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Valeo claims that they invented the 48V mild hybrid system 15 years ago, and are already in production in China and Europe with a “significant production ramp-up” this year. The supplier further claims that advanced orders for 48V machines will make it the number one 48V mild-hybrid supplier in the world by 2020. So is its long shot on 48V mild hybrid tech now paying off? To learn more, we spoke to Michel Forissier, Chief Technology Officer of Valeo’s Powertrain Systems Business Group.

Valeo Powertrain Systems is a EUR5 billion business unit within Valeo that accounted for some 26 per cent of sales in 2018. The business is placed #1 worldwide for electrical systems related to the powertrain and #2 for transmission systems. 

Could you tell us a little more about Valeo’s Powertrain systems business and your main R&D focus?

In terms of powertrains, Valeo is specialised in electric and electronic systems, transmission systems and engine components.

We enjoy a position of world number one in electric systems. One car out of three in the world is today equipped with a Valeo electric machine. In transmissions systems, we are world number two with all coupling devices (clutches, torque converters, dual clutches –dry and wet-, as well as passive and active actuators).

Electrification is a necessity but not at any cost.

Our strategy supports that of the Valeo Group to be focused on CO2 emissions. We are working hard to deliver solutions at affordable cost to our clients for any kind of car or mobility device. We strongly believe electrification is a necessity but not at any cost. That is why our focus is on affordable green technologies.

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The automotive industry is facing a revolution with electrification, associated with connectivity and autonomous driving. How is Valeo Powertrain addressing that?

Valeo positions itself as a leader in electrification, in low voltage (12 and 48V) but also in high voltage (typically 400V and above) thanks to our unique joint venture with Siemens.

We have the chance to have autonomous driving and connectivity specialists in our Comfort and Driving Assistance Business Group and are working hand in hand with them to develop coherent technologies for autonomous, connected, electric vehicles.

We understand that Valeo has been developing 48-volt technology as a supplement to the 12-volt electric net. What stage are you at with 48-volts and how do you see that market evolving?

We invented the 48V mild hybrid system 15 years ago, and we are already in production in China and Europe with a significant production ramp-up this year.

We produce iBSG (integrated electronics Belt Starter Generators), DC/DC converters, electric superchargers, and are developing On Board Chargers and propulsion e-motors.

We see a large growth of the market for 48V between now and 2025. This is a necessity to reduce the CO2 emissions levels of car makers, particularly in Europe and in China. It is also a necessity to feed the ever growing power demand from the vehicles.

We see 20 million hybrid vehicles with 48V technology in the year 2025.

We see 20 million hybrid vehicles with 48V technology in the year 2025. But also several million pure city BEVs using 48V propulsion systems.

We demonstrated MHEV [Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle] with BSG, electric AWD using a combination of BSG and eAxle, eDCT while embedding 48V motor inside a transmission, PHEV configuration with 48V (30 km range) as well as city BEVs  (150 km range with top speed 100 km/h). But also three-wheelers in India and soon to come robocabs and delivery droids.

To what extent is the electrification of the vehicle driving more actuation as well as new sensor technologies?

Hybrids mean two engines: ICE [Internal Combustion Engine] and electric and an automatic transmission to switch from one to the other automatically. Hence you need a lot of actuators to engage/disengage the clutch, the gear selection, the gear shifting, but also pumps to lubricate the gears and finally electric park locks to secure the car a stop. Of course, all actuators come together with controls and sensors.

Following the VW dieselgate scandal, the diesel passenger car market looks set to decline. Yet how do you see the commercial vehicle diesel market evolving over the next 5-10 years?

We think that in Europe passenger cars with diesel engines will disappear quite quickly, not only due to the dieselgate or the diesel bashing but also because cities will ban diesel for air quality. Also, turning a diesel engine clean makes it more expensive and then its value equation is not so good. Nevertheless, when it comes to total cost of ownership, diesel is still good and this is why we believe HDTs [Heavy Duty Trucks] and LCVs [Light Commercial Vehicles] will remain diesel much longer, in particular the segment of 3.5T vehicles and above. Small LCVs might be turned full electric to be allowed to deliver inner cities.

What will the next generation of FCEVs have?

FCEV [Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle] is in our opinion just an electric car with a range extender fed by hydrogen. Consequently, this is a heavier, more complex and more expensive vehicle than a battery electric. Of course it has long range capabilities that BEVs [Battery Electrical Vehicles] don’t have. We feel this would be a good value equation for long haul trucks, coaches and premium vehicles

Is there a premium that OEMs will pay for weight reduction?

Magnesium instead of aluminium is a good path to explore for lightweighting.

They all want it but they do not want to pay a penny for that! Most of what we do is to try to find lightweight materials where the total system cost would not be affected. For example, magnesium instead of aluminium is a good path to explore, because magnesium has the same cost per kilogram as aluminium, but is 27 per cent lighter.