Audi Brussels: where the Audi e-tron is built…

Audi Brussels, assembly: The Audi e-tron at the finish line (checkpoint 8)

Your servant will soon be your regular guide at the Brussels Audi site where the formidable Audi e-tron 55 quattro rolls of the production line. I will explain you in four languages, English, German, French and Dutch in a 2,5 hour factory tour all you want to know about the production of this formidable all-electric car. Soon you can start booking me (and my colleagues) on this tour, I will keep you posted when registration starts.

The entrance of the Audi Brussels site…

But in the meantime, in these columns I tell you already somewhat more about the Brussels factory; In further reports I tell you somewhat more about the Audi production techniques building the big Audi e-tron.

Of course, this series about the ins and outs of Audi e-tron production is also an occasion to start with a regular column about car factories of different brands and the way they build their cars. So stay posted!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Audi Brussels, battery assembly: Running highvoltage cable

In Brussels, the e-future has begun…

Since fall 2018, Audi Brussels has been producing the first fully electric SUV from the brand with the four rings exclusively for the world market. Actually, volume production of the Audi e-tron began on September 3, 2018. Designing and producing the e-tron led Audi to establish numerous in house competencies and it indeed has developed both the battery technology and the drive by itself.

Also the Brussels factory was on a learning curve. The employees in Brussels received a total of over 200,000 hours of training to build the first fully electric Audi. Employees have replanned and implemented many production steps in production. Since summer 2016, the plant has comprehensively remodeled the body shop, paint shop and assembly shop step by step and has established its own battery manufacturing facility. With the intention of developing the Brussels plant further into a key component of the Audi production network, Audi has optimized the plant’s processes in accordance with the Audi Production System (APS).

Audi Brussels, paint shop: Applying waterbased filler, which is here dryed for 30 minutes at 160 degrees…

Major features of the APS are group work and continuous improvement processes. To improve the process chains, Audi has closely integrated the external suppliers and service providers into the production process. Short throughput times in production, low inventories and a high proportion of added value are the objectives on which Audi Brussels focuses.

In addition to a body shop, assembly shop and paint shop, Audi Brussels also has a modern Analysis and Pre-Series Center. This links the areas of Production and Technical Development, ensuring the high quality of the Audi e-tron.

Audi Brussels, body shop: Fabrication of battery housing with deep-drawn battery tray.

The Brussels site also has its own battery manufacturing facility to support production of the battery-electric SUV. This makes it the key plant for electric mobility within the Audi Group

Carbon neutral…

The Brussels plant is the first in the world with certified carbon-neutral volume production in the premium segment. Audi Brussels compensates for all emissions that occur during production and at the location. This takes place predominantly through renewable energy but also through environmental projects. At Audi, environmental protection is part of the corporate strategy. This applies to technology as well as to the production processes.

Audi Brussels: aerial view of the CO2-neutral site. Push Ctrl + to enlarge and read the captions…

The most stringent of environmental standards are applied at the Audi Brussels site. In 2013, the Brussels region recognized the plant as an “eco-dynamic company” – a regional environmental certification that is awarded every three years. Audi Brussels was awarded the highest rating of three stars. Since 2001, the Brussels site has also been certified according to the environmental audit of the European Commission (EMAS: Eco-Management and Audit Scheme). Audi Brussels installed a photovoltaic system with a total area of 37,000 square meters at the site. As a result, Audi Brussels operates the largest photovoltaic system in Brussels and generates more than 3,000 megawatt hours of electricity per year and saves around 700 metric tons of CO2.

In late 2016, the plant received the Business Award from the weekly magazine Trends. Audi Brussels was chosen as Belgium’s most ecological company. The production of the first electric car of the Audi brand will be carbon-neutral from the start of production in the Brussels plant. To achieve this, Audi Brussels will procure green electricity and purchase biogas certificates to make its heat-generation activities carbon neutral. There are also compensation projects for emissions produced in part by the company’s own fleet. Independent experts have certified the carbon-neutrality.

…and a bit of history

On August 1, 2018, the last Audi A1 of the first generation rolled off production line in Brussels. Since May 2010, a total of just under 910,000 units of the Audi A1 have been produced in Brussels. The successor model to the Audi A1 is now built in Martorell, Spain.

From 2010 to 2018 Audi has produced the Audi A1 family exclusively in the European capital. In 2017, approximately 95,284 automobiles drove off the production line there. Audi transferred production of the new Audi A1 to Martorell in Spain.

