There are basically two ways to mass-produce a car: You can hire someone else to do it, or you can do a lot of it yourself and outsource the rest. Almost every automaker is in that latter group, including Tesla, even if it aspires to do everything on its own. So is Volvo, though Volvo said Monday that it would move one big aspect of its EV program in-house.
Volvo said, specifically, it would be developing electric motors for its cars “in-house” at a lab in Shanghai. Volvo says it is doing this for the same reasons Elon Musk says that Tesla tries to make things in-house: Uniqueness and control.
“Through in-house design and development, we can fine-tune our e-motors to ever better levels,” Henrik Green, chief technology officer at Volvo, said in a press release. “By constantly improving their overall performance levels in terms of energy efficiency and comfort, we create an electric driving experience that is unique to Volvo.”
Few details were offered beyond that, though Volvo did release the sketch you see above. The striking thing about electric motors remains how simple they are compared to their internal combustion counterparts.
From Volvo’s press release:
The newly opened electric motor lab in Shanghai became operational last month. It will mainly focus on electric motor development for use in fully electric and hybrid cars based on Volvo Cars’ forthcoming SPA 2 modular vehicle architecture.
Volvo did not say who will be making the electric motors it designs, and it did not immediately respond to a query, but if I had to guess I would suspect they will farm manufacturing out.
Because the thing about doing things in-house is that doing everything in-house is virtually impossible. Tesla has always tried to do just that but it still gets its batteries from Panasonic; it still puts Goodyears on new Model Ys; it still has scores of other suppliers, like every other mass-producer of cars in the world.
Which is a comment less about Tesla than about Volvo and every other automaker in that, at the end of the day, the vast majority of consumers don’t really care.