In September 2007, German OEMs belonging to the German Automotive Industry Association (VDA) decided to use natural, climate-neutral carbon dioxide (R744) as a cooling agent.
Automotive Industries (AI) asked ixetic managing director Georg Wolf what effect the introduction of R744 as a cooling agent would have on the market and ixetic.
Wolf: We have spent ten years developing our CO2 compressors. In 1996, ixetic started developing carbon dioxide compressors. We are global leaders in this technical innovation. After years of research and development, the company finalized the concept and completed fleet testing in 2005. The decision by the VDA shows that our original decision to invest in this climate-friendly technology was the right one. The German automotive industry relies on carbon dioxide as a cooling agent and our plan is to build up production in the coming months.
AI: What was the biggest technological challenge in developing the new CO2 air-conditioner?
Wolf: Carbon dioxide is climate-neutral, non-toxic and non-combustible. It places a completely new set of requirements on the system compared to previous cooling agents.
AI: What are the key components in your latest CO2 compressor?
Wolf: There are several components: a brand new, patented control mechanism, an innovative casting concept, and a reliable shaft seal.
AI: ixetic is the first manufacturer able to go into production with the new technology. What makes your air-conditioner compressor unique in terms of its reliability and efficiency?
Wolf: We have combined excellent control behavior with the ability to run the compressor at temperatures of up to 180°C without any restrictions in the driving mode.
ixetic’s R744 compressors will increase the efficiency of future Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC) systems substantially. The new components enable bi-directional torque management without additional sensors in the system.
AI: At the end of last year, ixetic received a series order for the world’s first CO2 compressor for air-conditioners. What results do you expect from this product?
Wolf: We expect future orders in the coming months. This new business segment is a milestone in our growth strategy.
AI: What will the impact on your market position be?
Wolf: We are planning to have a worldwide relevant market share, as we have in our other major business segments.
In the segment of vacuum pumps, our worldwide market share is 30%. In the segment of steering pumps for heavy and medium trucks we achieved 18% last year. In the segment of MAC compressors our share in Europe will be between these figures by 2015.
AI: What other new developments do you plan to introduce to the market in the future?
Wolf: Our investments in R&D are above those of other automotive suppliers. We are working on the electrification of our pumps for hybrid vehicles.
We also have projects with relevant OEM’s to reduce fuel consumption through more efficient integration of accessories which require up to 10% of the drive energy.
AI: What do you think the future of electric steering will be?
Wolf: There is a global trend towards electric steering, but we still see a huge market opportunity for hydraulic steering solution particularly in emerging markets and for heavy and medium trucks.
Leading OEM’s have asked us to develop hydraulic systems to replace hydraulic-electric steering systems.
Another great opportunity is the reduction of fuel consumption on through our power steering pumps. ixetic has developed a power steering pump with electric flow adjustment to reduce the power consumption of the pump. Depending on the steering system, we can achieve fuel savings of up to 0.3 l per 100 km.
AI: You work in close co-operation with all major German carmakers. Your vacuum pumps can be found across the entire Audi range. What are the key elements of your success?
Wolf: There are several relevant elements. The two most important are the reliability of ixetic´s vacuum pumps and the low power consumption.
Top employer, top supplier
ixetic is among the top 25 best employers for engineers in Germany, according to the “Top Employers for Engineers 2008” industry survey.
According to ixetic managing director, Georg Wolf, “Good engineers are highly sought after – especially in Germany, and our attractiveness as an employer provides us with an excellent starting position in the race for the best.”
Headquarterd in Bad Homburg (Hesse), the company is previously traded under the name of LuK Fahrzeug-Hydraulik und LuK Automobiltechnik. It became independent in March 2006 and belongs to holding company cognetas. ixetic now employes more than 1,200 workers between its two German sites in Bad Homburg and and Hückeswagen (Bergisches Land).
Last year, the company delivered more than six million products and its turnover grew by 11% to over 318 million Euro. Customers include global automotive manufacturers such as Audi, BMW, Daimler, Porsche, Renault, Toyota and Volkswagen. ixetic also supplies the leading manufacturers of heavy and medium-heavy commercial vehicles such as Itec, Daimler and Volvo.
In April, Toyota Motor Europe awarded the ixetic a “Certificate of Recognition” acknowledging the pump specialist’s performance in achieving common cost-cutting goals. “This positive feedback is the reward for the hard work and know-how of our entire team,” says Wolf. “It also underlines the great esteem in which Toyota holds us, also evident in the number of repeat orders awarded to us in the past.”
Wolf also noted, “This shows that we in Germany not only have our costs under control, but also that we are a reliable partner to large car manufacturers who set ambitious cost optimization targets.” According to Wolf, ixetic is dedicated to the promotion of innovation and the precise advancement of product development. “In the area of research and development, ixetic’s level of investment is well above the industry average.”