The plant in Brussels will turn 70 this year. On April 7, 1949, the first vehicle rolled off the production line there. The Audi A1 was the first model in the plant’s 70-year history to be produced exclusively in the European capital. Before the plant was taken over by AUDI AG in 2007, it had belonged to Volkswagen AG since 1970, producing various models of the Volkswagen Group. Since belonging to AUDI AG, the Brussels facility has assumed an important role in the Audi Group, and it now employs around 3,000 people. The start of production of the Audi A1 in 2010 marked the beginning of a new era. Audi Brussels expanded its production in 2011 with the addition of the Audi A1 Sportback and in 2014 with the Audi S1 and Audi S1 Sportback. In 2012, Audi Brussels produced the Audi A1 quattro as a special limited edition model.

Dual learning and focus on employees…

Audi Brussels cooperates closely with the trade unions. In a letter of intent from 2007, management and the trade unions jointly defined the framework conditions for good cooperation. One important component is the working time account system used at Audi Brussels since 2010. It offers the company and its employees much more flexibility. Audi Brussels awarded with the title of “Top Employer” for the fourth time in a row.

Audi also invests in education and training. Dual education allows the students of the two partner schools to complete part of their training on location at the company. Here, Audi Brussels cooperates with the Flemish school “GO! TA Halle” and the francophone school “Don Bosco Woluwé Saint-Pierre.” The project gives students the opportunity to gain more practical experience during their training. Another goal is to convince more young people in Belgium to choose an attractive technical apprenticeship.

Peter Kössler, Board of Management Member for Production and Logistics at AUDI AG and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Audi Brussels (on the right), peers the first Audi e-tron models from series production. He is accompanied by Patrick Danau, Managing Director of Audi Brussels.

Audi Brussels currently employs 2,756 employees (as of December 31, 2018), Of these employees, 940 work in production-related areas, while 1,816 employees work directly in production. With an average age of 44.7 years, the employees have worked an average of 18.6 years at Audi Brussels. The three working languages are French, Dutch and German. In December, Audi Brussels was awarded the “Diversity Label 2018” of the Brussels-Capital Region. The award, which was started in 2008 by the Brussels employment office supports companies in the fight against discrimination. To obtain the Label, Audi Brussels developed a “diversity plan” and implemented it.

Audi Brussels focuses on the employees, which the plant’s own health center shows. It offers a prevention program for the entire workforce: the Audi Check-Up. Experienced nurses and doctors work to maintain and improve the employees’ health and help to recognize any risk factors at an early stage and to counteract them.

Excellent logistiscs are the key to success…

Audi Brussels: Driverless transport systems bring the components to the point of installation

Automotive Park logistics and supplier center Automotive Park, the state-of-the-art logistics and supplier center, is connected with the assembly shops by a 450 meter long bridge. It provides the infrastructure for efficient processes in the supply of materials to the Brussels plant. Every day, trucks and trains deliver 5,000 parts and components from 457 suppliers. Due to the close integration of external suppliers with the plant’s internal logistics processes, productivity is further boosted on a sustained basis.

As said, in the next reports I will tell you more about the actual production techniques and processes of the Audi e-tron. Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

BMW and Daimler cooperate on automated driving…

 

(Premium) car manufacturers, unite: recently, BMW and Daimler announced in Berlin that they are launching five joint ventures that will offer mobility services such as solutions for car sharing, the search for parking spaces, and many more.

On February 28, the two manufacturers announced their intention to enter into a second new partnership. Daimler is planning to work together with BMW in the future on the next technology generation for driving assistance systems and on systems that enable conditionally automated driving on highways and automated parking functions. Why does this alliance make sense? The answer is simple: Because automated driving is a future-oriented technology that will radically transform our industry — and because in the long run we will be not only stronger but also more successful as partners than we would be alone.

What is already possible today: partial automation

The vision of autonomous driving is not only as old as the automobile itself — it’s also a central component of the strategy at Daimler. The vehicles you can see at your Mercedes-Benz dealer today can already do a great deal. Thanks to the Daimler active distance assistant DISTRONIC, the active steering assistant, the active lane-change assistant, and many other innovations, Daimler has already come very close to our goal of automated driving.

By means of currently available systems, a Mercedes-Benz can, for example, maintain the correct distance to vehicles ahead and drive partially automated on highways and country roads, as well as in cities. These systems also assist the driver with lane changes, evasive manoeuvres, and braking. And many models can be driven in and out of parking spaces via remote control from a smartphone — with the Remote Parking Assist.

At Mercedes-Benz, these features are called Intelligent Drive. With this, they have reached the level that engineers call SAE Level 2 or “partial automation.” This means that the car can already react automatically in many predefined situations — however, a human driver must always monitor traffic as well as the vehicle’s surroundings and be ready to react if necessary.

