Construction Industry Trendsetter ZF

Industrial Technology is the division where ZF bundles its activities for “Off-Road” applications. The Business Unit Off-Highway Systems constitutes an essential part of the portfolio. Complete know-how, ongoing fundamental research, state-of-the-art engineering tools, and long years of experience make ZF a trendsetter in the industry.

Cost reduction as a result of reduced consumption while simultaneously increasing productivity. These are the megatrends in the construction-machinery business. ZF serves these trends with its innovative products, which can be viewed at several major trade fairs worldwide. ZF developers focus on:

  • reducing fuel consumption
  • increasing efficiency
  • reducing noise
  • simplifying handling
  • increasing driving comfort and safety

ZF Business Unit Material Handling Systems

Electronic systems for lift trucks must work quietly, with zero emissions – usually in very confined spaces.

Vehicles employed in the field of material handling are indispensable for the smooth flow of materials within companies and for logistics applications. Lift trucks rank among the most well-known vehicles of this type. ZF develops and produces axles and transmissions for diesel and electric lift trucks and is one of the world's leaders in technology and innovation in this sector.

Video: ZF’s continuously variable cPOWER transmission helps reduce fuel consumption and boost productivity.

Straddle carriers, roll-on/roll-off tractors and aircraft tugs

But that is not enough. Because special tasks in material transport require special vehicles. In the ports of the world straddle carriers, for example, move containers weighing many tons into the desired position with millimeter accuracy. Here, the technology originates from ZF. At embarking points RoRo tractors (Roll-on/Roll-off) and LoLo (Load-on/Load-off) tractors transport their freight safely through the narrow aisles. Their transmissions come from ZF. Thousands of aircraft tractors throughout the world ensure that passenger and cargo aircraft are brought to precisely the right position on the runway every day. Here, too, ZF supplies the necessary technology.

At the center of activities in the Material Handling Business Unit are amongst others new developments for electrically powered forklift trucks with a lifting capacity of up to six tons as well as a variety of application solutions for vehicles with combustion engines.

Straddle carriers can transport and stack containers weighing up to 50 tons – so their drives and axle systems must be capable of withstanding heavy loads.

Division I mobilizes for diversification

With the acquisition of the large gearbox segment of Bosch Rexroth AG, ZF complemented its industrial gear portfolio with mining applications and large construction machinery, for example, the tunnel drilling machine. Last but not least, Wilhelm Rehm, Board Member Industrial Technology at ZF Friedrichshafen AG, sees the acquisition of the large gearbox segment as a positive move for I Division in terms of fortifying its long-term corporate strategy. Here, the keyword is "Diversification."

"We want to further expand the share of the non-automotive segment in Group sales," says Rehm. Competent, successful appearances like this one at the world's leading trade fair for construction machinery are a tried-and-tested means for enabling I Division to take further steps in this direction.

Innovations at a glance:



This electromechanical steering started replacing the current hydrostatic steering systems in frontwheel-driven 3-wheel counterbalance lift trucks. The electric lift truck is therefore consistently following the path trodden in the car industry a few years ago – substitution of hydraulic steering by energy-efficient electrical steering systems.

Principal features of the electromechanical steering:

  • More than 10 % energy saving in the driving cycle
  • Significantly reduced installation effort during lift truck assembly
  • Functional system safety approved by the Technical Control Board (TÜV Süd)
  • Variable adaptation of the steering ratio
  • Plug & Play complete system with mechanical, electrical, electronic and software functions all from one source
  • Available from 24 to 48 V.

EPS3 is a joint development by ZF and the company ZAPI, the market leader in electronic controllers for lift trucks. In this product both companies are combining their specific expertise to put a system on the market which is orientated uncompromisingly to the arduous requirements of modern counterbalance lift trucks.

An overview of the advantages:

  • Robust
  • No maintenance required, low-wear
  • Long service life
  • Energy savings
  • Improvement in driving ergonomics
  • Service-friendliness and safety
  • Two-channel implementation of the most important electronic and sensor elements.

With that, the EPS3 takes its position amongst the present product innovations from ZF and represents an important milestone in energy conservation for the future.

Electrical wheel drive

Electrical wheel drive

With the electrically driven wheel hub units ZF engineers have developed an innovative driveline solution for Off-Highway applications which is suitable for professional applications with the highest requirements.

Due to the sharing of the drive power between the vehicle and trailer or attachment there are substantial advantages in difficult driving situations, e.g. with movement across a slope. The highly dynamically controlled traction support from the electrical drive facilitates working under arduous conditions. Consequently, working off-road during adverse weather conditions with softened ground is possible.

