufacturing plant in Sweden in coming years in preparation for the production of that next generation of fully electric cars.
“As part of the planned investments, the company will introduce a number of new and more sustainable technologies and manufacturing processes in the plant. These include the introduction of mega casting of aluminium body parts, a new battery assembly plant, and fully refurbished paint and final assembly shops.
“The investments follow on a recent announcement by Volvo Cars and Northvolt, the leading battery cell company, to invest [€2.9] billion in the development and manufacturing of high quality, tailor made batteries for the next generation of pure electric Volvo models.
“The introduction of mega casting of aluminium body parts for the next generation of electric Volvo models is the most significant and exciting change implemented as part of the investment package. Mega casting creates a number of benefits in terms of sustainability, cost and car performance during the cars life time, and Volvo Cars is one of the first car makers to invest in this process.”
Håkan Samuelsson, CEO of Volvo Cars, said yesterday, “With these investments, we take an important step towards our all electric future and prepare for even more advanced and better electric Volvos. 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.”
Where Tesla Leads, Others Follow
High pressure casting wasn’t even a thing until Elon Musk started talking about it last year. As we reported recently, 6 Chinese car companies have announced their intention to adopt the technology to manufacture their own cars. It just so happens that Geely is one of those 6 companies, and it just so happens that Geely owns Volvo Cars (and a lot of other EV companies).
The Volvo press release explains why.
“Casting major parts of the floor structure of the car as one single aluminium part reduces weight, which in turn improves the energy efficiency and thereby the electric range of the car. This also allows Volvo designers to optimally use the available space inside the cabin and luggage area, boosting the overall versatility of the car.
“Other benefits from mega-casting include reduced complexity in the manufacturing process. That in turn creates cost-savings in terms of material use and logistics, reducing the overall environmental footprint across the manufacturing and supply chain networks.”
Javier Varela, head of engineering and operations at Volvo Cars, had this to say, “Today is a great day for the Torslanda plant as we are making it fit for the future with this investment package. Our future as a company is all-electric and that requires a variety of upgrades across the plant, to ensure that Torslanda can continue to build premium electric cars of the highest quality.”
It truly is remarkable the influence that tiny Tesla has had on the world of automobiles. It is hard to remember it was only just about a decade ago that the first Model S sedans appeared. Since then, electric cars have gone from a curiosity to a reality in many countries. The SEC may not have much good to say about the indomitable Mr. Musk, but he remains one of the most transformative figures of the current century.
Maybe high pressure casting would have become part of automobile production anyway — eventually. But by Tesla adopting the technology, its acceptance by the world’s automobile manufacturers was accelerated by at least a decade. Volvo is just the latest company to see the path first illuminated by Musk and Tesla.