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Rockwell Automation on future of electric vehicles and San Jose


By Vic Farlie, Senior Executive Analyst, OED

By 2040, it’s expected that 54% of new vehicle sales will be electric vehicles, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. Batteries currently represent a third of the cost of an electric vehicle (EV). As battery costs continue to fall, demand for EVs will rise, with up to 40 million new EV batteries needed annually to power new vehicles. San Jose is rapidly becoming a leading world hub for research and development in new battery technology and software-led motor vehicle design, part of the shift across the automotive industry to EV.

A demonstration of virtual reality solutions at the San Jose Rockwell Automation facility.

In June 2019, Rockwell Automation opened a new 8,000 square-foot Electric Vehicle and Software Innovation Center at 111 North Market Street in San Jose, California. The new ground floor center will provide live manufacturing demonstrations, hands-on trials utilizing new technology, and events showcasing collaboration with industry experts and Rockwell Automation partners. Rockwell Automation is the world’s largest company dedicated to industrial automation and information, and more than 40 staff are now based here in San Jose. When a car manufacturer across the world wants a new production factory, Rockwell Automation will design and set the core production processes such as the Hybrid and EV powertrain.   For more information, see the company news release online.

I recently interviewed John Miles, the Rockwell Automation Global Business Leader in Electric Vehicles, to get the inside story on Rockwell Automation and this amazing new facility in downtown San Jose.

 Q&A with John Miles, Automation Global Business Leader/Electric Vehicles, Rockwell Automation

Q: Why establish the center in San Jose?

A: This region is a hub for EV companies. Both young EV start-ups and established automakers have a presence here. We wanted to have a presence near them to help solve some of their biggest challenges, like getting electric and hybrid vehicles to market quickly, keeping production and operational costs down and making operations more efficient.

It helped that we already had our software business established in this building in San Jose. It made our decision to expand our presence here a relatively easy one.  And we like the convenience this location gives customers from both Mineta San Jose International Airport and Diridon Station.

Q: What will we see here at the new center?

A: It’s increasingly an immersive experience in San Jose, which helps customers develop and realize their vision for smart manufacturing, better leverage data and maximize the value of that data. 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 launch risks.

We’re very excited by the quality of the experience customers will have when they visit. The combination of Rockwell Automation technology with partner technology is what makes the center unique.

Specifically, what you find is the Rockwell Automation FactoryTalk Innovation Suite, powered by PTC. This is an unmatched integrated solution that combines software from PTC and Rockwell Automation. Similarly, Eagle Technologies, a leading machine and line builder, provides the battery pack assembly machine and FANUC furnishes robot technologies, both integrated with Rockwell Automation technology.  This next level assembly machine showcases the latest and greatest smart machine technology equipped for the rigors of giga-scale operation.

Hirata, a world class turnkey assembly-line builder, provides an assembly cell that demonstrates electric drive unit assembly and testing. Emulate 3D, the Rockwell Automation simulation software, helps to prototype and test machines before they’re built, simplifying design and engineering time. Teamtechnik performs functional testing to confirm performance before building the drivetrain into the electric vehicle.

Q: Are you broadening out beyond vehicle manufacturing?

A: Optimizing EV and Battery production is the main focus of this facility. We do, however, see these technologies being adopted by other companies within the industry and outside of the industry, to help improve automation and production.  With our heavy focus on innovation in software and services for all of manufacturing, we see our customers starting to reap the benefits of implementing IoT-ready solutions as they embark on their digital transformations.

Q: What are your future plans for the center?

A: Beyond the experience that we have today, we plan to increase our offerings to EV & Battery producers, Tier 1 suppliers, and established automakers.  We also want to build partnerships throughout San Jose and Silicon Valley across the commercial, academic sectors and centers of government to further solidify our ability to help our customers address their top business needs and challenges.

For more information, check out the Rockwell Automation Electric Vehicle website.