Through the reduced tractive power requirement on the machine, constant or increased load demands from the trailer or attachment can be fulfilled with a smaller vehicle model. The weight saved on the towing vehicle can be used, for example, for additional trailer loading.

The electrical drive is provided by a fluid-cooled three-phase asynchronous motor with a high power density and a following transmission stage. The motor is integrated in the wheel hub unit to save space. The system can also be optionally fitted with a wheel brake. The rated voltage is 400 V. The motor power and drive torque are sufficient for most requirements in Off-Highway applications.

Due to this new development, the extensive product range from ZF in the field of transmissions and axles for Off-Highway machinery systems has been extended with another innovative drive solution.



ZF presents its new automatic transmission system for medium and heavy special vehicles and mobile cranes. With a completely new basic transmission and a modular concept, TraXon meets the demand of the market for a versatile solution covering a broad range of applications.

The innovative transmission combines several contradictions at the same time:

  • higher torques without compromising the power-to-weight ratio
  • higher gear spread and at the same time improved noise quality
  • depending on the application, it can be driven by a dry clutch but also by a torque converter clutch
  • combination with an engine-dependent PTO.

For the new transmission, ZF developed the revolutionary PreVision GPS shifting strategy which works in an anticipatory and especially fuel-saving way thanks to a GPS connection and an interface to navigation data.

With the TraXon and a vast number of innovations at the transmission hardware and the control software, ZF sets new standards and enables an enormous functional diversity in the transmission system. At the core of the innovation, you will find a basic transmission featuring very compact dimensions with a splitter group, main group, and range change group, as well as two countershafts and one main shaft. It is this space-saving design in combination with the newly designed gearsets that turns the TraXon into a benchmark in terms of the power-to-weight ratio: The new ZF transmission can transmit torques considerably above 3,000 newton meters and is therefore also attractive for markets where special vehicles and mobile cranes with a gross vehicle weight of 72 tons are used.

TraXon can be obtained with 12 or 16 speeds – both are available as Direct Drive or Overdrive versions; the latter features a particularly long ratio of the highest gear. Furthermore, the transmission concept allows for two additional reverse gears.

The new TraXon transmission from ZF provides maximum flexibility thanks to a number of available variants and additional modules for special vehicles and heavy-duty transporters. The remarkable features of the transmission are its low operating costs and reduced fuel consumption.

The anticipatory GPS-based driving strategy PreVision GPS will prove to be an absolutely trailblazing innovation. ZF thus gives truck manufacturers the opportunity to link up the transmission with GPS data and digital map material. With the corresponding integration in the vehicle, PreVision GPS prevents gearshifts that may be unnecessary within the context of the terrain – for example when a conventional transmission control unit shifts up a gear before an uphill gradient or a narrow bend, just to shift down to a lower gear shortly after.



cPOWER transmission help to reduce fuel and to increase productivity. Also in the IC lift truck market, a trend towards lower engine speeds and the demand for engine stabilization by a constant speed concept are the future market challenges. The continuously variable cPOWER meets both requirements.

Main features of the new ZF cPOWER:

  • Continuously variable drive over the whole range
  • Hydrostatic-mechanical power splitting in all driving ranges,

including the frequently used range up to 10 km/h

  • Reduction of diesel motor speed independent of driving speed
  • Up to 25 % less consumption
  • Up to 20 % higher efficiency
  • Installation-compatible with ZF ERGOPOWER

Especially for forestry equipment, ZF is offering cPOWER for skidder and forwarder applications. In these vehicles cPOWER guarantees a maximum in traction, excellent driving comfort and easy handling.

The fully powersplit, continuously variable technology benefits from the long-term experience gained in the agricultural machinery sector and offers significant consumption benefits and productivity increases for the vehicle owner. In short – ZF ECCOM, TERRAMATIC and cPOWER form an industry leading comprehensive portfolio of perfectly tailored CVT solutions for any off-highway application.

In Off-Highway applications, hydrostatic-powersplit transmissions ensure significant consumption benefits compared to hydrodynamic transmissions and purely hydrostatic concepts.

The continuously variable transmissions clearly demonstrate their benefits in all ranges of the typical Off-Highway machinery operating cycle, i.e. during bucket-filling, transporting or loading. In this process, the percentage of hydrostatic power is kept low whereby; an optimal degree of efficiency can be achieved.

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