But above all, they have learned that the development of these systems is a bit like climbing a mountain. Taking the first few meters from the base station to the summit seems easy. But the closer you come to the goal, the thinner the air around you becomes, the more strength is required for each further step, and the more complex become the challenges you have to resolve in order to make progress.

From Level 3 to the summit

Further progress can be made more successfully and efficiently if the manufacturers are not alone. Daimler also believes that BMW is the perfect partner. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that Daimler has now signed, deals with the development of several automation stages up to Level 4. Level 4 means “high automation”: The driver does not even need to be ready to take over control of the vehicle — he or she could even be sleeping. The aim of our partnership is to develop systems that make automated driving scalable and take it to the next level in a variety of contexts — in China and in the USA as well as on the German Autobahn A8, which connects the BMW Tower in Munich with the Mercedes headquarters in Stuttgart.

A shared platform instead of isolated solutions

One thing is clear: BMW and Mercedes-Benz are competitors. The partnership will not become a new joint venture. Instead, we are planning to work together with BMW to develop a scalable and reliable platform that will bring optimal benefits to the customers of both brands. As part of this cooperative venture, we are also open to further partnerships that can contribute to the success of this platform.

It makes sense to distribute the technological and financial challenges of automated driving across a number of shoulders. It’s also clear that other existing partnerships and ongoing projects are not affected by intended cooperation between BMW and Daimler. For example, as Daimler has planned and already announced within the framework of our cooperation with Bosch, this year we will launch the first pilot for testing self-driving vehicles (Level 4/5) in urban surroundings in San José in Silicon Valley.

A long tradition of development at both manufacturers…

In spite of all the differences between BMW and Mercedes-Benz, they are also similar in many areas. For example, the men and women from Munich also have many years of experience in the areas of driving assistance and automated driving. BMW has worked on highly automated driving for a long time, and opened its Autonomous Driving Campus in Unterschleißheim – a suburb of Munich – in 2017, where BMW is consolidating all of its areas of expertise related to automated driving. The automation technology that the experts there are now working on will go into series production for the first time in the BMW iNEXT model in 2021.

At Daimler, long a leader in active safety systems, it programmed its systems largely in-house right from the very beginning. 2019 will see the launch in San José, Silicon Valley, of its first pilot programme, with Bosch, on self-driving vehicles (Levels 4/5) in urban environments. This will be the next milestone within the existing cooperation between both partners and the cooperation will continue as planned. Early next decade, Daimler will bring to the market not only highly automated (Level 3) vehicles but also fully automated (Level 4/5) vehicles. It is the only to the OEM in the world to be so well-positioned to apply autonomous driving in every relevant context, from passenger cars and vans to buses and trucks, and is therefore relying on scalable solutions to deliver automated driving.

The Memorandum of Understanding ensures that BMW and Daimler will pass the next milestone on the road to automated driving together. Their goal is to make the new technology generation available to our customers as early as the mid-2020s. It is all only logical: the suppliers who develop and produce elements of this automated driving architecture are for both manufacturers roughly the same… and it is crucial for these supplier/manufacturers to develop a broad (home) basis for their global ambitions…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

 

Kia takes a very bold look at its electric future…

The upcoming Geneva Salon is as always a festival of creativity, with car manufacturers pulling all the stops when it comes to design and new visions. So concept cars abound, and Kia is no exception. Its European branch has unveiled new images of its bold new all-electric concept car, which is to be presented on the 2019 Geneva International Motor Show.

Gregory Guillaume, Vice President of Design for Kia Motors Europe, comments his design here. Just read further…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “Kia takes a very bold look at its electric future…”

Brussels Salon drives into the future…

We will treat you in the coming days ans weeks to an extensive report on the Brussels Motor Show, with some notable (world) premieres like the Range Rover Evoque, for instance. We will also let you listen in with some interviews, notably of the designer of the Evoque, and also celebrate 60 years of Mini with further interesting encounters. Driving into the future autonomously on e-power is also very much in tht foreground, like this Smart Vision EQ fortwo you see here on the photo. It is designed with car sharing in mind, and takes its passengers whenever and wherever they want to go, and it doesn’t even have a steering wheel or any commands…

Stay tuned on these columns for more!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

 

We drove the Toyota Mirai: part 2

Driving is believing, the saying goes. And at first, we almost couldn’t believe it: this Mirai just drives as smoothly and zestfully as an electric car. Which, actually, it is. Only, it does not take its electricity from batteries, but from a fuel cell. That is indeed, the major difference. This means, that you can refuel it in minutes, and then drive for another 340 kilometers or so. Just like an ordinary petrol engined car. Only it emits water, and nothing else.

