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Electromobility

Mobility reconceived with KUKA


Electromobility: in a nutshell

We encounter the topic of electromobility every day through many different terms: from e-mobility to the electric car, the electric revolution and many other designations.

In the more narrow sense, electric vehicles are purely battery-powered vehicles that are “refueled” via the power grid. In a broader sense, however, the term also includes so-called plug-in hybrids – which still have an internal combustion engine but can also run purely electrically on grid power – as well as vehicles where the required electricity is generated in the vehicle via fuel cells or fossil-fuel-powered “range extenders”. What all these vehicles have in common is that they have an electric powertrain and on-board energy storage. This category also includes e-bikes, e-scooters, electric motorcycles as well as electric buses and electric commercial vehicles – and off-road vehicles, electrically powered ships or even airplanes.

The development of electromobility

In the past, electromobility was seen as the technology of the future or as an innovation – and it is still regarded that way by some today. However, e-mobility is no longer a topic of tomorrow, but rather is of lasting concern to us today. But why is e-mobility necessary and where did the trend come from?

The fossil fuels we use to power internal combustion engines are finite and resources are severely depleted. The effects of climate change are devastating and visibly impacting the environment: extreme temperature changes, environmental disasters, rising sea levels and the resulting extinction of species demand a reevaluation of mobility.

Facets of electromobility

The political and societal goal is to become climate neutral and focus strongly on renewable energy in order to slow down global warming and its consequences. These developments have brought in a change in mobility and have positioned e-mobility as the key to the energy transition since it enables regenerative energy to be used directly for mobility. The pure combustion engine as a mobility solution is a thing of the past. Today, electric cars and hybrid vehicles are already making their mark on our cityscapes and will continue to do so in the future. In fact, mobility in the future will be characterized by plurality. Electric cars, hybrid vehicles, internal combustion engines, and electric cars with partial electric drives will be the dominant feature on our streets and change mobility overall.

The first development in the direction of Mobility 2.0 can already be seen through the increase in hybrid vehicles, as most of these fully meet the essential requirements of end consumers. The transition towards the electrification of mobility is thus taking place via the intermediate step of hybridization.

KUKA is actively supporting the development of e-mobility and has been a strong partner for many years alongside experienced automotive manufacturers who want to expand their product portfolio to include electric and hybrid vehicles or switch completely to electric cars. 

KUKA bundles its expertise and accompanies you through each automation step in your process

Process E-Mobility
  • Battery housing

    For the production of battery compartments, we supply efficient solutions using a unique technology: friction stir welding. It combines precision with cost-effectiveness and meets the highest standards in terms of leak-tightness and safety. Friction stir welding can particularly be used for high-quality joining processes with various aluminum alloys and other non-ferrous metals. Here, a rotating tool uses friction heat between the clamped parts to be joined in order to create a very robust joint.

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  • Components

    KUKA provides supports with the right lines for the complete assembly of modules

    From single-part production to the complete assembly of modules, KUKA offers the right line. This ensures that the individual assembly steps are carried out professionally and economically at the same time. Where possible, we use standardized products to make production systems efficient and cost-effective for our customers.

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  • Fuel cells

    The advantages of the fuel cell as an energy supplier for electric drives are obvious: a long range and short refueling times similar to those of combustion engines. This is why they play a major role in making passenger and freight transport more climate-friendly. In our research and development, we focus intensively on systems engineering for fuel cell assembly. Our production systems are individually adapted to the given requirements. The goal here is for the fuel cell to already be designed in the engineering phase in such a way that assembly and testing can be simplified and accelerated in order to reduce production costs. From the initial idea through to simulation and the project phase and on to series production, KUKA’s many years of experience mean that our customers can be sure that everything has been thought of.

  • Cell 2 Pack

    Cell 2 Body technology, also called Cell 2 Pack technology, integrates the battery cell with the vehicle body, chassis, electric drive, heat management, and various high and low-voltage control modules – and can thus significantly increase the range.

