Mercedes-Benz brings battery manufacturing in-house, Stateside

The German automaker’s new plant in Alabama will furnish electrons for some necessary new fashions

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Whereas one of many main attracts for shoppers with electrical automobiles is the shortage of upkeep required in comparison with a rig powered by inner combustion, the mechanics are a bit totally different for the producer. Assembling a traditionally-powered automotive or SUV definitely requires the likes of engines and transmissions — lots of that are constructed at a manufacturing facility a ways from a car’s closing meeting.

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With EVs, there may be as a substitute the added problem of getting fast and quick access to totally packaged batteries. Keep in mind, this stuff are the fashionable equal of a standard automotive’s fuel tank; each technically retailer power and mete it out to the powertrain. Nonetheless, whereas any robotic oik can hammer steel or plastic into the shapes required to make a easy fuel tank, the method for making batteries is vastly extra complicated.

Cue the ground-breaking ceremonies – and a billion of {dollars} of funding. Mercedes-Benz has had a footprint in Alabama since 1997 when the state started churning out its M-Class, arguably the model’s first mainstream SUV, which rapidly discovered loads of success. Today, the power makes the GLE; its ‘coupe’ variant, the GLS; and copies of the megabucks Mercedes-Maybach GLS.

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Round 4 million automobiles have departed the Alabama plant since ’97, with over a quarter-million rolling off the road in 2021 alone. Over 60 per cent of annual manufacturing is exported, serving to make Merc one of many largest exporters of vehicles from America.

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Developing, it’ll be including the all-electric EQS SUV and EQE SUV to its ranks. We sampled a camouflaged EQS SUV across the manufacturing facility proving grounds and got here away impressed with its lavish inside and off-road cred (even when most homeowners won’t ever pattern the latter). Given the propensity of North American prospects to gravitate to SUVs like flies to honey, the EQS SUV and EQE SUV are two tremendously necessary merchandise for the group’s portfolio.

“The opening of our new battery plant in Alabama is a serious milestone on our approach to going all-electric,” stated Ola Källenius, Chairman of the Board of Administration of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, throughout final week’s opening ceremonies on the manufacturing facility. The corporate has eyes on going completely EV by the 2030 calendar however, not like a few of its rivals, hedges its bets by appending that dictum with the phrases ‘the place market situations enable’.

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That’s a major escape hatch. When pressed on the subject, Chief Know-how Officer Markus Schäfer spoke about impacts of provide chains and native demand plus native charging amenities. To be blunt, that appears like if I instructed my partner we’re going to purchase a 40,000-sq-ft mansion ‘if monetary situations enable’ once we each know full effectively our salaries can not allow that buy.

Excessive-performance lithium-ion batteries are assembled into an entire system on a manufacturing line round 300 meters lengthy with greater than 70 workstations, referred to as cubes. Batteries of various sizes shall be made alongside the two-line facility, with the EQE SUV items taking 10 cell modules and the EQS SUV items barely bigger with 12 modules. This helps reply an as-yet-undisclosed determine for vary of those two automobiles: the EQS SUV is touted as packing about 700 km of vary, so simple arithmetic teaches us the EQE SUV ought to have roughly 583 clicks of whole driving on a completely charged battery. Mark that quantity down and maintain me to it on the finish of the yr.

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Presently (pun meant) the cells that are assembled into these battery packs – made up of pouches and never the AA-style items – are produced by a third-party, not Mercedes. Prime brass has designs on opening a battery cell manufacturing facility in the US by 2025, and are presently within the throes of choosing an appropriate location for the power. Whereas the fits wouldn’t spill the beans on precisely the place these locations are, it was straightforward to learn between the traces (and wry German smiles) that Alabama is within the operating. It might definitely make sense to maintain all these components of the chain – cells to battery to automotive manufacturing – in the identical neighborhood to maintain a lid on logistics and provide chains.

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Nonetheless, there’ll all the time be different suppliers within the combine. The battery’s under-housing, made from aluminum and making up a fraction of the battery’s 750-kg internet weight, can also be not constructed by Mercedes, nor are a number of the particular person digital parts for the EEC. Nonetheless, third-party suppliers are part of manufacturing, and with the cells and battery meeting beneath their management, Mercedes shall be forward of the sport.

“The brand new battery plant, with its extremely certified and motivated U.S. workforce, shall be an important driver of our electrical car roll-out plan,” defined Dr. Jörg Burzer, Member of the Board of Administration of Mercedes-Benz Group AG, accountable for Manufacturing and Provide Chain. “We’re proud that our new electrical SUVs may even be constructed right here in Alabama for international markets.”

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Curiously, in an interview with Postmedia, Herr Burzer defined that folks – not essentially some uncooked supplies or different parts – are arguably the primary provide chain problem proper now. The corporate, he stated, has been working for the final twenty years with native universities and academic establishments to develop a number of applications serving to put together people within the space to work on the plant. “There’s a problem proper now to get the appropriate amount of workforce members, and that’s not a problem we had 20 years in the past,” he stated. The brand new battery manufacturing facility ought to add about 600 jobs to the world, with about one-third of that sum already employed. Most of them are so-called blue-collar jobs, in accordance with the corporate.

That is all along with the car manufacturing facility, positioned about 4 miles down the highway from this new battery plant. A closeup tour confirmed how employees can combine EQ fashions into the identical meeting line as ICE automobiles, which means the corporate can reply to altering market calls for with out having to waste time altering tooling or processes. When requested if the EQS SUVs being assembled on that day have been sure for sellers, we bought a usually evasive reply accompanied by a wriggling of bushy German eyebrows.

Suffice it to say your writer expects the mannequin to hit the bottom operating on its scheduled debut date of 4/19 — full with batteries from the brand new manufacturing facility subsequent door.

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