Issue: Aug 2018

Modular and intelligent electric power and drive systems

Need for adaptable electric power technology.

by Clinton Wright

With no clear trends emerging as yet in the layout and configuration of hybrid and electric vehicles there is a need for adaptable technologies that provide freedom of design during this period of what is likely to be prolonged transition that differs from market to market.

One of the leaders in the field is Magna, which says it possesses the skills and experience to develop all key components for modern e-drive systems: e-motor, gearbox, inverter and control software. The solutions range from products for 48-volt mild hybrids to integrated e-drive systems for battery electric vehicles. They include electrified auxiliaries like thermal management modules, and electric water and oil pumps.

“We believe in the next few years there will be several different variations of powertrain architectures on the market aimed at numerous ways to achieve CO2 savings," said Swamy Kotagiri, Magna's Chief Technology Officer. The company introduced its etelligent drive systems in 2017. At the CES 2018, the company showcased its e1 demonstration concept vehicle to demonstrate different electric-drive (e-drive) concepts and systems, as well as the company's vehicle integration capabilities. The e1 system consists of one highly integrated e-drive system on the front axle and one on the rear axle with two electric motors (e-motors).

According to Magna the demo car achieves superior longitudinal and lateral dynamics combined with excellent vehicle stability for more safety. Each e-drive system in the demo vehicle uses 140-kilowatt motors, adding up to an overall performance of 420-kilowatt peak. The e-motors are combined with a single-speed reduction-gear transmission and an inverter into a compact package.

Magna’s entry into the market was marked in 2009 with the signing of a vehicle development partnership with Ford Motor Company to introduce a zero-emission lithium-ion battery electric vehicle (BEV). This resulted in the Ford Focus BEV, which entered the market in 2011 and is still produced. Magna is responsible for providing the e-motor, electronic control module / inverter and the transmission.

Since 2012 Magna has supplied Volvo with the electrified rear axle drive system (eRAD) featured on the Volvo V60 and S60 plug-in hybrid models. Magna's eRAD system offers multiple hybrid driving modes while also adding electric all-wheel-drive capability. In 2017 Magna entered into a joint venture with Huayu Automotive Systems, a subsidiary of SAIC Motor to product an electric-drive powertrain system for a German automaker. "China is the number-one growth market in the world, and they have been clear about their intended leadership in bringing hybrid and electric vehicles to market," says Don Walker, Magna CEO. "Combining strengths with HASCO helps position Magna and the joint venture for future growth and success."

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Dr. Anton Mayer, Senior Vice President of Magna Powertrain and Vice President at Magna International, what makes the company’s electric powertrain approach innovative.

Mayer: Firstly, besides innovative electrified components, our electric powertrain approach is mainly focused on the entire system level. As an expert in the field of powertrain electrification we have developed a scalable and modular electrification platform with interchangeable building blocks including the e-motor, invertor and gearbox. These scalable building blocks can be flexibly combined into various powertrain architectures - for example, P2.5 DCTs, P3 MTs and transfer cases, P4 electric secondary axles, or even combinations like P2.5/P4.

In this way they can help to improve CO2 emission, performance and driving dynamics significantly at a vehicle system level. In the meantime, this platform approach gives us the opportunity to reduce the increasing complexity in the field of the powertrain, and offers our customers affordable system solutions that can retain their own DNA while achieving the conflicting goals of vehicle efficiency, performance and driving dynamics.  In addition, the scalable vehicle performance and new functionalities, such as improved longitudinal and lateral dynamics – which are essential for the decision of the end consumers – will help to ensure a quick market penetration of hybrid and electric drive systems.  

AI: How do you see powertrain architectures evolving in the quest to achieve CO2 savings?

Mayer:  But that is just a narrow snapshot reflecting current legal conditions, the actual availability of technologies and to some extent trends in society. For example, 48V hybrid drives are just about to emerge in much larger numbers and they will quickly contribute to lowering CO2 emissions. There is also huge potential for efficiently designed plug-in hybrid drives which combine zero emission city driving with longer-distance operation.

Think of future operating strategies which, for example, include data from ADAS and Car2X that can create extremely attractive use cases and products. In 10 or 20 years there will be 48 V and plug-in hybrids as well as EVs and maybe FCEVs longer-term. This is why we rely on a modular approach that offers solutions for many needs and customer expectations while controlling costs. And, for the same reason, we see powertrain development embedded in a larger context of Magna Activities in areas like sensors, vehicle electronics and security.

AI: How have stringent legislation against emissions helped in pushing the case for more EVs in China?

Mayer: China has the highest number of new EVs worldwide – if still on a low level in absolute numbers. Obviously, CO2 reduction and better air quality especially in urban area are the reasons why the Chinese government has introduced the incentives for EVs and restrictions for conventionally driven vehicles that have boosted EV registrations. Moreover, there will be an energy score system for the coming years that requires car makers to sell a certain amount of EVs. Effectively, it´s a differentiated bonus system for electrification that requires flexible offerings. At the same time, there are still many conventional cars being sold in China. Interestingly enough, Chinese customers are as keen to buy SUVs as they are in Western countries. This requires intelligent AWD solutions for the future, for example combining hybrid drives at the front with electric secondary axles, and up to 35 miles electric driving capability for restricted city zones.

AI: How are countries like India faring in the move to electric vehicles and what business opportunities are there in that region?

Mayer: Recent years have shown that high-voltage electrification in the Indian market has developed much slower than in China. Currently, a fourth of the Indian people do not even have electrification in their homes. The government is striving to change that quickly. India is also planning to supply 57% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2027. That would create huge opportunities for scaling up electrification, if infrastructure can follow. For now, there are primarily opportunities for 48V electrification through hybrid transmissions or e-axles, because 48 Volt does not require specific safety measures or equipment in car workshops, let alone a charging infrastructure. So, we see a need for affordable hybrid drives in a first step – for example with our hybrid DCTs and MTs, depending on cost and comfort requirements. However, we are able to scale electrification as requirements evolve.

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