  • Digital Factory

    Digital Factory

    With the Digital Factory, we are pursuing the goal of creating a flexible and adaptable system that optimizes itself during production operation on the basis of the process values collected. The core element of this approach in the Digital Factory is the digitalization of the entire value chain right from the beginning.
    The starting point of the project is the creation of a virtual system model before the real production facility is set up at the customer’s site. In this initial step, we achieve fully networked production. For this purpose, we make use of the digital twin as a virtual 3D image of the system. This tool enables us to collect all available data and to visualize them simply and intuitively. This allows cycle times to be analyzed and the causes of malfunctions identified in advance in order to ensure a risk-minimized and thus smooth start of production later on.

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  • Individual parts

    KUKA Cell4 FSW in use

    Every product starts with a small individual part. With the standardized cells from KUKA, these can be produced efficiently. As electromobility has gained increasing importance, we have developed our own cell solution.

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  • Electric motor

    KUKA provides support for the assembly of electric motors

    The manufacture of electric motors is an established technology. It nonetheless poses particular challenges for manufacturers. For use in vehicles, a high level of automation of the production systems is required. Moreover, the associated production processes are subjected to the most stringent quality requirements. KUKA develops and implements turnkey, modular assembly lines for electric motors: from design and planning to final implementation and integration in your production environment – scalable from small to large-series production. In order to ascertain the optimal quality of your assembled motors and powertrains, KUKA also designs and implements all required inspection and measuring systems.

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  • Electronics

    Electric vehicles contain a large number of, in many cases, new electronic components, which can be manufactured by robots. Robots are used in areas such as assembly (e.g. installation of high-voltage cables), the sensitive connection of flexible cables (e.g. automatic insertion of high-voltage battery module connectors as well as for headlights), adhesive bonding processes (e.g. for inverters), component inspection (e.g. for high-voltage components such as inverters), as well as in conventional screw-fastening and handling processes. Here, the ESD certification of KUKA robots plays a major role in ensuring that the often sensitive components are not destroyed. Even processes with critical cycle times can be carried out by the very fast KR SCARA and AGILUS-2. As an expert in electronics manufacturing, KUKA supplies the necessary equipment and know-how for innovative automation solutions for the electronic components of electric vehicles.

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  • Final assembly

    KUKA provides support with partially or fully automated assembly fixtures

    One challenging assembly task in automotive production is the “marriage” of the powertrain to the vehicle body. This also applies to electric vehicles in which the electric motors are already integrated into the axle modules. A particular challenge is the bolting of the heavy batteries into the underbody. The positioning of these components can be performed using conventional lift tables on slides, or with robots or automated guided vehicle systems (AGVS). Depending on customer requirements, KUKA offers the appropriate solutions with partially or fully automatic assembly fixtures.

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  • Body-in-white production

    KUKA delivers expert solutions for the production of car bodies in all conceivable variants. From the smallest hang-on part to the complete body-in-white, from fully-automated to semi-automated production. Learn more about body-in-white construction from KUKA:

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  • Conventional and electric powertrain

    KUKA provides support with automated assembly systems

    Since 2010, KUKA has been developing automated assembly systems for the production of components in electrified powertrains and integrating them successfully at customers’ plants. KUKA delivers assembly lines for electric motors, rotors, hybrid transmissions, axles and integrated axle systems – with the corresponding test systems in each case. The trend in electromobility is towards ever more integrated and compact e-modules. KUKA is supporting this rapid development with innovative automation. We are the specialists for the planning, design, manufacture and commissioning of automation equipment, individual assembly lines and complex assembly systems. Electromobility components such as electric motors, front and rear axles and transmissions for hybrid vehicles are assembled for the electric powertrain. KUKA testing technology and KUKA high-tech test systems ensure that your assembled unit functions perfectly. Additionally, the assembly lines and the corresponding machinery are planned and designed on a modular basis. This enables scalable design and, in the case of growing demand, a cost-effective increase in the number of units produced.

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  • Logistics

    KUKA provides support with suitable logistics solutions

    The production of a battery resembles a ‘battle of materials’. To ensure that everything is always in the right place at the right time, we develop the right logistics solution together with the customer. We have the experts on hand to offer our customers a comprehensive package for all their needs. From automated guided vehicle systems (AGVS) and component feeding systems to warehouse logistics, we offer the entire portfolio.

