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20/04/2021 - 22/04/2021

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Schaeffler unveils compact 48V electric drive module for hybrid electric vehicles

Schaeffler unveils compact 48V electric drive module for hybrid electric vehicles
Bearings and automotive component and systems supplier Schaeffler has developed a range of innovative systems for future passenger vehicles equipped with onboard high-performance 48-volt electrical systems.

The core element of this range is a compact 48V electric drive module that includes a clutch and planetary transmission, which can be placed either on the front or the rear axle of the vehicle.

The drive module paves the way for the economical hybridisation of vehicles. The low-voltage design reduces costs compared to high-voltage solutions with their associated requirements. This economical hybridisation allows significant advances to be made in terms of increased drive efficiency, as the use of a 48V electric system opens up operational possibilities that were previously the exclusive domain of vehicles equipped with high-voltage hybrid components, including "crawling" in traffic jams - electrically powered driving in dense inner-city traffic, i.e. moving off, driving at low speeds, and parking using electric power. In addition to electric 'boosting' during starting and electric 'sailing' - a driving mode in which the electric motor ensures constant speed while the internal combustion engine is switched off - the system also enables recovery and storage of energy during deceleration, which is key in terms of reducing fuel consumption.
The electric drive, which has an output of up to 12kW, acts as the hybrid vehicle's sole source of power when "crawling" in stop-and-go traffic. The electrically generated propulsion of Schaeffler's 48V drive module is also sufficient for driving in residential areas, parking in garages and for other low speed driving situations. This is also true of the comfortable driving mode known as "sailing", in which the electric motor ensures virtually constant speed across a wide operating range while the internal combustion engine is switched off. The electric drive assists the internal combustion engine by providing additional torque, or "boosting", for example, when moving off from traffic lights.

The high performance of the 48V system also means that the drive element opens up new potential for energy recovery. Due to the higher recuperation capability, the kinetic energy released during deceleration is now no longer converted into heat that subsequently dissipates - as was previously the norm - but is instead fed back into the onboard electric system in the form of electrical energy. Therefore, a hybrid solution with combustion engine and 48V system proves to be advantageous when generating electricity from braking energy.
"Using a 48-volt solution today makes it possible to achieve outputs of up to twelve kilowatts," summarises Prof. Peter Gutzmer, CTO at Schaeffler. "This entry-level form of hybridisation therefore already offers the essential advantages of a hybrid vehicle while simultaneously providing an economically attractive, low-cost option that allows CO2 emissions to be reduced by up to 15 per cent."
"The fact that the drive unit is connected directly to the prop shaft in rear-wheel drive vehicles prevents drag losses by the internal combustion engine. We can therefore achieve maximum efficiency and enable driving situations that were previously only offered by hybrid vehicles with significantly more complex designs," explains Dr. Tomas Smetana, Vice President Product Group Electric Axle Systems at Schaeffler. "Our combination of an electric motor and transmission also allows the flow of force to be distributed selectively, drive torques can be superimposed, and even torque vectoring - the variable distribution of torque that serves to increase driving safety - is possible."
In its current configuration, the cylindrical component of the drive module is 235mm in length with a diameter of 165mm. This compact design means that the module can easily be integrated into the drive train and overall design of the vehicle without any space having to be sacrificed by the boot space or fuel tank. 
Vehicle manufacturers that decide to install a second low-voltage on-board electric system (48V in addition to the standard 12V system) can also integrate other suitable high-performance innovations into the vehicle. These include high-performance, rapid-reaction actuators for the chassis. These allow the ground clearance to be regulated according to the driving conditions and terrain, which has a positive effect on the vehicle's aerodynamics and therefore on its fuel consumption. In addition to high performance due to the higher voltage range, a second on-board electric system also offers the advantage of smaller cable cross-sections. This reduces weight and facilitates the integration and installation of the cable harnesses in the vehicle. 
A range of other functions that push today's standard 12V systems to their performance limit can now be practically integrated into the architecture of a 48V system. These range from mechanical tensioners for 48V belt-driven starter generators, to a number of electromechanical adjusters for clutch, steering, roll stabilisation, self-levelling suspension, hybrid modules, axle drive solutions and electromechanical torque vectoring units.

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