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eBeam

E-Pickup: A US Icon Goes Electric

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With eBeam Axle, ZF's electrified solid axle, the company aims to bring zero local emissions driving to medium-duty pickup trucks in North America. Here’s what you need to know about this innovation:
Frank Thoma,
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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.
The pickup truck is as quintessentially American as Lady Liberty or Coca-Cola. The muscular vehicle with its open cargo bed is cherished by private individuals and especially by commercial users. The sales figures for this vehicle type are accordingly high in the U.S. According to news reports, Ford’s F-Series pickup remained America’s best-selling vehicle in 2021 with 362,032 sold.

Commercial vehicles are generally classified in the U.S. according to the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). Light-duty pickups start in class 1; the heaviest pickup trucks are included in class 6. While private buyers prefer light-duty pickups such as the Chevrolet Colorado, the Ford F-150 or the RAM 1500 in classes 1 and 2, medium-duty pickup trucks tend to be used for commercial applications. These medium-duty pickups in particular form the main target group for ZF’s electric drive solution tailored to the U.S. market. This primarily involves pickups in classes 2b (from 8,500 pounds/3.8 tons) to 6 (maximum 26,000 pounds/12 tons). ZF's future aim is to substitute today's familiar high-volume internal combustion engines in the U.S. with a powerful electric drive. This goes by the name of ZF eBeam Axle: A solid axle with integrated electric drive.

Workhorse electrification

Workhorse electrification

Here, ZF is expanding the electrification campaign launched last year with U.S. car manufacturers to include an electric drive in the pickup business class. This is a logical step according to Stephan von Schuckmann, Member of the ZF Board of Management responsible for electric mobility, because: "We're one of the world's top suppliers for electric mobility and our ambition is to be a key innovator in this area. Our electrified solid axle is further testimony to our technical expertise and our efforts to improve sustainability." The Biden Administration is promoting electric mobility in the U.S. by providing billions to build out a country-wide charging network, while tightening motor vehicle climate targets. By the end of the decade, the aim is for electric cars to account for half of all cars sold.
What exactly makes the U.S. market so compelling for the eBeam Axle? For John Hawkins the answer is simple: "One in every four cars sold in North America is a pickup truck; this presents a huge electrification opportunity for a major market segment. Our eBeam Axle is the perfect solution for electrifying solid axles in pickup trucks and vans, and we are eager to offer this electrification technology it to these customers," stated Hawkins, who is responsible for ZF's electric mobility business in North America.

State-of-the-art axle and electric driveline technology from a single source

State-of-the-art axle and electric driveline technology from a single source

Pickup manufacturers are delighted with the broader range of electric drives for their trucks. After all, the eBeam Axle offers them a number of unique benefits, which ZF can deliver as a one-stop shop. These benefits include ZF's many years of experience in the construction of cost-effective and reliable solid axles with proven transmission technology, coupled with the technology company's electrification expertise. "Another bonus is the high level of modularity; we offer components and architectures in 400 V and 800 V. Customers can, for example, use electric motors or inverters from the large ZF portfolio, resulting in positive economies of scale for them," says Dr. Jörg Trampler, Program Manager eBeam Axle.
Since the electric motors are scalable, they are available in different power output and torque classes for each specific application. Customers can also choose from multiple differentials. The eBeam Axle can even be combined with the Active Kinematic Control (AKC) rear axle steering from ZF to enhance comfort and driving safety.

Prepared for the future

Prepared for the future

It’s an exciting time for electrification in the U.S., but no one has a crystal ball to see the future. "One of the biggest challenges we face is that the eBeam Axle is a new product for our customers, customers who still haven't finished their vehicle architectures," Trampler explains, adding: "We are currently working under a few assumptions, and must, if we want to be ready for volume production launches three years or so from now."

eBeam Axle: Technology overview

eBeam Axle: Technology overview

  • Solid axle with electric motor, inverter and transmission
  • Scalable for 400 V and 800 V architectures
  • Power output up to 350 kW
  • For torque levels up to 15,000 Nm
  • Inverter integrated in transmission housing as an option
  • Choice of various differentials
  • Optional: AKC rear wheel steering