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  • Feasibility studies

    Feasibility studies using 3D offline simulations

    Feasibility studies, simulation and method planning are central components of the engineering process and require the highest level of expertise during planning. We develop efficient manufacturing strategies and support our customers in their optimal implementation. In doing so, we draw on our in-depth expert knowledge. The result is process-reliable and cost-optimized manufacturing concepts – perfectly tailored to the needs of our customers.

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  • Module assembly

    In the battery module, the individual cells are connected to each other. We offer our customers flexible and reliable system technology as well as professional project management for module assembly. Prismatic, pouch or cylindrical: irrespective of the battery cell form, KUKA develops process-reliable and dependable battery module assembly lines for high-voltage energy storage systems. From pre-assembly to insulation and bracing, and from the assembly of electrical contacts, boards, sensors and end plate to the inspection station. The level of automation and the variability are tailored to the individual customer.

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  • Assembly

    LBR iiwa provides support for assembly at Daimler

    Modern electric vehicles place special requirements on the vehicle design which also heavily influence the body architecture: The large battery is usually bolted into the underbody and the battery compartment thus becomes a structural component. The use of high-voltage technology increases the safety requirements, particularly for crash tests. As an expert in body production, KUKA provides the know-how required for innovative automation solutions for mass production and meets your specific vehicle body requirements for every kind of body architecture.

    Automotive manufacturers are also faced with the challenge of producing ever greater numbers of electric vehicle models alongside their portfolio of conventional vehicle models with internal combustion engines. Increasing type variety, more frequent changes of model and strongly fluctuating batch sizes require maximum flexibility and versatility. KUKA SmartProduction unites precisely these factors and enables our customers to produce different assemblies for internal combustion and electric models cost-effectively in a single system. The production cells in KUKA SmartProduction are supplied with components and tools independently of their location. This takes customized production to a new dimension. The battery is also a very critical component. As a result, the obligation for inspection reports and documentation is even more important here than for other products.

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  • Pack assembly

    The battery systems in electric vehicles are central and highly complex modules. Pack assembly involves putting together several modules and other electronic elements (such as cables and control devices) that can then be inserted into an electric vehicle. The assembly process for battery packs begins with the provision and preparation of the housing components such as the tray and frame. The cooling systems are then assembled and thermal compound or gap filler applied. The individual battery modules are inserted into the pack housing and fastened. This is followed by the electrical and thermal integration, cover installation and quality and safety testing of the battery pack. Battery producers and vehicle manufacturers can produce the battery packs quickly and efficiently with our scalable and easily expandable assembly lines. Inspection systems for reliably ensuring zero-defect production are an important part of pack assembly. Here, we tap into our Group’s expertise for testing and inspection rigs.

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  • Project management

    Project management at KUKA

    KUKA provides professional project management. In this way, we successfully guide our customers from the idea to the product. We ensure that project schedules are transparent and guarantee the highest level of quality. Highly qualified and committed employees from the KUKA project management team are there to provide assistance throughout the project planning and implementation stages. We collaborate with you in an interdisciplinary and intercultural manner using state-of-the-art communication and project management tools. Benefit from our many years of experience of working on projects in Germany and abroad.

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  • Prototypes

    Because everything should be perfect: we are the right partner for prototype construction – from design to the finished component. For prototype and small series assembly, KUKA offers scalable and individually tailored solutions. Here, we cooperate closely with our customers and are able to implement change requests promptly and adapt planning.

  • Processes & Technologies

    In the field of e-mobility in particular, our customers benefit from our many years of experience in numerous process technologies such as:

  • Service

    KUKA offers a comprehensive service network

    Take advantage of our comprehensive range of services around the globe: from commissioning and repairs to maintenance, servicing and system expansion. Our Service naturally also offers training courses for system operators at our KUKA College or on site as well as hotline support and spare parts management.

