Creation of EV Centre of Excellence at Columb Barracks ‘very timely’ – Geoghegan

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Local Enterprise Week 2024

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The president of Mullingar Chamber of Commerce John Geoghegan travelled to Scania’s HQ in Sweden this week to learn about the firm’s ongoing journey to electrification. The trip has strengthened his conviction that if plans for a Centre of Excellence for Electric Vehicle Management in Columb Barracks come to fruition it will be of huge benefit to the town.

By John Geoghegan

Background

Following on from the announcement of the designation of Columb Barracks in Mullingar as a Centre of Excellence for Electric Vehicle Management in March, I was fortunate enough to be invited by local business leader Joe Crann, Managing Director of Westward Scania, on a customer information trip to Scania headquarters in Södertälje in Sweden.

The initial part of the trip involved an overall company profile briefing by Darren Brown, Market Exploration Manager at Scania followed by a very detailed analysis of Scania’s path to electrification of their fleet by Peter Forsberg, the head of eTruck Solutions at Scania. This was delivered in the Marcus Wallenberg Hall at the headquarters in Södertälje. During the presentations the culture of Scania was set out as one of openness, hard work and a commitment to progress for customer and company alike.

Founded in 1911, Scania started out in train carriage production and moved to truck production in the 1930s and has grown from there to now employing 54,000 people in 10 locations producing almost 100,000 vehicles a year and turning in excess of €20bn per annum, one of the market leaders in global industry. The company has almost 600,000 connected vehicles at present and 16% global market share of the truck market and a 30% share of the Irish marketplace.

Scania Position and Production

Going forward, this company sees electrification of their fleet as the future having considered all alternative energy sources and methods and, as such they have a workforce of over 2,000 personnel in Research and Development dedicated to this task. After a very pleasant lunch in the motor museum there we were taken on a tour by a Chassis Assembly Guide, Perry Johansson, of the amazing production facility that extends to over 500,000sq.ft. On the day this facility was producing 34 fully finished trucks in a one hour shift, one truck every 15 minutes and taking a bare steel chassis to a completed truck in three hours, end to end. It was absolutely fascinating to see the efficiency of the production lines, the layout of the facility and the speed of operatives working seamlessly with the latest technology to deliver these vehicles.

Testing the Product

From there we went on to the Scania visitors hub where we could test any one, or all, of about a dozen vehicles ranging from electrified busses to electrified trucks, some carrying a load of over 40 tonnes around a 3.5km testing track. I was fascinated by the size of these vehicles and how smooth they were to drive, particularly the electric vehicles. We then did a closing session with Ted Backstrom, Marie Hammar and Karin Makowski of the eMobility Production, Analytics and Engineering respectively to discuss all vehicle related issues like range, cost, battery life and current possible solutions for real life transport cases of clients present who had many questions.

Going Forward

This was one of the most informative and enjoyable trips I have ever made in my life, and a highlight of my time as president of Mullingar Chamber. Having spoken at length with Peter Forsberg and the team there and also listened to the client questions and responses as well as trying out the product, it is clear there is still some way to go to bring this technology to its full potential. However, the current product offering is a superb step in the right direction. Furthermore, it was very interesting to discuss the infrastructure rollout issues that might be faced in the coming years in decarbonisation and electric vehicle advancement and how these might be addressed. There will definitely be considerable pressure on the planning system and the national grid of all countries and renewable energy sources will feature very high on the agenda if this is to succeed.

Columb Barracks and Mullingar Chamber

Given what I saw on this trip and gauging where Scania are going with this technology, when a profitable €20bn turnover company of this size and scale with over 50,000 employees is taking this brave step in this direction and sees it as the only future for mobility, I think it is very timely that the Columb Barracks project might come to fruition in the coming years as per the March 2022 announcement.

I will be making the outcomes of this trip known to all stakeholders on the Columb Barracks project and pressing ahead with the agenda as set out and look forward to the support of all concerned to make this happen. I would like to thank Joe Crann, Managing Director of Westward Scania, and the team he brought on the trip as well as everyone in Södertälje for this amazing experience.