China - ABB has signed an agreement with SAIC Volkswagen to provide robotics painting solutions for a new factory being built in Shanghai. The plant will become the first new energy vehicle (NEV) factory of the VW Group based on the modular electric drive (MEB) platform.

“We are delighted to support China’s rapidly growing electric vehicle industry and to extend our partnership with Volkswagen as the company expands its electric vehicle manufacturing capabilities,” commented Sami Atiya, president of ABB’s robotics and discrete automation business. “This award recognises ABB’s deep expertise in the electric vehicle segment overall and, in particular, our robotics automotive expertise supported by global applications centres in China, Europe and the US.”

The factory is set to open in 2020, and will have an annual produce of 300,000 pure electric vehicles carrying Audi, VW and Skoda badges. Around 300 ABB robots will operate on three different lines, painting the exterior, interior and underbody. They will also be used to do cosmetic seam sealing and interior plate wax-spraying.

One of the big themes at the plant will be eco-friendliness. The paintshop will use primerless technology and a dry spray absorption system instead of a water circulation system. The companies expect the system to achieve energy savings of around 60%.

As well as SAIC and VW, several other OEMs are looking to up their game in the Chinese NEV market. The Volvo Geely plant in Luqiao will soon become home to the new fully electric Polestar 2, and construction of Tesla’s first factory in China is well underway.