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  • Test systems

    We offer our customers test systems for batteries and fuel cells as well as for the complete powertrain. In order to ensure that the energy storage systems meet the high quality standards and stringent safety requirements, KUKA systematically subjects them to various inspections in different process steps during production. These extensive function tests require corresponding know-how and experience in measuring and inspection technology. Strict safety requirements and maximum quality standards must be met, especially for high-performance batteries in electromobility. Each individual battery component is repeatedly subjected to the closest scrutiny during production, culminating in end-of-line testing of the battery. In addition to leak testing, the battery systems undergo extensive electrical tests relating to communication with the electric vehicle and signal processing. Additionally, the electrical properties of the battery are tested, necessitating the corresponding high-capacity charging and discharging equipment. Furthermore, KUKA also takes into consideration reworking strategies to be adopted in the event of faults.

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  • Internal combustion engine

    Whether conventional or hybrid – with our assembly lines, all engine types can be included. In each individual engine assembly line, the engines are produced in an individually tailored manner from hundreds of individual parts according to customer requirements. Throughout the process, state-of-the-art production technologies and coordinated logistics concepts complement KUKA’s engineering expertise.

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  • Cell assembly

    The battery cell is the basic component for subsequent module and pack production. In principle, there are three different cell formats used in electromobility: prismatic, cylindrical and pouch. The production of these battery cells takes place under special ambient conditions. This means that, on the one hand, the production area must be very clean and particle-free (cleanroom), and, on the other hand, the air must be free of humidity (dry room). Our robots, which are used for battery production, meet these requirements and can be used there.

Take a look at our technological expertise and see for yourself: discover a selection of exciting projects

Automation in electromobility: challenge and opportunity at the same time

The mobility transition is placing new demands on manufacturing processes and is driving a change in traditional automotive production. This affects not only the automotive manufacturers themselves, but also suppliers as well as machinery and systems builders. The manufacturing processes for an electric powertrain, including the battery, are fundamentally different from those for a conventional combustion engine drive system. Common manufacturing processes – such as turning, milling and grinding – are needed much less frequently. Instead, other processes have become crucial. KUKA has taken on these challenges and has already been able to gain a great deal of experience in this still new market, thanks to more than 30 successfully implemented production systems. We are thus able to fully assess challenges and opportunities in context while also supporting our customers in an advisory capacity.

What are the hurdles to automation in electromobility? 

One particular factor is the dynamics on the market. We always keep our finger on the pulse of times and are already delivering solutions for tomorrow. Our goal is to make pioneering technologies accessible at an early stage so that our customers can experience the benefits of e-mobility today. KUKA’s approach: we leverage our internal development work to precisely evaluate the market and innovations while also actively shaping them in order to ideally advise and support our customers and integrate new processes into project planning during ongoing projects (floating targets).

Another challenge for manufacturers of electric vehicles or electric cars is digitalization – from the start of the project to (virtual) commissioning and traceability. With electrically driven vehicles, particular attention must be paid to traceability – a process step that has, so far, played only a subordinate role in conventional drive concepts. By law, the production steps in the manufacture of a battery must be strictly documented. Conventional production systems do not offer this functionality, which makes exact tracking difficult or impossible. KUKA offers a digital solution to this challenge with the Digital Factory and integrates automated documentation into the production system. This ensures that traceability is possible at all times.

How sustainable is electromobility?

The issues of “sustainability” & “sustainable driving” are no longer topics of the future, but rather are already changing our consumer behavior today. But how sustainable are they really?

To properly assess sustainability, one should ideally consider the entire process – from raw material extraction to recycling. In the future, this will require the development of a recycling concept that already takes effect in the planning of production systems. KUKA looks at the entire product life cycle and provides comprehensive advice on how to increase sustainability. Already in the planning phase of the system, we have efficient components in mind that not only have the lowest possible spare and wearing parts requirements during the operating phase, but also have low energy requirements, low maintenance expenses and the longest possible service life or second life. As a result, our customers are optimally equipped for the future.

  • Sustainability

    One variable when it comes to sustainability is the source of energy. The more renewable energy is used in the production process and in the energy supply of the electric vehicles, the more sustainable the electric cars are. There is also continuous further development in storage technologies, regardless of the production processes – for example, for storing surplus energy using hydrogen. The efficient use of resources with the aim of achieving a circular economy thus bridges the gap between economic and ecological sustainability.

