CTI-Symposium China-Nachbericht – China Pushes Electrification

China Pushes Electrification

China is on the way to become a lead market for electromobility: more electric or plug-in hybrid cars are sold here than anywhere else. The CTI Symposium in Shanghai showed that the discussions on hybridization and electrification have become even more dominant, which in turn increases the interest in a new transmission category, the DHTs.


Gernot Goppelt
“China invests a lot in the electrification of drivetrains”, says Prof. Ferit Küçükay, Chairman of the Advisory Board, when asked about a memorable impression of this year’s CTI Symposium China in Shanghai. With 570 participants from 17 countries, the conference has become an established event in addition to the CTI symposia in Germany and the US. 64 presentations discussed traditional topics, such as clutches, on-demand actuation, lubrication, functional development, calibration and solutions for commercial vehicles. But the programme of the CTI Symposium also reflects the increasing importance of electrification, for example in the “Dedicated Hybrid Transmission (DHT)” session and the two blocks on concepts and components for “New Energy Vehicles (NEV)” – in other words: three of eight sessions explicitly dealt with electrified powertrains.

How much electrification do we need?

NEVs and the required transmission concepts also characterised the panel discussion, chaired by Prof. Küçükay. Participants included Michael Schöffmann, Audi AG, Mario Brunner, AVL List GmbH, Dr. Frank Zhao, Tsinghua University, Dr. Rolf Gall, ZF (China) and Peter Hartman, FCA Powertrain Technologies R&D Shanghai. The first question Prof. Küçükay asked: what are the electrification concepts China will focus on in the coming years – EV, PHEV or even FCEV, which are supported by the Chinese government under the general term NEV, or also full or 48V mild hybrids?

Prof. Zhao said that NEVs were heavily driven by regulations and that 48V hybrids were basically only a “quick fix”, i.e. an intermediate step that would not be sufficient in the long term. The driving force for PHEV in China is the demand for zero-emission mobility in city centres in order to receive national and regional funding. Mario Brunner, AVL, countered that modern 48 V solutions already offered an advantage that was almost on the level of the first generation Toyota Prius full hybrid. Furthermore, there was a demand for hybridization of cars with manual transmissions, which still take a significant share of the market. Michael Schöffmann, Audi, considered it an advantage that no special infrastructure is required with regard to service. Peter Hartman, FCA Powertrain, believed that there would also be considerable diversification in the future: for the B segment and above, he expected PHEVs, and pure electric vehicles for urban use and car sharing. The FCEV played only a minor role in the discussion since, as Mr Schöffmann remarked, its future strongly depended on the infrastructure and the production costs of hydrogen.

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Transmission architectures – more diversification

Given the variety of possibilities, the question which transmission designs and architectures will have the best chances with regard to increasing electrification remains an important issue. Michael Schöffmann explicitly excluded one design: the MT did not play a role anymore since autonomous driving would become more important with increasing electrification. Therefore, a powershift transmission hybrid transmission since it could be less complex due to less gears. In the future, manifold solutions could also be expected for the DHT. Mr Küçükay emphasized the advantages of architectures with two electric motors instead of one since more operating modes and therefore a particularly efficient operation were possible. In terms of technology, China was more diversified nowadays than for instance Europe. For example, there were more than 100 Chinese suppliers of electric cars today. Here and with regard to the development of new hybrid concepts, it could be advantageous for China that it was easier for the large number of new market participants to develop new architectures “from scratch”. The DHT could therefore be a factor in the attempt to reduce costs and weight in order to develop efficient plug-in hybrids for the Chinese market. Toyota and GM are not the only ones providing standard applications of a DHT – Sidong Luo presented a DHT from SAIC Motor in Shanghai, which uses a very simple gear set with spur gears, and is installed in the Roewe models e550 and e950. The latter one has an electric range of 60 km and a hybrid range of 540 km. As of September 2016, more than 30,000 vehicles – according to Luo – of both plug-in hybrid models had been sold. Tradition and modern technology High units of EVs and PHEVs are characteristic for the Chinese market, but also a large number of manual transmission cars. Here, they currently have a market share of approx. 59 percent – 65 percent in Europe and only nine percent in North America. In the coming years, a decrease by about five percent is expected. As the discussions at the CTI Symposium China showed, the increasing automation will result in several development lines, which are eagerly observed by the development community. Mild hybrid MT and AMT could also be a cheap option for China to reduce CO emissions. Pure electric vehicles are already much more popular than in Europe or the US. Plug-in hybrids, including solutions based on DHTs, have the potential in all markets to combine local zero-emission mobility and suitability for long-distance driving. China has taken a leading role in the mass production of EVs and PHEVs. That does not necessarily mean that the technical solutions favoured in China can be transferred to other markets, but it will probably lead to a rapidly increasing expertise in the key areas of electromobility, such as battery technology and electric drivetrain components. On the other hand, the market offers great opportunities to participate in the market development with advanced plug-in hybrid concepts. Thus, China could in turn be a driving force for accelerated hybridization in Europe and North America. was required. Rolf Gall put the idea into play that longitudinal architectures were not suitable anymore since the transmission tunnel did not match the usage behaviour in the interior of the car that would be expected with autonomous driving. With regard to vehicles with an electric range of at least 50 km, Frank Zhao considered the battery costs to be more important than the transmission concept. Mario Brunner favoured DHTs for high voltage hybrid vehicles, he even considered the idea that 48 V DHTs could be an option with future e-machines. With an eye on the future, Peter Hartman considered mild hybrid MT and AMT a reasonable solution in the low-cost range, for higher classes he still expected a wide range of transmission designs.

