Issue: Jun 2016


GKN launches electric all-wheel drive technology on global vehicle platform



by Nick Palmen

A series of new C-Segment vehicles will offer consumers the option of adding plug-in electric all-wheel drive using GKN Driveline's latest electric axle drive (eAxle) technology. The eAxle is an evolution of systems developed for hybrid supercars that use electric all-wheel drive to boost performance and efficiency.

 

GKN has secured orders for a major global platform, and production is now underway at the company's eDrive production facility in Bruneck, Italy. The first application is the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer PHEV.

 

GKN Driveline Chief Executive Phil Swash said: "GKN Driveline continues to bring the future of eMobility into the here and now. Our total focus on driveline innovation, our unmatched expertise in all-wheel drive and our 14 years of production experience in eAxles are now making eAWD viable in smaller, more-affordable vehicles. From the i8 to the 2 Series Active Tourer, GKN's work with BMW reflects our position as the development partner of choice for the coming wave of plug-in hybrids with eAWD."

 

Hybrid power for compact cars

 

The company's new electric axle drive has been optimized for compact car applications. The lightweight single-speed design has a transmission ratio of 12.5:1, reducing the electric-motor speed in two stages. The system generates up to 2,000Nm and 70kW of additional torque and power - enough for a vehicle's pure-electric mode to achieve speeds of up to 125km/h (78 mph) and for an all-wheel-drive (AWD) mode that accelerates considerably faster than conventional mechanical AWD systems.

 

The entire unit weighs just 20.2kg (44.5 lbs.) and has a length of 457 mm, a width of 229 mm and a height of 259 mm, facilitating packaging and installation in confined spaces.

 

When hybrid operation is not required, the e-machine can be disconnected from the driveline by an integrated disconnect device, which uses an electromechanically actuated dog clutch. This minimizes rotating losses at higher vehicle speeds when disengaged. Gear and bearing arrangements have also been optimized for efficiency, NVH and durability. Precision engineering throughout the system, including a low-backlash, high-performance transmission differential and case ensures transitions between pure-electric, hybrid and ICE modes are transparent to the driver.

 

Efficient eAWD capability

 

The latest generation of GKN eAxles represent a significant breakthrough in terms of performance, size and cost. For many front-wheel-drive vehicle platforms, it is now simpler and more effective to electrify the rear axle than to bolt on a hybrid module to the main transmission.

 

GKN Automotive President of Engineering Peter Moelgg, said: "GKN's eAxle technology is passing a key milestone in its evolution at a time when the demand for all-wheel drive and plug-in hybrids is strengthening. This latest system advances the business case for electric all-wheel-drive capability in hybrids. A number of automakers are introducing our technology on their premium models and starting to transfer eAxle hybrid versions to higher-volume models."

 

eAxles transmit the electric torque directly to the vehicle's wheels, providing more immediate response and dynamic acceleration. Input speeds of 14,000rpm are now possible and are expected to exceed 20,000rpm in the next few years - far higher than is possible with hybrid transmissions.

 

GKN launched its first eAxle applications in 2002. The company was awarded Official Porsche Technology Partner status for its contribution to the plug-in hybrid Porsche 918 Spyder program. It launched the world's first two-speed eAxle in the plug-in hybrid BMW i8 and also supplies the eAxle on the Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine PHEV program.

 

ABOUT GKN

 

GKN plc is a global engineering group. It has four divisions; GKN Aerospace, GKN Driveline, GKN Powder Metallurgy and GKN Land Systems, which operate in the aerospace, automotive and land systems markets. Over 55,000 people work in GKN companies and joint ventures in more than 30 countries. GKN is listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE: GKN) and recorded sales of GBP7.7 billion in the year ending December 31, 2015.

 

ABOUT GKN DRIVELINE

 

GKN Driveline is the world's leading automotive driveline technology and systems engineer. As a global company serving the world's leading vehicle manufacturers, GKN Driveline designs, develops, manufactures and integrates an extensive range of systems for use in the smallest ultra-low-cost car to the most sophisticated and dynamic premium vehicle. As a vehicle optimization specialist, GKN helps OEMs define the way a vehicle drives, whether two-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, hybrid or pure electric.  GKN Driveline is a leading global producer of CVJ technology, AWD and eDrive Systems, operating in 23 countries at 46 locations employing approximately 25,500 people.



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