Schaeffler presented an innovative drive unit for electric vehicles at the Electric Vehicle Symposium in Oslo. Schaeffler says that the ‘four in one electric axle’ system is compact and up to 14% more economical than a “conventionally” built electric vehicle.
Schaeffler is a major supplier of automotive components. The group with Scandinavian roots began with innovative bearings and today is working on an integrated electric drive system in which the centrally mounted unit in a single housing performs four functions: electric motor, transmission, electronic components (inverter), and thermal management.
Thermal management makes the difference
It is precisely this thermal management that is innovative. One of the main advantages of the electric drive is the extremely high efficiency of the electric motor compared to a conventional combustion engine.
The disadvantage is that hardly any residual heat is generated in the drive train. If, for example, the interior needs to be heated, energy is required from the battery. The battery also has to be preheated to charge more quickly and efficiently.
More efficient and lighter
The four-in-one system has far fewer cables to connect the components. This reduces weight and increases efficiency. In addition, the (limited) residual heat generated by the electronic components and the electric motor remains in the unit and is used to heat the interior.
For additional heating, Schaeffler provides a heat pump, which uses CO2 instead of a conventional refrigerant gas such as R1234 yc. This pump is also integrated into the drive unit. This approach makes the electric drive up to 14% more economical, giving the user a significantly increased driving range on a single battery charge.
Solution for pickup trucks
Schaeffler sees a significant future in this technology, which is currently still in the concept phase. The group also continues to supply individual components for existing customers. Work is also underway on a Beam E-axle with a three-in-one system for wide, electrically driven pickups for the North American market. The principle is similar to four-in-one but without thermal management.