At the 11th Schaeffler Symposium in Baden-Baden in April last year, global automotive and industrial supplier, Schaeffler introduced an urban vehicle concept called the “Schaeffler Mover” – a compact wheel module that combines the drive and chassis components of this vehicle that is designed for fully autonomous operation. The concept was presented as the company’s answer to addressing the mobility challenges in rapidly growing metropolitan areas.
While robotised vehicles are still some time away from being adopted as mass mobility solutions, the company continues to invest and innovate in more immediate challenges. Electrified mobility is bound to become mainstream in the future, but internal combustion engines still have enough juices left to be extracted – both in the conventional manner as well as through hybridisation. At the Symposium on International Automotive Technology (SIAT) 2019, the company showcased a range of powertrain solutions that improve performance, efficiency, reliability and safety.
Schaeffler is of the view that globally, by 2030, 30 % of all new vehicles produced that year will be full Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs), while another 30 % that particular year will be pure internal combustion engines. The remaining 40 % will be propelled by hybrid powertrains. In effect, 70 % of all passenger vehicles will be using at least one electric motor as a source of propulsion. The company calls it the 70-70 view, depending on where you start from, Dharmesh Arora, CEO, Schaeffler India had told Auto Tech Review in an interaction last year.
The company’s powertrain architecture is built around a six-stage matrix that ranges from P0 to P5, from conventional ICEs to BEVs that will have solutions ranging from start-stop, to micro 12 V, to 48 V, full hybrids (FHEV), plug-in hybrids (PHEV), fuel cell (FCEV) to battery electric vehicles (BEVs). We put that into the Indian context and asked Dr Roland Welter, President, BU Clutch Systems, Schaeffler AG for his thoughts. 48 V solutions as an entry point makes sense for the Indian market, he said, and believes from an OEM perspective, P2 and P3 could be attractive propositions as well.
“For plug-in hybrids, there are a lot of things to be done in India. You need reliable power supply, clean energy, enough battery loading stations – and that itself is a huge challenge. By the way, this is a challenge everywhere in the world, and no one’s ready with a solution yet,” he said.
Bearings are a difficult business, said Dr Welter, and to stay ahead of the curve, the company is working on developing devices that will be used in robotised vehicles of the future. The steering, for example, could be completely done away with from vehicles. That is where he sees opportunities. To give vehicles direction, there is a gap between actual mechanical control and digital systems. Potentially, that gap could be filled by actuators and control units, including the control software. In doing so, it must be ensured that all the redundancies and safety is built into the systems, he said.
“It needs to be dealt in a smart way. These technologies are not yet available, and we see definite potential for these to be developed for mass production and adoption. We might see some specific vehicles with low volumes bring these solutions, but if you really want to go for mass production, you need to do more. We’re trying to get into that field because it makes sense,” he said.
On being probed further, Dr Welter said work on the control units are in the conceptual stage, and they are aware of the hurdles therein. The company is now entering a phase to go for developments that are closer to mass production. He thinks this is the right time to do so, as the society too isn’t yet fully prepared for fully robotised vehicles.
One other interesting development Dr Welter spoke about was about the “Intelligent Corner Module” that enables a high degree of vehicle manoeuvrability, while at the same time offering a high level of comfort for passengers. This module combines the drive and chassis components in a compact unit, and is installed in all four wheels. The module also includes the wheel hub motor, wheel suspension including the spring system, and the actuator for the electromechanical steer-by-wire steering system.
The wheel suspension has been designed to enable a steering angle of up to 90 degrees, which allows the vehicle to be manoeuvred in narrow alleys and be parked in short parking spaces in order to let the passengers enter and exit. Its turning radius of less than 5 m makes it possible to turn the vehicle on the spot. In the Schaeffler Mover, each of the four electric motors in the wheel module – with 300 V operating voltage – supplies a continuous output of 13 kW and a temporary peak output of 25 kW. The nominal torque of 250 Nm/motor can be doubled for short periods.
SHOWCASE AT SIAT 2019
Meanwhile at SIAT 2019, Schaeffler India showcased some key future technologies and products for emission reduction and fuel efficiency. The P2 hybrid module includes a powerful electric motor, which is installed (coaxially or even axially parallel) between the combustion engine and the transmission. In addition, an automated C0 disconnect clutch is needed so that the electric motor can also be used independently of the combustion engine for pure electric driving.
The other interesting exhibit at the Schaeffler stall was the mild hybrid P0 system – a belt starter generator (BSG) used in a classic auxiliary drive. The P0 mild hybrid system with a 48 V or high-voltage BSG can be used to fulfil stricter CO2 regulations. P0 mild hybrids have high functional scope combined with comparatively minimal integration time and effort, and low costs.
In its latest generation, UniAir – the world’s first fully-variable electrohydraulic valve control system – not only makes it possible to reduce charge cycle losses, but also optimise combustion and achieve transient torque control via the air path. Schaeffler is the leading manufacturer of dual clutch transmission in the world, producing more than 4 mn DCTs per year worldwide. The electric axle drive P4 system integrates a differential with a planetary design as an alternative to the bevel gear differential. While there are no differences in terms of its functionality, in terms of installation space requirements, the Schaeffler lightweight differential offers significant benefits compared to the classic bevel gear differential.
Schaeffler claims it is already in a position to offer the automotive industry fully developed components and system solutions in the field of electric mobility, even as it continues to expand its traditional businesses. The Indian market offers tremendous potential for the company, and it is making the right moves now to ensure it is ready to deliver when demands arise.
TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah
PHOTO: Schaeffler India