Mahle Adopting A Dual Strategy To Shape Future Of Mobility

Industry Track May 2019 Mahle Adopting Dual Strategy Shape Future Mobility
Mahle Adopting A Dual Strategy To Shape Future Of Mobility

Mahle India inaugurated the Mahle IT & Engineering Centre – its third IT and Shared Services Centre in the country – at its Pune facility in February 2019. Spanning across 55,000 sq ft, the Mahle IT & Engineering Centre has emerged as an integral part of the global Mahle R&D network and will be offering services for conventional as well as electrified powertrains.

There are different views across the automotive industry about how quickly the industry will transition from conventional ICEs to electromobility, as there is large-scale optimism that internal combustion engines will continue to propel a large percentage of vehicles in the distant future. Auto Tech Review recently caught up with Raj Kalra, President Mahle India, to understand more about its dual strategy.

FOCUSSED ICE APPROACH

Fuel economy norms and standards are increasingly getting stringent and internal combustion engines have developed into a complex system that needs consistent efforts to be more productive and sustainably reduce emissions. As part of its dual strategy, Mahle is constantly working on the optimisation of the combustion engine and has developed a new polymer coating with melamine cyanurate to improve the bearing characteristics in combustion engines. Since bearings are found across the powertrain – crankshafts, connecting rods and camshafts – they are constantly under pressure due to emission control measures. Mahle has focussed on developing the polymer coating to increase seizure resistance and improve lubrication properties.

The new polymer coating – melamine cyanurate – offers a low friction coefficient and has high thermal stability due to its multi-layered structure to increase the resilience of bearings and thus reduce their friction. The coating enables the bearing to quickly transition to hydrodynamic lubrication and enables more robust operation despite inadequate lubrication. Bearings can therefore withstand up to 20 % increased loads that increasingly arise in the course of an engine’s life from various emission control technologies including start-stop, hybrid or coasting operation.

Mahle has also lately developed a laser welding process to step-up the adoption of steel pistons in diesel-powered passenger cars. Steel pistons have a lesser tendency for expansion against aluminium pistons and thus reduce frictional losses and fuel consumption. Steel pistons can also have a shorter top land and allow for a longer connecting rod with their low overall height.

According to the company, the smaller pivoting angle of the longer connecting rod results in smaller lateral forces and lower friction in the piston skirt. The laser welding process allows for a kidney-shaped cross-section of piston gallery that directs the cooling oil flow to follow an optimal hydraulic path and ensure uniform heat dissipation to minimise overheating. OEMs are constantly under pressure for lightweighting of their products, replacing metal with high performance plastics for various options like engine head covers and oil tanks that have been traditionally metallic in nature.

The company has lately developed improvements across hollow cam shafts that offer lightweighting of parts, which in turn will help OEMs to comply with BS VI norms. The Mahle India top official is upbeat about the fact that ICEs will still remain relevant at least for a decade and a half and the company will continue to invest in this segment.

ENERGY EFFICIENT TRANSPORT

As the world looks at vehicles emitting cleaner emissions to get much-needed respite from the ever-growing pollution and congestion problems in Tier I cities, Mahle has developed Mahle Efficient Electric Transport (MEET) that brings together a variety of Mahle technologies and claims to address urban commuter needs. MEET is a 48 V concept that has a 40 kW Interior Permanent Magnet Synchronous motor (IPM) traction drive. It offers a dynamic drive unit with integrated power electronics and a thermal management system that enables an electric cruising range of 170 km in urban traffic.

Mahle claims that MEET efficiently leverages energy in the vehicle and an innovative interface that allows the major vehicle functions to be controlled intuitively. MEET intelligently distributes torque between the driven wheels depending on the driving situation, widely benefitting from speed range and torque vectoring, thus increasing the system efficiency.

As far as electric mobility is concerned, battery vehicles are bound to get heated faster due to dual battery deployment; thus, these vehicles will require battery chilling plate and thermal management of battery. As vehicle electrification picks up momentum, Kalra said areas of power electronics, traction motors, battery management and battery thermal management will be closer to home than other things.

Mahle has developed a new polymer coating with melamine cyanurate to improve the bearing characteristics in combustion engines

ON M&A SPREE

Over the last five years, Mahle has been embarking on an acquisition spree to expand its horizons in conventional as well as electric mobility. In January 2019, Mahle acquired Munich-based transmission specialist ZG-Zahnräder und Getriebe GmbH to further step up its expertise in the powertrain and offer integrated systems solutions, including transmission design. According to Mahle, the integrated drive systems can also be used more flexibly in different vehicle types as they have decisive advantages over individual modules, such as driver motor, transmission or power electronics, while developing complete hybrid or electric vehicles.

Mahle also completed the acquisition of Spanish electronics specialist Nagares SA in late 2017 to develop a comprehensive portfolio for electromobility that includes control and power electronics for electric auxiliary components and thermal management systems along with power converters and battery charging technologies.

Electronic systems are fast emerging as an integral part of modern vehicles. Kalra said the future powertrain will be a host of interconnected hardware and software that will communicate intelligently within the vehicle. After the acquisition of mechatronics specialist Kokusan Denki in 2015, Mahle now enjoys complete access to various technologies such as electric DC motors for anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic stability control (ESC) units as well as brush-less DC (BLDC) motors for steering assistance and also ignition components, alternators, fuel injection systems for smaller engines that find application in motorcycles and small commercial vehicles.

In 2014, the company had also acquired the Letrika Group and is fully geared-up now to serve a whole gamut of products for conventional as well as e-mobility, Kalra, asserted.

STEPPING UP R&D NETWORK

Mahle also inaugurated a new R&D centre in Valencia, Spain in late 2018 that will precisely focus on development of vehicle electronics for sustainable mobility. Power electronics and software solutions such as electric drive systems and auxiliary components, charge management systems or heating and cooling systems will be developed at the Valencia centre, stated the company. As far as India is concerned, Mahle Engineering Centre will be engaged in design and development of new products, using state-of-the-art computational techniques for simulation, CFD and design tools (such as SAP-PLM) and CAD applications such as Catia. According to Kalra, the team is not only engaged in the development phase but also supports global customer programmes through its project management office and is undertaking support functions such as sourcing, procurement and logistics. The company aims to reap frugal engineering capabilities of Indian engineers and expects to double its team strength over the next five years. Mahle India is also keen to undertake projects across all business units and aims to lead in new areas such as mechatronics, embedded software and firmware development.

ROUND-UP

Overall, the year 2019 continues to be a tough one for the industry as subdued demand continues to plague sales numbers across the automotive segment. Mahle India is ready to support the automotive industry to graduate to BS VI emission norms and there is a general line of thought that all stakeholders must work together to ensure everything is in place before the April 2020 deadline. However, sounding a note of caution, Kalra pointed out that although the new emissions norms come with a lot of challenges and will be painful for the automotive industry, it will be for the larger benefit of the consumers, citizens and the industry. He added that the adjustment to the new norms might take up to six months before rationalisation kicks in.

TEXT: Anirudh Raheja