see. think. act.
Electric Motors: Technology for Sustainable Mobility Electric Motors: Technology for Sustainable Mobility

Electric Motors: Technology for Sustainable Mobility

Min Reading Time
ZF engineers recognized early on the importance of the electric motor and advanced its development. The two millionth electric motor just came off the line. Time for a brief review and a look at where we stand today.
Frank Thoma,
author_image
Frank Thoma has been corporate editor at ZF since 2011. With a degree in journalism, he has been planning, writing and editing articles for all of the company’s internal, external media.
What shape is the global climate in? Just the fact that the recent 27th UN Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh in Egypt ended after an extension with a final joint declaration lacking any teeth shows the urgent need for action that remains. Increasingly frequent man-made natural disasters show clearly that the time for talking is long gone. In order to save what we still can, the industrialized nations in particular must reduce greenhouse gas emissions rapidly, massively and permanently. Addressing all delegates, a dissatisfied UN Secretary General António Guterres said critically: "Our planet is still in the emergency room. We need to drastically reduce emissions now, and this is an issue this COP did not address."

Passenger and freight transport is one of the major drivers of climate change. Globalization and growing prosperity caused global traffic volumes to explode. Consequently, the transport sector accounted for 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2021. The transport revolution – toward more sustainability and lower emissions – is overdue. With its electric mobility products, ZF contributes to clean mobility – and not just only recently.

Two million electric motors from ZF

Two million electric motors from ZF

Back in 2008, when electric mobility was still almost unheard of, the Group was the first company in Europe to start volume production of electric motors for cars. The first application was in the mild hybrid driveline of a luxury sedan. This ushered in a new success story for ZF. 14 years on and the technology company has sold two million electric motors in total for a wide variety of applications. This figure is presumably set to double in just under two years, an expectation that is realistic given the explosive growth in electric mobility to date. For example, new registrations of all-electric cars (BEV) in Europe alone rose from 91,000 vehicles in 2016 to 1.22 million in 2021.
Hairpin Stator

Modern e-motor: During the hairpin winding, the production lines first preform the copper wire sections for the subsequent stator so they resemble a hairpin.

Electric solutions from a single source

Electric solutions from a single source

At ZF, customers can now choose from an extensive electric portfolio. The range includes technical solutions from mild hybrids, plug-in hybrids to all-electric drive systems for passenger cars and commercial vehicles. The power rating of the electric motors ranges from 50 kW to 550 kW, with torque of between 75 Nm and 1,500 Nm. ZF can supply the electric motors either as separate components or already integrated into complete systems. This also includes power electronics and reduction gear units developed and produced in-house. "Our current production landmark is backed by long-term entrepreneurial decisions and innovative engineering spirit," says Stephan von Schuckmann, CEO of the Electrified Powertrain Division and member of the ZF Board of Management.
ZF started testing its own electric drives in buses and passenger cars in everyday operation in the 1990s and embarked on making electrification suitable for volume production in the early 2000s – an approach that has paid off for the company. For years,
ZF has been expanding its production capacities for electric motors, including at the Schweinfurt lead plant and at the newer production locations in Pančevo in Serbia and Hangzhou and Shenyang in China.

Forward-looking roadmap of the technology company

Forward-looking roadmap of the technology company

With electric mobility gaining momentum, the next million landmark is already on the horizon. "Our order books are full, the next two million units of electric motors will probably be produced in less than two years," Roland Hintringer, Head of the Electric Motors product line, is happy to report. Until then, users of electrified vehicles will benefit from many of the Group's other technical innovations. These include new motor concepts with improved cooling, power electronics with optimized high-voltage converters, and increasingly powerful control software. In 2023, ZF will also put another production facility into operation in North America to meet the increasing demand for electric motors.
Stator with hairpin winding during quality control

Growing contribution to improved climate balance

Growing contribution to improved climate balance

If we return to the challenge mentioned at the outset that the transport sector must meet, it is clear, in a global context, that ZF's two million electric motors in use to date represent a fairly small step on the road to clean, sustainable mobility. However, technical solutions such as these – used in rapidly increasing numbers in passenger cars, commercial vehicles and shuttles – on the one hand help satisfy the basic human need for mobility and, on the other hand, significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transport sector.

Related Content