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China as lead market for EVs and PHEVs

At the well-attended press conference chaired by Prof. Küçükay, the topic of electrification was even more in the focus than in the presentations and the panel discussion. Prof. Küçükay explained to the journalists that there were already more than 30 different hybrid concepts today and that the number would increase rapidly in the future. According to him, there was a clear trend towards EVs and PHEVs in China. In the first half of 2016, 130,000 EVs and 45,000 PHEVs were sold – as opposed to North America and Europa where more PHEVs than pure electric vehicles were sold – of course in much smaller numbers. As Prof. Zhao already stated in the panel discussion, the incentives in China influenced the advancement of electromobility considerably since they made buying a NEV more attractive. By 2020, electric cars should reach a market share of 20 percent; however, there would be no more incentives by then, resulting in a self-supporting market. Until then, there will undoubtedly be challenges ahead: the batteries are still too heavy, but a doubling of the energy density and halving of the costs for batteries and electric components is expected for the next ten years. Furthermore, complete recycling of the batteries is not yet possible – another challenge to be met. Electric cars are high voltage systems, so particularly the safety of the battery has to be guaranteed here. Last but not least, electric cars are still 20 to 30 percent more expensive than conventional vehicles. This is not only due to the drivetrain components, but also the increased demand for lightweight design. According to Prof. Küçükay, China will play an important and leading role as a global battery producer in the medium term and therefore affect the price and technology development considerably.

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More electrification – less mechanical complexity

The journalists at the press conference showed great interest in the DHT, a new transmission category: after its first presentation at the CTI Symposium 2015 in Berlin, it has quickly been established in usage in the transmission industry. Prof. Küçükay once more presented the definition of the DHT, including the statement that the electric motor plays a central role here and that the transmission would not be functional without it. He explained that, provided that the units in production were high enough, a DHT could be cheaper than an add-on hybrid transmission since it could be less complex due to less gears.
In the future, manifold solutions could also be expected for the DHT. Mr Küçükay emphasized the advantages of architectures with two electric motors instead of one since more operating modes and therefore a particularly efficient operation were possible. In terms of technology, China was more diversified nowadays than for instance Europe. For example, there were more than 100 Chinese suppliers of electric cars today. Here and with regard to the development of new hybrid concepts, it could be advantageous for China that it was easier for the large number of new market participants to develop new architectures “from scratch”. The DHT could therefore be a factor in the attempt to reduce costs and weight in order to develop efficient plug-in hybrids for the Chinese market. Toyota and GM are not the only ones providing standard applications of a DHT – Sidong Luo presented a DHT from SAIC Motor in Shanghai, which uses a very simple gear set with spur gears, and is installed in the Roewe models e550 and e950. The latter one has an electric range of 60 km and a hybrid range of 540 km. As of September 2016, more than 30,000 vehicles – according to Luo – of both plug-in hybrid models had been sold.

Tradition and modern technology

High units of EVs and PHEVs are characteristic for the Chinese market, but also a large number of manual transmission cars. Here, they currently have a market share of approx. 59 percent – 65 percent in Europe and only nine percent in North America. In the coming years, a decrease by about five percent is expected. As the discussions at the CTI Symposium China showed, the increasing automation will result in several development lines, which are eagerly observed by the development community. Mild hybrid MT and AMT could also be a cheap option for China to reduce CO emissions. Pure electric vehicles are already much more popular than in Europe or the US. Plug-in hybrids, including solutions based on DHTs, have the potential in all markets to combine local zero-emission mobility and suitability for long-distance driving.
China has taken a leading role in the mass production of EVs and PHEVs. That does not necessarily mean that the technical solutions favoured in China can be transferred to other markets, but it will probably lead to a rapidly increasing expertise in the key areas of electromobility, such as battery technology and electric drivetrain components. On the other hand, the market offers great opportunities to participate in the market development with advanced plug-in hybrid concepts. Thus, China could in turn be a driving force for accelerated hybridization in Europe and North America.

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