Paul Olexa serves as director of driveline sales for ZF’s North America region. He is responsible for passenger car and light commercial vehicle sales of transmissions and drivetrain components.
As a leading contributor to the global powertrain community, ZF participates in various events and conferences focused on current trends and challenges. At a recent event, we, along with automakers, suppliers, government agencies and other industry experts, discussed one of the most important challenges the North American industry faces, among those, consumer/end user acceptance of new powertrain technologies.
When it comes to electric vehicles (EV), consumers express concern over having access to charging stations. For ZF, this means developing advanced technologies that extend driving ranges. Introduced earlier this year, ZF’s 2-speed electric drive for passenger cars provides improved energy conversion efficiency that helps extend the driving range of each battery charge. Equipped with a new electric motor with a maximum power rating of 140 kW and a two-shift element, the drive consumes less energy and extends range by up to 5% compared to single speed units. Shifts are set to occur at approximately 44 mph, however by connecting to the vehicle’s Controller Area Network (CAN) communication, the “nervous system” of the vehicle, and linking to digital map material and GPS, alternate shift strategies can be set. For example, the vehicle could determine the distance to the next charging station via the GPS and predict when the vehicle should enter Eco-mode.
A ZF innovation vehicle with electric 2-speed drive.
But consumers are not just looking at pure EV’s vehicles. Plug-in and mild (48 volt) hybrid models will be part of the required mix as well. Unveiled earlier this year was ZF’s new generation 8-speed automatic transmission for conventional and hybrid vehicles. ZF’s solution was specifically developed for both conventional and various levels of hybrid operation. When equipped with a wide range of optional electrics motors from 24 to 160 kW and torque levels up to 450 newton meters (without activating the internal combustion engine), the system allows for swift passing, even when in e-mode. The transmissions flexible and modular construction enables conventional, mild, full and plug-in hybrid variants depending on customer demand.
The new generation of ZF's 8HP transmission was consistently developed from the hybridized version.
These and other EV and hybrid technologies are important because the future of electric and/or hybrid vehicles is real, it’s not just something we talk about or may see in the future. LMC Automotive forecasts that in 2025 there will be 428 battery EV models in the global market; in 2019, there were 144. Automakers and even countries are confirming a serious focus on these alternative powertrains – GM is looking to globally launch 20 EV models by 2023, and Norway has plans to prohibit the sales of petrol and gasoline vehicles by 2025.
We all face several challenges on the horizon, whether it’s from existing competitors, new entrants into the supply base or having the ability to supply these new technologies to an evolving automotive environment and consumer. However, ZF is well positioned with products, people and production locations to successfully meet these challenges head on.