ZF reports production of two million electric motors

22. November 2022, 7:34 Uhr | Irina Hübner
Stator-Produktion im Werk Schweinfurt, dem ZF-Leitstandort für E-Maschinen.
© ZF Friedrichshafen

The automotive supplier ZF has reached the mark of two million e-motors produced. These include e-motors for various vehicle types - from hybrids to electric axle drives for electrically powered passenger cars to electric central drives for commercial vehicles.

According to ZF's estimates, the two million units produced contribute significantly to saving CO2 emissions.

As early as 2008, the company was the first series supplier in Europe to launch an e-machine for a premium mild hybrid. Since then, ZF has both expanded its product portfolio and supported the trend towards electrification of passenger car drives - and thus the reduction of climate-damaging CO2 emissions. This has been accompanied by a massive expansion of production capacities, with which ZF has adapted to the increasing call-off figures and the high demand for electromobility.

Setting the course for the long term

»Behind our production anniversary are both long-term entrepreneurial decisions and innovative engineering spirit,« says Stephan von Schuckmann, member of the ZF Board of Management responsible for electrified driveline technologies.

For example, ZF relied early and consistently on its own technology of concentrated windings for e-machines for hybrid applications. When the increasing demand for pure e-mobility began to emerge after 2015, the company relied on a new technology: so-called hairpin windings made it possible to pack wires more densely and thus deliver more power, higher speeds and more torque with the same volume. This was necessary because with purely electric drive, the motor speed of the electric motor is no longer coupled to the combustion engine.

Hairpin technology also makes it possible to increase the degree of automation in production - an important step towards higher volumes and today's state of the art. ZF's electric motors cover the range of applications from mild hybrids and plug-in hybrids to purely electric drive systems for passenger cars and commercial vehicles. The power spectrum ranges from 50 kW to 550 kW and from 75 to 1,500 Nm in torque.

In order to keep pace with the increasing production of e-vehicles worldwide, ZF has continuously expanded e-motor production at the lead plant in Schweinfurt and has commissioned additional large production lines in Pančevo (Serbia) and in Shenyang (China) in recent years. A further plant in North America is currently under construction and will be commissioned from 2023.

ZF provides the electric machines both as components for customers, but the Group also has the expertise to integrate e-machines into the vehicle drive and to supply corresponding complete systems. For purely electric drives in passenger cars and commercial vehicles, ZF supplies complete axle and central drives including power electronics and reduction gears developed and produced in-house.

High-tech product with further innovation potential

The innovation potential of electric motors has not yet been exhausted. ZF sees major starting points in cooling, where sophisticated cooling solutions have been implemented in recent years in addition to the classic water-flow cooling jacket.

»We are currently developing a solution for direct cooling of the copper wire, the main source of heat in the electric motor, by means of oil flowing past it,« explains Roland Hintringer, Head of the Electric Motor Product Line. Current winding technology is also not yet at an end with the 'Hairpin' rod winding. Last but not least, ZF wants to set milestones in the area of sustainability and is developing electric motors that hardly require the critical heavy rare earths in the magnets, or even so-called externally excited electric motors that manage entirely without magnets.

Next production anniversary already in sight

In view of the increasing numbers of units worldwide and the demand for electric drive technology, the next production anniversary will not be long in coming. »Our order books are well filled, we will probably produce the next two million units of e-motors in less than two years,« says Hintringer.

If these two million e-motors from ZF replace conventional combustion-engine car drives, they will save emissions of around 45 million tons of CO2 over the average automotive lifetime of 15 years. To realise the same savings potential with renewable energy sources, a wind farm with 80 wind turbines would have to be connected to the grid for 25 years.

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