According to Fleet Equipment Magazine, a multitude of OEMs are taking steps to involve electrical components in their trucks and auto parts, including Cummins, Tesla, Fuso, and Chanje.
However, with this fundamental shift in priorities, new challenges for suppliers aren’t far behind. The axle is considered one of the most important components, but an electric drivetrain, without a diesel engine, relies even more on its axle for adequate power.
“For a conventional diesel truck, the power supplied to move the vehicle comes from a conventional diesel engine, with design and control remaining with the engine manufacturer,” says Ryan Laskey, vice president of driveline and commercial vehicle engineering for Dana. “The biggest difference for Dana with an electrified powertrain is that the axle controls the power that moves the vehicle. Dana takes a broader ownership of meeting the application requirements for all the markets we intend to serve.”
Most load cells use strain gauge technology. This technology is very well established and has been proven for more than 40 years. However, Hyliion recently introduced a hybrid electric system that would add an electric axle, developed by Dana, in addition to a battery pack, to the traditional diesel powertrain of a Class 8 truck. This unique system is able to determine how hard the engine is working and uses a complex series of algorithms to make decisions regarding when to store or apply electrical power. Hyliion states that this technology helps to improve fuel and emissions savings by 30%.
Laskey cites a number of challenges Dana faces when developing hybrid and electric applications. Many of these challenges involve design choices. For example, while the basic principles of induction heating have been applied to manufacturing since the 1920s, suppliers have the ability to choose between either induction motors or asynchronous motors. While induction motors cost less and aren’t as efficient, synchronous permanent magnet motors are more efficient but have a higher upfront cost.
Ultimately, John Bennett, general manager of global product strategy and advanced engineering for Meritor, says that electric auto strategies are rapidly growing and certainly here to stay.
“In some regions such as China, we are already seeing a ramp-up [of electric trucks],” Bennett says. “We expect China to be fully electric for the majority of buses in five to 10 years. North America and Europe are also expected to rapidly adopt these technologies, especially within the bus market….Beyond this time frame, we expect many other types of electric drivetrains will find their way into other applications.”