Tier 1 supplier ZF said it had reached the milestone of 2m electric motors produced.

It supplies OEMs with electric motors for different vehicle types from hybrid and electric axle drives for electric passenger cars to electric central drives for commercial vehicles.

The company claimed as far back as 2008 to be the first volume production supplier in Europe to launch an electric motor for a premium mild hybrid.

“Massive production capacity increases have followed.

“Our production anniversary is backed by long term entrepreneurial decisions and innovative engineering spirit,” said Stephan von Schuckmann, head of electrified powertrain technology.

ZF years ago deployed its own technology of concentrated windings, 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 new technology: hairpin winding enables wires to be packed tighter together, which helps increase the power, speed and torque with the same space. This was necessary because, with purely electric drives, the running speed of the electric motor is no longer coupled with the combustion engine. Hairpin technology can also increase the level of automation in production.

ZF’s electric motors now cover a broad range of applications from mild hybrids and plug in hybrids to purely electric drive systems for passenger cars and commercial vehicles. The performance range is 50kW to 550kW, with torques of 75Nm to 1,500Nm.

As demand rose, the supplier has continuously expanded production capacity at the lead plant in Schweinfurt, Germany and also commissioned major production lines in Pancevo, Serbia, and Shenyang, China in recent years.

Another plant in North America is under construction and will go into operation in 2023.

ZF supplies electric motors as components but also has the expertise to integrate electric motors into vehicle drives and supply whole systems. It also offers complete axle and central drives including self-developed and -produced power electronics and reduction gear units for purely electric drives in passenger cars and commercial vehicles.

Oil cooling coming

In recent years, sophisticated cooling methods have been introduced in addition to the classic cooling jacket with water flowing through. “Currently we are developing technology with oil flowing past to directly cool the copper wire, which is the main heat source in electric motors”, said Roland Hintringer, head of the electric motors product line.

Separately excited electric motors which don’t need any magnets are also in the works, reducing the need for precious metals.

“Our order books are well filled, the next 2m units of electric motors will probably be produced in less than two years,” added Hintringer.