The combination of rising popularity of electrified vehicles and partnership with Jaguar’s e-racing team sparked GKN Automotive to reach the milestone of its eDrive system powering more than two million electrified vehicles globally, the UK-based company announced Thursday—an accomplishment that took more than 20 years.
In an interview with Forbes.com, GKN Automotive president of ePowertrain Dr. Dirk Kesselgruber explained the growth of electrified vehicles worldwide is taking place beyond regions most often thought about as hotbeds of their popularity.
“We’ve seen the disruptive growth of electrified cars even in markets where we not have expected it that much,” said Dr. Kesselgruber. “We thought China would be the dominating transformation market, now we see
Europe is accelerating and now, let me say, with a few very attractive offerings in the U.S. consumers are being attracted to electrification. We see the market being disrupted.”
The key to GKN’s eDrive system is its ability to increase power efficiency and performance and offer customer flexibility. It’s available as a complete, fully-integrated three-in-one system inverter, motor, and transmission; two-in-one combination system; or single modules and components.
The company is also upgrading eDrive from a 400 volt system to 800 volts, Kesselgruber said, explaining, “The higher your voltage level is the higher your charging speed can be at the same current. So you can almost double your charging speed with generating the same stress on the battery speed. With fast charging you can reduce battery size. Reducing battery size is the biggest influence factor in making the car affordable.”
GKN Automotive’s long-term relationship with the Jaguar brand dates back to 1935 and has led to becoming Jaguar TCS Formula E racing team’s official partner working mainly on Jaguar’s I-TYPE 5 electric race car. It’s a relationship that has paid more than simply promotional dividends for the company according to Kesselgruber.
“In contrast to other racing it gives us the opportunity to transfer a lot of learning into civilian vehicles. The beauty of electrification is if you go high performance into extremes of or if you go small the design imperative is exactly the same, efficiency,” Kesselgruber said. “GKN engaged with Jaguar on the powertrain development. We are mainly focusing on the cooling of drive unit and are also going into the controls, the control software. We are already applying those kinds of learnings to civilian drive units in how to cool the motor, how to power module switching to gain maximum output with minimum switching losses.”
GKN Automotive is actually a unit of GKN, a company first established more than 200 years ago that evolved from a steel producer into a multi-technology company focusing mainly on the automotive industry. In 2018 it was split apart into its key divisions, including GKN Automotive, which is now its own company, according to Kesselgruber.
Its customers include 90% of the world’s automakers and it is targeting what the company terms “newer players in the industry.”
Looking ahead, Kesselgruber sees the future of vehicle electrification centering on higher efficiency along with developments in battery technology boosting charging speed while lowering costs and improving battery sustainability.
Indeed, he sees lucrative business opportunities as new technology makes EV batteries digitally smarter, predicting, “If you have a completely connected vehicle, a smart vehicle, connected to an energy storage system you can imagine the fantastic business model.”