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Proven technology for the development and testing of internal combustion engines is being used to fast-track the rollout of electrically-driven and hybrid vehicles.

One of the companies leveraging its conventional expertise is the Schaeffler group, which is using technologies such as digital simulation in its development of electric drive-trains. The company says its know-how from the development of starting elements like the torque converter or the double-clutch broadens the development and manufacturing expertise available in the company. As a result it already has a range of fully developed components and system solutions in the field of electric mobility.

Automotive Industries (AI) asked Matthias Zink, Chief Executive Officer Automotive, Schaeffler AG, what strategy the company is following in the area of e-mobility concept vehicles. Zink: E-Mobility is an integral part of our “Agenda 4 plus One” program. In 2018 we consolidated all of the e-mobility activities in our “e-Mobility” business unit. Especially in the area of e-mobility, system understanding is the key element of developing the best components and systems. Concept vehicles in this context are essential to demonstrate the potential of different technical solutions and to derive tangible system and component products. Moreover, the conventional powertrain is still continuously evolving and innovative solutions can contribute to the improvement of the whole vehicle. As an example, it is only by combining technologies for the optimization of combustion engine and dedicated hybrid transmission that the full potential of a hybrid solution can be realized.

AI: Can these concepts be commercialized? Zink: Each innovative solution from Schaeffler must be drivable, appealing and affordable for our customers. There is always a focus on positive cost-benefit-ratio, particularly concerning future regulatory targets of carbon dioxide emissions and related penalties. In this context it is important to demonstrate the fuel savings under real conditions – for example using an e-clutch to enable sailing and hybridization of manual transmission or the different powertrain layouts in various concept cars, as well as 48V technology.

AI: What acquisitions / tie-ups has the company made to accelerate its e-mobility range? Zink: In 2016 Schaeffler acquired Compact Dynamics – a development specialist in the field of innovative electric drive concepts. Compact Dynamics is also the partner for the electric drive, for the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler Team in the FIA Formula E. In order to strengthen the manufacturing competence for e-motors, Schaeffler has acquired Elmotec Statomat, a leading producer of manufacturing machines for the mass production of electric motors. With this acquisition, the last gap in manufacturing complete electric systems including the in-house production of electric motors, is closed. Therefore, Schaeffler is ready to develop and produce high volume e-mobility system solutions.

AI: What makes a Schaeffler concept like the Bio- Hybrid innovative? Zink: Our megacities are typically growing faster than their infrastructure. The consequences are traffic jams and air pollution. As cities keep growing, so will the transportation of goods. With the Bio‑Hybrid we want to make the emission-free movement of goods possible. Schaeffler presented the Bio‑Hybrid series back in 2016 as a vision of individual transport in an urban environment. The Schaeffler Bio‑Hybrid company was founded at the end of 2017 as a 100% subsidiary of the Schaeffler Group. It aims to develop the Bio‑Hybrid to be ready for series production and general distribution. To do this, it works with the flexibility of a start-up, but can draw on the combined technical expertise of the Schaeffler Group as a whole. We are currently positioning the Bio‑Hybrid somewhere between a pedelec and a small electric-powered city car. It’s a new concept that eliminates the disadvantages of the bike – stability, weather protection and cargo transport – and those of the car – footprint, emissions and costs – and can be integrated into the existing urban infrastructure. Due to its four wheels, the concept delivers exceptional driving stability. The roof and windshield make it independent of weather conditions and therefore suitable for year-round use. It is hardly wider than a normal bicycle and can be operated with zero emissions on bicycle paths as well. The electric motor assists the operator – like on a pedelec – up to a speed of 25 km/h.

AI: What are some of the applications? Zink: The cargo version of the Bio-Hybrid can be used for the transportation of goods on the last mile. Especially in urban areas where the traffic is high and the distances small, such concepts could fundamentally change the transportation in terms of sustainability and emissions. Current trend research shows that the demand for a flexible, environmentally friendly and costeffective supplements to the classic family car is growing in cities. For this reason, there is more potential for the Bio-Hybrid in terms of higher speeds, digitization, connectivity and lifestyle. The city of the future is digital and connected – and so is the Bio‑Hybrid. Wi-Fi, GPS, Bluetooth and 4G make the Bio‑Hybrid an important element of the digital and connected city.

AI: Have large e-retailers evinced an interest in the Bio-Hybrid? Zink: Yes, there is interest. The reason is that online retail will grow by 10% and more by 2022, according to forecasts – the deliveries will continue to increase traffic density. As a result, the current logistics systems are reaching their limits, which calls for new concepts such as micro-depots. The Bio-Hybrid in its cargo version is a solution to establish “last mile delivery service” in a space-saving, zero-emissions way and fits the requirements profiles of the relevant companies. Due to the fact that the Bio- Hybrid may be operated without a drivers’ license retailers, for instance, will also have access to new “drivers” who don’t have a drivers’ license for passenger cars.

AI: How will the Schaeffler Mover contribute to the rollout of autonomous vehicles? Zink: The Schaeffler Mover offers a flexible, zero-emissions platform for diverse vehicle concepts. The core of the Schaeffler Mover is the compact drive module called the “intelligent corner module”. All the drive and chassis components are accommodated in a space-saving manner in one complete unit: The wheel hub motor, the wheel suspension including springs, and the electromechanical steering. The “intelligent corner module” is designed as an electromechanical steer-by-wire system and is controlled by the “Space Drive” technology. “Space Drive,” the leading “drive-by-wire” technology for autonomous vehicles from Schaeffler Paravan & Co. KG, replaces mechanical control systems by electronic cable-transmitted impulses. Due to the 90-degree steering angle the Schaeffler Mover is able to be turned in narrow streets and to be parallel parked. Even turning on the spot is possible. Another advantage of the Schaeffler Mover is its connectivity, enabling on-demand solutions to complement local public transportation systems. AI: Tell us about Schaeffler’s work with Formula E. Zink: The electric racing series is an ideal test laboratory for the development of electric mobility technologies and ideally fits the company’s “Mobility for tomorrow” strategy. To be successful, solutions must be developed to realize a high efficiency, range and performance and must be combined with a winner mentality. This is also valid for developing solutions for our customers.

AI: How has the cross-over from Formula E and regular passenger cars happened with the 4ePerformance concept vehicle? Zink: Innovative solutions require thinking outside the box. Schaeffler’s 4ePerformance concept vehicle is an example of the technology transfer from racing into a near-production drive concept. Thereby new functionalities can be evaluated – for instance torque vectoring by controlling each wheel torque individually or driving forward and backwards with the same velocity.

AI: What are some of the highlights of the 4ePerformance concept vehicle? Zink: The fully electric vehicle uses four Formula E motors with total power output of 880 kW (1,200 hp). They were adopted from the ABT Schaeffler FE01 Formula E race cars and, like the car’s power electronics, developed by Schaeffler’s subsidiary Compact Dynamics. All four motors were used for the full second Formula E season. The Schaeffler 4ePerformance consequently is a real carryover from racing into a drive concept for road vehicle.  

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