Connectors for electromobility Small, lightweight, robust

Michael Singer, Erni: »More competition can drive innovation.«

What does the market for electric vehicles look like now we are into 2018? And to what extent does it affect the connectors segment? Markt&Technik looked into it.

How the market for electromobility is in fact developing is difficult to foresee, in the opinion of Winnijar Kauz, product manager, General Industry, at Stäubli Electrical Connectors. “But the trend is slowly moving from a niche towards a mass market”, reckons the expert. Electromobility is currently driven for the most part by the Chinese market. The points system that China plans for 2019, with fixed quotas for electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, and worldwide correction of CO2 limits, reckons Kauz, will contribute to positive growth prospects. “The field of application in electric vehicles is a very broad one: Extra to electric automobiles you have an increasing number of commercial electric vehicles, and special-purpose units. On top of that there are the features of the matching infrastructure, of course. That means very interesting possibilities for us, providing solutions for electrical links.”

For Rosenberger too, electromobility is majoring: “You can’t yet estimate the full impact of electromobility”, says Christoph Luft, team leader in product management. “The number of high-volt and low-volt interfaces it takes is growing fast. The result is enormous business opportunities.”

Given recent diesel scandals and stricter fleet fuel economy directives, the expert sees increasing demand for high-volt connector systems for battery charging applications, and for powering in electric and hybrid vehicles. Added to this would be a marked trend for electric accessories like air-conditioning and heating. “There’s then extra demand in the way of connectors for applications that are already standard in conventional vehicles, and of course will also go into an EV or hybrid vehicle.”

Showing that Asia currently leads the field in electromobility, a study by the CAM (Center of Automotive Management) tells us that more than 400,000 electric vehicles were sold in China in the first half of 2018 — including commercial vehicles and fuel cell drives. In the first half of 2017 the figure was about 200,000. By comparison, 120,000 EVs were purchased in the first six months of 2018 in the USA, some 36,000 in Norway, and in Germany about 34,000.

“So electromobility has gained pace in 2018 — a trend that will speed further in the years to come”, outlooks Michael Singer, marketing manager at Erni Electronics. Aside from lighting technology, electromobility is a core automotive market of the company. Singer is not troubled about competition from Asia: “We’re a global setup so worldwide segmenting of the market plays no decisive role. We’re looking for larger numbers in the Asian arena in the coming years.” Besides that, the USA and Europe, especially Germany, were major markets for Erni — both driven hard by environmental specifics. “And more competition can drive innovation.”

“Europe’s automobile industry is highly innovative in its approach, but the biggest market and turnover growth is currently in the Asian markets”, agrees Luft. “Chinese and American automobile makers prefer sourcing strategies with regional value added, which makes directing sales and manufacturing structures towards Asia absolutely essential.” The company maintains automotive sites in Japan and China, and cooperates closely with the Asian automobile industry. “In that way when it comes to e-mobility we’re not just dependent on market developments in Europe. We can respond fast to trends and emerging opportunities in the Far East. We can develop future-outlook products and systems.” The kind of opportunities he sees is the growing need in countries like China and India to rid the cities of local emissions. “That boosts the market to electrify vehicle fleets, a development that’s bound to come in Good Old Europe too.”

Stäubli, operating internationally too, with more than 29 subsidiaries worldwide, also in Asia, with sites for development and manufacturing, has long been interwoven with resident markets. “That enables us to respond flexibly to the needs of the market, and to access its potential”, says Kauz. “Our products are conceived and designed for use worldwide. In exceptional cases it might take a little fine adjustment or adaptation to a country’s specific standards and directives.”