After the ALMA presentation at the EnlightEVs EU Green Week 2023 webinar, our guest speaker challenged the presenter on the choice of working on an existing car frame. By removing legacy limitations, surely we increase the innovation potential?

In the ever-evolving landscape of technology, striking a balance between innovation potential and implementability is key. The automotive industry, in particular, finds itself at a crossroads where the pull of innovation is met with the pushback of practicality. These intersecting pressures are being navigated adeptly by projects such as ALMA, which shines a light on the importance of short-term, implementable innovations that align with existing processes and technologies.

Innovation is a powerful force, capable of driving industries forward at remarkable speeds. However, the pace of this change can pose significant challenges. Disruptive, long-term innovations, while exciting and transformative, often require substantial changes to existing infrastructures, processes, and technologies. In the context of the automotive industry, such changes often involve costly and time-consuming modifications to assembly lines, training for employees, and alterations in supply chains. This creates a tension between the promise of future innovation and the reality of the present constraints.

The ALMA project stands as a noteworthy example of a project that’s been able to walk this tightrope effectively. The project focuses on innovations that are compatible with existing processes and technologies in the industry, targeting short-term implementation. This approach prioritizes the development of advancements that can be readily integrated into current systems, reducing the associated costs and delays that come with more radical, transformative changes.

In choosing to focus on short-term implementable innovations, the ALMA project enables immediate advancements in lightweighting electric vehicle structures. This includes strategies for material lightweighting and promoting reuse and recycling, achieved through technologies for sorting parts at their end-of-life and utilizing de-bondable unions. The project has been able to demonstrate a commendable 23% weight reduction compared to the baseline, surpassing their initial goal of 20%.

This is not to say that long-term, disruptive innovations are of less value. In fact, they often lay the groundwork for the quantum leaps in technology we witness over the years. However, the significance of short-term, implementable innovations, particularly in an industry as complex as automotive manufacturing, should not be overlooked. They serve as the stepping stones that lead us towards more sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective processes, ultimately driving the industry towards a brighter future.

The ALMA project’s practical approach to innovation offers valuable insights for the industry. By focusing on innovations that align with existing processes and technologies, it has demonstrated the potential for significant progress in the short-term without the heavy burden of infrastructural overhaul. It’s a testament to the fact that while innovation often necessitates a vision for the future, it also requires a keen understanding of the present.