Toyota Tiptoes Into The EV Future With New Manufacturing Expertise

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Toyota is aware of easy methods to construct vehicles and vans. The truth is, it manufactures extra of them yearly than another firm. Many manufacturing methods that are actually frequent follow within the trade originated with Toyota. What the corporate calls TPS, which stands for Toyota Manufacturing System, places the emphasis on lean manufacturing methods together with just-in-time supply and “kanban” workflow group. Its strategies have since been adopted all over the place from hospitals to software program companies and studied extensively in enterprise faculties and boardrooms world wide.

Not too long ago, Toyota invited members of the press (our invite will need to have gotten misplaced within the mail) to tour three of its factories in Japan, the place preparations are underway for manufacturing the Toyota cars of the long run.

The Toyota Manufacturing unit Tour

Teiho manufacturing unit, picture courtesy of Toyota

Bloomberg did get an invitation and despatched a reporter to seek out out what was happening contained in the sleeping Japanese large. The press tour started on the Teiho plant, a two hour journey by bullet prepare from Tokyo. There Toyota engineers gave a briefing on the progress they’ve made in creating bipolar, lithium iron phosphate batteries that Toyota goals to roll out in 2026 or 2027 to energy a full lineup of battery-electric vehicles. Toyota says it plans to fabricate 1.5 million EVs a yr by the tip of this decade. (Tesla says it will likely be making 20 million EVs a yr by then.)

The engineers stated they’d by no means spoken publicly about their work earlier than however have been “comfortable to share their work with the world.” They highlighted the progress they’ve made find a method to evenly apply electrolytes, the metallic coating wanted to construct anodes and cathodes. They acknowledged that stacking the flat batteries shortly and seamlessly with out damaging them stays a giant hurdle earlier than mass manufacturing can start. However as soon as they get the manufacturing course of discovered, the batteries they’re engaged on will enhance vary by 20%, scale back prices by 40%, and cost to 80% capability in half-hour or much less.


Myochi manufacturing unit, picture courtesy of Toyota

Then it was off to the Myochi plant, the place the corporate is engaged on excessive stress casting for a few of the parts of future vehicles. It is a approach first pursued by Tesla after Elon Musk noticed a diecast mannequin of a Mannequin S and requested his engineers to analyze additional. Toyota is planning to forged the body of a automotive in three items in 3 to 4 years. The casting machine Toyota is utilizing has 4000 kilos of stress. The press Tesla might want to do one-piece castings can have an working stress of 16,000 kilos.

Reuters says Toyota has been utilizing die casting methods for a few years and has developed molds that may be shortly changed — one thing that should occur often with excessive stress casting. The corporate says it might probably change a mildew in 20 minutes, a course of that usually takes as much as 24 hours to perform. The flexibility to interchange a mildew so shortly interprets right into a 20% increase in productiveness, the corporate says.

Toyota Manufacturing Improvements


Motomachi manufacturing unit, picture courtesy of Toyota

The final cease on the press junket was the Motomachi plant, Toyota’s oldest and largest manufacturing unit. There, engineers are creating what they name a self-propelled BEV meeting line. That is pure genius. Usually, the vehicles being made in a manufacturing unit are carried alongside on a conveyor system that brings them to numerous work stations the place parts are added. These conveyor techniques are costly to put in and require numerous upkeep.

Toyota discovered that when a battery, motor, and wheels are put in, a chassis can drive itself to every of these work stations, since there are not any exhaust emissions to pollute the air inside a manufacturing unit. A easy distant management system related to a sequence of surveillance cameras will information every car by means of the manufacturing unit. What an ideal method to leverage the benefits of electrical vehicles! It additionally begs the query, why do we wish these dangerous pollution within the air exterior the manufacturing unit?

Toyota says this new manufacturing approach is consistent with its TPS philosophy, which stresses performance and seeks to attenuate waste, whereas all the time striving for incremental refinement of any course of so as to excellent the ultimate product. The corporate says it is going to scale back upfront plant investments and enhance the pliability of meeting strains once they have to be adjusted or tailored to construct new fashions.

In the course of the press tour, that manufacturing unit was manufacturing 9 completely different fashions — from sedans and compact minivans to completely electrical automobiles and police vehicles — on a single manufacturing line, whereas rolling platforms with built-in instruments made it doable for every employee to maneuver shortly from one automotive to the subsequent.

However Wait, There’s Extra!

As soon as the newly minted vehicles exit the manufacturing unit, they need to be shuttled to storage areas after which pushed to the tractor trailers that can ship them to trains, ships, or showrooms. Right here once more, Toyota has discovered a method to automate that course of to make it extra environment friendly and thus price efficient.

A self-driving transport robotic on the Motomachi plant in Toyota Metropolis now ferries new automobiles throughout a 40,000 sq. meter (10 acre) parking zone, a job usually executed by human drivers. The truck drivers who load the vehicles on trailers stroll a median of 8 km (5 miles) a day to go get the vehicles and convey them to the trailers. Extra time strolling the lot means much less time driving and decrease productiveness. The automaker says it is going to have 10 of these robots working in Motomachi by subsequent yr and can think about using them at different factories as properly. It might additionally promote the robots to different corporations.

The Takeaway

Some readers may even see all this press hoopla as self-serving and a bit of underwhelming, coming from the most important automotive firm on the earth by quantity. The timelines appear too lengthy, contemplating how quickly the EV revolution is shifting today.

However Bloomberg factors out the actual story is how prepared the corporate is to let the press see inside what are usually very secretive locations on the earth of Toyota. Credit score new CEO Koji Sato, who took over the reins from Akio Toyoda in April. The cool breeze of change has been within the air at Toyota ever since.

It’s fairly clear that not all main automotive corporations are going to make the change to electrical vehicles efficiently. We will’t say who will and who gained’t survive, however a shakeout is coming and it’ll not be type to some. Regardless of its measurement, Toyota stays on the record of corporations who might fall by the wayside because the EV revolution strikes ahead.

Its early efforts to fabricate compelling electrical vehicles have solely been partially profitable. There are various who doubt whether or not Toyota has the power to go toe-to-toe with Tesla and succeed. “We’ll see,” stated the Zen grasp.


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