Driving it was a refined and thoroughly enjoyable experience, just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Toyota Mirai: part 2”

We drove the Toyota Mirai: the future has truly arrived…Part 1

What better automotive adventures than to spend the last days of the year behind the wheel of a Toyota Mirai? None, we would say. After having enjoyed the smooth and refined qualities of this Mirai – which is Japanese  (未来) for future-  we are truly convinced that Toyota has fully succeeded  to build a thoroughly stunning, reliable, useable fuel cell vehicle, which offers everyday practicality, comfort and a unique driving experience. In this first part, we show and explain its stunning technology.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the Toyota Mirai: the future has truly arrived…Part 1”

Enjoy a virtual drive in the BMW Vision iNEXT…

At this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, the BMW Group will showcase the future of driving pleasure and the potential of digital connectivity in a variety of different ways. From January 8-11 2019, visitors will have their first chance to take a virtual drive in the BMW Vision iNEXT, accompanied by the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant. In this way, the BMW Group is underlining its innovative capabilities in the fields of design, automated driving, connectivity, electrification, and services (D+ACES), which are all defined as key areas of future activity in its corporate strategy NUMBER ONE > NEXT.

The vision vehicle will be displayed alongside a sophisticated mixed-reality installation that, for the first time, provides a virtual and immersive impression of what it is like to drive autonomously, emission-free, and fully connected in the BMW Vision iNEXT.

To begin the simulation, the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant suggests an agenda for the day and plans the activities for the trip perfectly. See the photo here above.

With virtual reality goggles and a specially-designed spatial concept, visitors are able to immerse themselves in this virtual world: Initially, they drive the BMW Vision iNEXT themselves, but the vehicle soon takes over the driving function. In autonomous “Ease” mode, the driver interacts with the BMW Intelligent Personal Assistant, which makes suggestions and controls various digital services for the driver – from videoconferencing, to shopping, to smart home functions.

You don’t have to steer this wheel all the time: soon the vehicle takes over…

Quite an experience! For the moment, we can only show you some photos…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

We drove the VW Touareg Tiptronic III 3.0 V6 TDI: a very impressive flagship…

State of the art technology is more than ever the hallmark of Germany’s largest automaker. Its Touareg opened more than a decade ago the era of the luxury high performance SUV brimming with sophistication and avant-garde mechanics. VW wants to maintain this tradition, and indeed, its latest generation Touareg has what it takes to set again new standards in its segment. This new flagship is now amongst us, and it is a formidable car, sharing its platform with the Bentley Bentayga and the Lamborghini Urus… Need we say more?

We drove for you here the version with the supersmooth and velvety powerful 3 liter V6 diesel engine, which again proves brilliantly how good modern diesels have become. It is coupled to an equally superb 8 speed Tiptronic and features as standard equipment the 4MOTION all wheel drive. All this warrants a delightful driving experience, and indeed that’s what it proved to be… Just read on.

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “We drove the VW Touareg Tiptronic III 3.0 V6 TDI: a very impressive flagship…”

We drive the Toyota Mirai into 2019…

The future has begun. We were therefore quite delighted when the dynamic PR department of Toyota Belgium offered us a test drive of its revolutionary Mirai into the new year. The first acquaintance was already quite promising, the first kilometers were enjoyed behind its wheel in utter refinement and comfort, with the Mirai being a breeze to cruise, drive and park.

Soon you will read more about our experience with this car, which is making a totally ‘mature’ impression, and brimming with new technology.

More news about long-term hybrid driving might be coming in these columns, as we are looking to replace our faithful 23 year old Volvo 850 with a (used) Toyota Hybrid, and report to you about our findings in long-term daily use.

Stay tuned!

Hans Knol ten Bensel

How we prepare ourselves (in Belgium) for the mobility of the future: the BMW view…

Recently BMW Group Belux organized a very interesting conference at their Brand Store in Brussels, where Eddy Haesendonck, President & CEO of BMW Belux (here on the right) gave us a status update on the world wide figures and trends of the BMW Group, followed more specifically by the figures and trends in Belgium for BMW Group Belux.

But the focus at this meeting was also on the outlook he presented, namely on how we prepare ourselves for the mobility of the future. This is where we will focus on mostly in this report.

Interesting was also the presentation by Els Ampe, (see first photo)  alderman Public works, Mobility and Dutch speaking matters in Brussels, on the mobility needs of the city of Brussels. More on this in the second part of this report, which we will present soon here too in these columns.

Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

Continue reading “How we prepare ourselves (in Belgium) for the mobility of the future: the BMW view…”