Schaeffler plans output of electric motors as early as 2020

November 29, 2018 13:09 CET

BUEHL, Germany — Schaeffler plans to expand its drivetrain portfolio to include electric motors as early as 2020 following last year’s acquisition of wholly-owned subsidiary Compact Dynamics.

The German supplier, best known for its ball bearings, aims to reduce its reliance supplying components for combustion engine powertrains, which comprises the overwhelming bulk of its business.

“After combining the knowhow of compact dynamics with that of Schaeffler, we have decided to offer our own electric motors,” said Jochen Schroeder, president of the company’s e-mobility unit. “We feel we are now well positioned and prepared to begin industrialization in 2020 or 2021.”

In January, Schaeffler created a new business division for electric mobility spanning 48-volt mild hybrids to entire subsystems for plug-ins and full-electric vehicles, such as the two one-speed axle transmissions found in the Audi e-tron.

This year alone it is expected to generate 500 million euros in revenue, a gain of roughly a third. Its share of Schaeffler’s automotive turnover is forecast to double to 10 percent by 2020.

In order to create further growth, Schaeffler aims to add electric motors to their product range.

New manufacturing technique

Compact Dynamics is experimenting with a promising, yet complex new manufacturing technique called “wave winding” that increases the density of copper windings needed to create the electromagnetic field. The more windings that can be packed into the stator, the greater the motor’s efficiency.

“In the near future we are working on complete e-axle systems that incorporate electric motor and power electronics in one, and we will certainly be showcasing our wave winding technology,” said Schroeder.

Schaeffler says current, more affordable prices for rare earths such as neodymium will mean more manufacturers will demand electric motors that incorporate these permanent magnets. Known as PSM motors, they can be found in many EVs including Volkswagen upcoming I.D. battery-powered hatchback.

Schroeder said that Schaeffler was also considering building so-called asynchronous motors, also known as induction motors, which do not require a constant electrical current. These are better suited for dual drive axle vehicles such as the Mercedes-Benz EQC and Audi e-tron all-wheel-drive SUVs due to their lower power consumption.

“Our main focus will be on solutions within the 50 to 150-kilowatt (67 hp-201 hp) output range,” Schroeder said.

Schaeffler ranks No. 22 on the Automotive News Europe list of the top 100 global suppliers with worldwide original-equipment automotive parts sales of $10.8 billion in 2017.

You can reach Christiaan Hetzner at christiaan.hetzner@gmail.com.

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