Why does technology leadership matter? For GKN Automotive, the company’s first mover advantage in electric axle drive technology is all about building the momentum needed to push technologies out of premium niche vehicles and into mass production.
After developing a high-performance electric axle (eAxle) module for Porsche as the company’s official Technology Partner for the Porsche 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid super car and the world’s first two-speed system for the BMW i8, GKN Automotive’s priority was to evolve the system for higher volume production.
As a result, a series of new C-Segment vehicles will offer consumers the option of adding plug-in electric all-wheel drive using GKN Automotive’s modular eAxle technology.
The first application is the plug-in hybrid BMW 2 Series Active Tourer 225xe, and a series of additional models that share the same platform will also benefit from the technology.
GKN Automotive’s global development teams worked together to make the technology viable for compact car applications. The entire unit weighs just 20.2kg and has a length of 457 mm, a width of 229 mm and a height of 259 mm, facilitating packaging and installation in confined spaces.
The simple single-speed design has a transmission ratio of 12.5:1, reducing the electric motor speed in two stages. Gear and bearing arrangements have also been optimized for production, efficiency, noise, comfort and durability.
It generates up to 2,000Nm and 70kW of torque and power. That’s enough for a vehicle’s pure electric mode to achieve speeds of up to 125km/h – and for an all-wheel drive (AWD) mode that accelerates considerably faster than conventional mechanical AWD systems.
When hybrid operation is not required, an electromechanical dog clutch disconnects the e-machine from the driveline, preventing over-speeding and unnecessary losses. Precision engineering throughout the system and GKN Automotive’s control software ensure transitions between pure electric, hybrid and ICE modes are transparent to the driver.
The system is a breakthrough in terms of performance, size and cost. For front wheel drive vehicle platforms, electrifying the rear axle is now the most effective way to hybridize.
For GKN Automotive, technological leadership is not just about taking electric axles from super cars into the C-segment. It’s about being the supplier that enabled automakers to make plug-in hybrids viable for their compact car range.