    Sustainability, however, goes far beyond that. How sustainable is manufacturing overall? How energy efficient are the products used? How carbon-neutral is the system? KUKA offers the right solutions and concepts here to make production facilities fit for the future.

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  • Indoor climate

    Electromobility is at the forefront of climate protection and offers the opportunity to reduce dependence on petroleum-based fuels. Although battery production does consume a lot of energy, the carbon footprint of electric vehicles is better than that of conventional combustion engine vehicles. The benefits of an electric car for the climate continue to grow the more often it is charged using green electricity. With further advances in development – particularly more efficient manufacturing processes, higher energy density and improved cell chemistry – there is also further potential to improve the battery’s carbon footprint in the coming years.

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  • Recycling concepts

    Whether for second-life batteries (i.e. the further use of a decommissioned electric car battery; for example, for electricity storage in private households) or the recovery of the valuable raw materials, concepts for recycling must be developed as early as the planning phase of a new production system. The disposal of vehicle batteries and industrial batteries by incineration or landfill is prohibited, so it must be ensured that all returned used batteries are treated and recycled using state-of-the-art technology.

  • Raw materials

    In addition to the recycling of rechargeable or non-rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, the production of these batteries also plays a crucial role. Currently, the production of batteries for electric cars still requires scarce raw materials (graphite, lithium) as well as a high energy consumption. In the medium term, however, research will open up even more sustainable alternatives here as well.

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  • Total cost of ownership

    From the manufacturer’s point of view, the total cost of ownership must also be taken into account when building the system. Which differentiated costs and services for a machine or system are to be considered? Will, for example, the robot also be available for future conversions? The construction of energy storage systems in particular is undergoing rapid change. Which system components can continue to be used in a system rebuild? The “second life” plays a major role here. With a TCO analysis as part of the project, KUKA can help ensure that future expenses can already be identified and estimated during the planning phase.

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Advantages of electromobility

  • Low noise emissions

    When starting and braking, the noise emission is much lower than that of a conventional passenger car.

  • Sustainability

    Electromobility is the key to climate-friendly mobility around the world. The use of electric vehicles generates significantly less CO2 – particularly when combined with regenerative electricity.

  • Optimized drive technology & energy recovery

    The drive system in electric vehicles is optimized, since the energy can be used more efficiently. Beyond this, energy is recovered during the braking process.

  • Lower maintenance costs

    Maintenance costs are lower than for conventional combustion engines. This is due to the lower consumption of wearing parts.

This is how KUKA contributes to e-mobility:

As one of the world’s leading experts for automation, KUKA bundles experience and expertise in engineering, project management, process knowledge, commissioning and service, including for the automated production of electric vehicles and their powertrain. KUKA is your reliable partner for automation involving the manufacturing processes in the fields of e-mobility and energy storage systems.

KUKA accompanies you along every single step in the process chain – from battery module & pack assembly lines to rotational friction welding systems for the production of battery contacts and battery compartments using robot-guided friction stir welding and on to robot systems for the assembly of such elements as electric motors or hybrid transmissions, to quality control with leak tests and even the installation of battery packs in the electric vehicle as well as solutions for the production of battery cells. As a reliable partner for all leading manufacturers, KUKA bundles synergies from its expertise in mechanical engineering and the Digital Factory for efficient and intelligent automation.

KUKA expertise at a glance:

  • Long-standing, worldwide experience and expertise for turnkey production lines for battery modules and battery packs, including all relevant process steps

  • Technology solutions in the context of battery cell manufacturing

  • Consulting and joint concept development with the customer

  • Holistic automation solution from a single source: from planning to design, from commissioning to EOL tests and logistics solutions using AGVs or warehouse components

  • In-depth process know-how and suitable products

  • Comprehensive service concepts to safeguard system productivity

  • Always at the cutting edge of developments thanks to partnerships with leading international centers, such as RWTH Aachen University or the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology (ILT)

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