The only way forward
To increase the range of electric cars, it is not enough to improve battery technology alone. ZF has now announced particularly efficient drives that will be based on a modular concept with electric motor, inverter, transmission, and software.2 Dec 2022
If you regularly follow developments in the field of electromobility, then you read at least as regularly about imminent quantum leaps in the field of battery technology. Despite the actual progress that has been made, however, these leaps have so far been much smaller than hoped for and have often failed to materialize altogether. It would therefore be wise not to back just this one horse in order to tackle the "range problem" that is still firmly cemented in many people's minds. ZF Friedrichshafen AG from Lake Constance has therefore now presented new drivetrains for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles which are supposed to have a high power density and energy efficiency despite their small dimensions.
All good things come in threes
According to ZF, this is to be achieved with the help of numerous innovations on the component as well as on the system level. On the one hand, the driveline design is up to ten percent more compact, which is made possible in particular by a cooling solution that increases the power density. In addition, there is the so-called "discrete approach" for the power electronics and a resource-saving use of materials, as a result of which the production of the drives should also become more sustainable. The completely modular concept is designed to help automakers drive forward the electrification of their model range in a special and individual way in the future. The end customer, in turn, will benefit from higher efficiency, more power and shorter charging times.
"We rely on three basic systems that almost perfectly meet the main requirements of our customers, namely efficiency, performance, and costs, even in the standard version," explains Markus Schwabe, Product Line Manager Electrified Powertrain Systems at ZF. "On this basis, we can optimally implement further individual customer requirements in e-vehicles of all segments."
Effective converters with a balancing nature
However, it is not only battery-powered electric vehicles that benefit from the envisaged innovations at ZF: In fuel cell-powered electric drives, high-voltage converters (DC-DC converters) play an essential role, as they compensate for the low output voltage and the strong voltage drop during high load of the fuel cells. The new high-voltage converter from the ZF power electronics platform, which has been developed for passenger car and commercial vehicle applications, is said to achieve an absolute top value of 99.6 percent in terms of efficiency.
The future is near
The innovative electric drives are not yet available as a complete system. According to ZF, this will be the case from 2025 at the earliest. Individual components, however, would be available sooner due to the demand from manufacturers.
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