What was once just a minor event for a small group of customers is now the biggest customer showcase staged by Schaeffler’s Automotive Technologies division. At this year’s 12th Schaeffler Kolloquium, the automotive and industrial supplier is giving around 300 customers from Europe and beyond a close-up look at the latest technologies for the future of sustainable, efficient, and comfortable mobility. The two-day event, themed “Energizing the Next Generation,” puts the spotlight on innovations from Schaeffler’s electromobility, chassis systems, and hydrogen technology operations. Held every four years, the Schaeffler Kolloquium is a worldwide customer showcase. It kicks off in Bühl, Germany, where the Automotive Technologies division is headquartered, and will be followed in the course of the year by sister events in Detroit and San Jose (USA), Changsha (China), and Yokohama (Japan).
The successful transformation of Schaeffler’s automotive business is evident from the fact that it secured 2 billion euros of new orders in the first quarter of 2022 for its E-Mobility division alone. That comes on top of 3.2 billion worth of new electromobility projects won in 2021, adding up to an order intake of over 5 billion euros for E-Mobility in the space of just 15 months. Schaeffler’s electrified powertrain operations generated revenue in excess of 1 billion euros in 2021 – around 20 percent more than in 2020. “Sustainable mobility can be achieved only through joint effort,” said Klaus Rosenfeld, CEO of Schaeffler AG. “The Schaeffler Kolloquium underscores the close dialog that Schaeffler has always fostered with its customers. In the last four years, we have significantly strengthened our market position, especially in the electromobility sector. The 12th Schaeffler Kolloquium in Bühl and the product innovations on display proof our commitment for being the preferred technology partner for innovative mobility solutions.”
Schaeffler develops and manufactures CO₂-efficient powertrains
Schaeffler offers its customers a wide range of powertrain solutions. Electrified powertrains have been part of its core business since 2018, and its R&D operations in this area employ 2,000 people worldwide. “Our goal is to make mobility more efficient and climate-friendly,” said Matthias Zink, CEO Automotive Technologies at Schaeffler AG. “Our developments over the last few years constitute the greatest technological advance in future mobility to date.” Looking ahead, a large portion of Schaeffler’s business in electrified powertrain technology will relate to electric axle drives. One such drive is the new 4in1 e-axle, which brings together four subsystems – electric motor, transmission, power electronics, and thermal management – in one highly innovative, integrated system. Combined with an intelligent control system, this high degree of integration enables more efficient use of the thermal energy available in the vehicle, thereby increasing both range and ride comfort. At the heart of all electrified powertrains lie electric motors. Accordingly, Schaeffler is presenting a wide range of new developments in electric motor technology at this year’s Kolloquium. These include process innovations, such as an improved wave winding technology, that enable higher energy-conversion efficiencies in current radial flux electric motors. Schaeffler has also developed a new type of axial flux motor that allows it to realize electric powertrains with very high volumetric power densities and hence achieve even greater powertrain efficiencies. Schaeffler laid the strategic groundwork for its innovative electric motors back in 2018 with the acquisition of Elmotec Statomat Holding GmbH. Based in Karben, Germany, Elmotec is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of production machinery for the high-volume construction of electric motors and possesses unique expertise in winding technology. Today, Schaeffler manufactures components and systems for electrified mobility at multiple locations worldwide, including Szombathely (Hungary), Taicang (China), and Wooster (USA). And in Bühl, the company is currently building a new global flagship plant for electric motors. People are also key: In the 30 months from September 2019 to March 2022, the company’s Automotive Technologies division provided upskilling in e-mobility to some 630 of its employees.
Innovative chassis technologies as enablers of automated driving
Alongside these CO₂-efficient propulsion systems, Schaeffler is shaping the future of mobility through new chassis applications that enable highly automated driving. These include steer-by-wire, a key technology that completely eliminates the mechanical connection between steering wheel and steering gear. Steer-by-wire will in future also open up completely new design possibilities for vehicle interiors. Also on show at the Kolloquium in Bühl is the Schaeffler Rolling Chassis, a scalable platform for new, driverless mobility solutions. Schaeffler is developing these solutions via the joint venture company Schaeffler Paravan Technologies. The rolling chassis is an universal platform that enables entirely new forms of autonomous mobility for everything from passenger and freight transport to service applications, such as cleaning machines. Configurable with various combinations of powertrain and steering systems, the chassis can also be tailored to a wide range of customer requirements in terms of maneuverability and performance.
Innoplate joint venture to start production of bipolar plates in 2024
Schaeffler’s commitment to pioneering mobility also encompasses hydrogen technology, an area where the company will in future be offering bipolar plates for fuel cell stacks. To this end, the Schaeffler is establishing a joint venture company, called Innoplate, in partnership with Symbio, itself a hydrogen joint venture between Faurecia and Michelin. Innoplate will commence large-series production of bipolar plates at the start of 2024, thereby delivering improved performance, increased capacity, and economies of scale to customers. Schaeffler has been developing these bipolar plates, as well as the highly innovative processes needed for manufacturing them, since as long ago as 2017. At the Schaeffler Kolloquium, the plates are now being showcased for the first time in a demonstration vehicle. The vehicle – an electric van rebuilt from the ground up by Schaeffler – is driven by a Schaeffler 3in1 e-axle and powered by a Schaeffler fuel cell system.