According to Frost & Sullivan’s Global Electric Vehicle Market Outlook, 2019, over 2.8 million EVs are expected to be sold this year. That scorching pace of growth set by the global electric vehicle (EV) market is laudable. In 2007, just about 100 EVs were sold worldwide. By 2017, this figure had risen to one million, doubling over the course of the year to reach sales of two million units in 2018. The market is on track to break new records in 2019.

To meet the growing demand for EV manufacturing intelligence, last year Rockwell Automation opened a new 8,000 square-foot Electric Vehicle (EV) Innovation Centre in San Jose, California. The centre provides live manufacturing demonstrations, hands-on trials utilising new technology and events showcasing collaboration with industry experts and Rockwell Automation partners.

Utilising augmented and virtual reality modelling, the EV Innovation Centre provides automotive start-ups and established manufacturers an environment to learn new technologies and standards, enabling them to deliver electric vehicles to market faster, with less risk and at lower cost.

The combination of Rockwell Automation technology with partner technology is what makes the centre unique. Specifically, Rockwell Automation’s FactoryTalk InnovationSuite, powered by PTC, combines software from PTC and Rockwell Automation. Similarly, Eagle Technologies provides the battery pack assembly machine, and Fanuc furnishes robot technologies, both integrated with Rockwell Automation technology.

Hirata, a turnkey assembly line builder, provides an assembly cell that demonstrates electric drive unit assembly and testing. Emulate3D, Rockwell Automation’s simulation software, helps to prototype and test machines before they’re built. Teamtechnik performs functional testing to confirm performance before building the drive into the electric vehicle.

“It’s an immersive experience that helps customers develop and realise The Connected Enterprise — our vision for smart manufacturing that enables customers to leverage data and achieve positive business outcomes,” Clifton Rice, electric vehicle technical consultant, said. “With over 4,000 successfully designed, installed and commissioned automotive manufacturing projects, Rockwell Automation knows how to help EV manufacturers get to market faster and better manage enterprise risks.

“It is a customer experience centre where we bring in executives and have discussions about where are they going, where they see the future of the industry, and what we do. Not only is it meeting rooms and teleconference centres, but we have two full scale machines there.

“We decided to focus on EV because it is a growing market. In the US a lot of it is coming from the West Coast and internationally it is coming out of Asia. The industry is facing unique challenges, one of which is speed to market. Manufacturers are trying to beat everybody else to market. Traditional automotive companies know how to make a car, but some of these start-ups are technology companies that happen to make a car. They are focused on autonomous driving and they need our help connecting them with partners and using our industry experiences.

“Many of the companies that visit us are in the very early stages; they have just got funding. We can go through the process with them and use our experience from our 100 years in the automotive industry.

“Controlling the cost is vital. I heard recently that starting up a factory one day earlier covers the entire cost of the control system, just with that one day of production value. And one of our strategies when we partner with a company is to help them with the programme management. They have vendors from all around the world at our house, and we assign presales resources, like me, to support them. We have had over 300 customers come through the facility, everything from established vehicle companies to very early phase start-ups.”