Eric Werner:How difficult is it to make the right compromise between speed, traction, and efficiency for electric engines? What role do electrical steels play?
Ward Storms, Senior Engineer for Material Engineering and Electrical Steels at TME: We set targets for our motors and then combine the different parts in a simulator to see how speed, traction, and efficiency are affected. Working together with ArcelorMittal we engineer an electrical steel grade or construction which fulfils our requirements.
Eric Werner: What are Toyota’s key requirements for electrical steels in traction applications?
Ward Storms: Toyota needs electrical steels that allow to get the maximum efficiency for energy savings and longer drive range. Key to that is iron losses. They have a direct impact on engine efficiency and tailpipe emissions. Since 2015, we have been working on the Toyota Environmental Challenge 2050 which will see us target zero emissions at our plants and over the life cycle of our vehicles. Low iron losses for the electrical steels we use is very important to reach towards zero emissions in our vehicles as well. That’s why we are working with ArcelorMittal to develop lower loss materials.
Eric Werner: Can you give us other examples of situations where ArcelorMittal and TME have worked together?
Ward Storms: At a certain point, the production yield of the electrical steels ArcelorMittal provided were not optimal for Toyota’s needs. TME offered support ArcelorMittal to find the root cause using our ‘Toyota Way’ methodology. There were very good discussions between the mill’s management and engineering teams and the Toyota team. As a result, we co-developed an alternative grade which we could utilise in our motors. And we achieved this positive outcome in less than half the time we expected it to take. It is proof that the partnership works.
Johan Ledouble, Senior Purchasing Manager at TME: Toyota is renowned for manufacturing expertise. We take pride in operating with no waste and high quality through continuous improvement, and we are proactive in supporting our suppliers to achieve the same. When we realized that ArcelorMittal had production issues, we were doubting whether a similar approach could help, as we usually do it with part suppliers who have similar processes as us. However, we were very surprised that the collaboration between TME and ArcelorMittal was so fruitful. The people on both sides got on well together and found the input from the other side very useful. On one side, ArcelorMittal team learnt from Toyota problem solving methodology. On the other, Toyota could define better specifications thanks to ArcelorMittal input.
Eric Werner: As a carmaker, what do you expect from the steel industry in the future?
Johan Ledouble: The two main challenges for Toyota and ArcelorMittal are decarbonisation and electrification. In both cases steel solutions are critical. We understand that the steel industry needs large investments to tackle significant technical challenges. In the complex automotive industry, on top of access to the correct product, we need reliable and stable partners. We want to go through those revolutions with the best partners with whom we can share a long term approach.
Eric Werner: Finally, how does Toyota see the relationship with ArcelorMittal?
Johan Ledouble: In Europe, ArcelorMittal has been the first partner that could follow us in high-technology material developments. For example, for high tensile strength steels and deep drawn panels for exposed quality. This is also true for electrical steels. ArcelorMittal is Toyota’s first non-Asian electrical steel supplier globally. A second strength of the partnership is ArcelorMittal’s global footprint, including the recently announced investment in extra production capacity for electrical steels in Mardyck, France. It closely matches the global demand of Toyota, especially for high technology material. At this stage we only have a few steel suppliers who are able to support us globally.
Established in 1937, Toyota has grown to become a global motor company. Today its vehicles are sold in more than 170 countries. Since the first Prius was released in 2006, Toyota has sold more than 20 million electrified vehicles. In Europe the company’s operations are overseen by Toyota Motor Europe. The company directly employs more than 25,000 people on the continent.