- Published in Q&A.
What’s your main focus at the moment?
“ One of the main areas we’re working on is to make our technologies more efficient and lighter, and doing that cost-effectively. We’re also developing driveline systems and components for electric and hybrid vehicles. This is being driven by the desire to reduce CO2 emissions, which is being driven by stricter legislation.
What development work are you doing on gasoline and diesel technology?
“ We have improved driveline components to enhance overall drivetrain efficiency. With our CV-jointed side shafts we can improve efficiency by 1%. If we improve the efficiency there it directly improves fuel efficiency in the vehicle by the same level, and reduces emissions by 1% as well. Combined with the work car manufacturers are doing on internal combustion engines, it means they’re able to get below the 130g/km CO2 emission requirements.
These small steps in conventional drivetrains are leading to much more fuel-efficient vehicles that meet the legislation, without having to go to hybrid or electric.
How is the move from rear-to front-wheel drive affecting your business?
“ As with most of these things, it offers opportunities. As more manufacturers move to front-wheel drive vehicles then we can provide more components. Looking at the new electric vehicle architectures that are coming out and low-cost vehicles, there’s a trend in the other direction as well. For example, the Tata Nano is rear-wheel drive.
If you look at some of the electric vehicles we will be supplying in the near future, they’ve also gone to rear-wheel drive with a single rear-mounted electric motor and our transmission and drive shafts. The interesting thing that is happening in the market is the number of very different platform solutions. It’s not clear that everything will go to front-wheel drive; there are a number being offered in rear-wheel drive and also in all-wheel drive solutions.
How is all-wheel drive technology developing for smaller vehicles?
“ We’ve recently developed the all-wheel drive system for the low-cost Dacia Duster, based on a Logan platform. Obviously, it was a challenge to be able to meet the requirements of designing and building an all-wheel drive system on a very competitive cost base. We’ve also done the same with some all-wheel drive vehicles we’ve built up in Japan, where we’ve used what we call an electric axle solution. They’re conventional front-wheel drive vehicles with a small auxiliary axle on the rear to offer all-wheel drive capability, but, again, at a low cost for a small vehicle.
With more and more small vehicles on the market, we have to be able to offer smaller, lighter drivetrains and CV-jointed side shafts for them as well.
What relationship is there between the technologies you develop for motorsport and those used in passenger vehicles?
“ Clearly the desire to have light weight and high efficiency is always going to be part of motorsport and we do supply a number of motorsport applications. But the vast majority of motorsport components are machined from solid titanium and it’s unlikely that components in the high-volume car market will ever be made out of titanium. However, the other thing we supply is carbon fibre and composite materials, and we continue to look at them in terms of automotive applications. We are investigating suspension and structural components.
How do you see transmission technologies changing over the next decade?
“ With the change to electric and hybrid drives we will be supplying quite simple transmissions which are one- or two-speed. That’s a significant change compared with the shift in the other direction with the use of seven- and eight-speed transmissions, which we traditionally don’t supply.
It’s interesting for us in that we can supply these transmissions because of the use of electric motors that have a very flat torque characteristic, enabling almost maximum torque across the speed range, and therefore not needing a multi-stage gearbox. ·