ZF produced 2M electric motors; mild hybrid to fully electric drives

ZF passed the milestone of two million electric motors produced. The technology company supplies car manufacturers with electric motors for different types of vehicles, from hybrid and electric axle drives for electric passenger cars to electric mid-drives for commercial vehicles.

Already in 2008, the company was the first series production supplier in Europe to offer an electric motor for a premium mild hybrid. ZF not only expanded its product portfolio with technological innovations, but also strongly supported the trend towards electrification of passenger car drives. Especially in recent years, this has been accompanied by massive increases in production capacity. ZF has adapted to the growing number of calls and the high demand for electric mobility.

Stator production in Schweinfurt (Germany), ZF’s flagship factory for electric motors.

ZF decided years ago to deploy its own concentrated winding technology, which is now used for electric motors in hybrid applications. After 2015, when the demand for pure electric mobility started to become visible, the company focused on a new technology: the hairpin winding allows the wires to be tightened, which makes it possible to increase the power, speeds and torque with the same space.

This was necessary because, with purely electric drives, the operating speed of the electric motor is no longer coupled with the combustion engine. Hairpin technology can also increase the level of production automation. This is important when setting up high volumes and is state-of-the-art technology today.

ZF electric motors cover a wide range of applications from mild hybrids and plug-in hybrids to purely electric drive systems for passenger cars and commercial vehicles. The power range is 50 kW to 550 kW, with torques from 75 N m to 1500 N m.

To keep pace with the global increase in electric vehicle production, ZF has continuously expanded electric motor production capabilities at the main plant in Schweinfurt, Germany. In addition, the company has commissioned major production lines in Pančevo (Serbia) and Shenyang (China) in recent years. Another plant in North America is currently under construction and will enter service in 2023.

ZF supplies customers with electric motors as components, but also has the expertise to integrate electric motors into vehicle drives and supply complete systems, respectively. ZF offers complete axles and central drives including in-house developed and produced power electronics and gearboxes for purely electric drives in passenger cars and commercial vehicles.

Innovation potential. The innovation potential of electric motors has not yet been exhausted. ZF sees essential approaches in cooling. In recent years, sophisticated cooling solutions have been introduced in addition to the classic cooling jacket with water circulation.

Currently, we are developing a solution with flowing oil to directly cool the copper wire, which is the main heat source in electric motors.

—Roland Hintringer, Electric Motors Product Line Manager

Hairpin coiling will not be the last innovation in current coiling technology. With new developments on this basis, ZF positions itself as one of the technology leaders. Especially in terms of durability, ZF is setting benchmarks and developing electric motors with magnets that are almost free of critical heavy rare earths. Another example is separately excited electric motors that don’t need magnets at all.

Given the global increase in volumes and strong demand for electric powertrain technology, the next production milestone will soon be reached.

Our order books are well filled, the next two million units of electric motors will probably be produced in less than two years.

—Roland Hintringer

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