How Schaeffler is helping increase the range of EV's

October 11, 2023
How Schaeffler is helping increase the range of EV's Schaeffler’s TriFinity wheel bearings cut frictional losses by 67%, a saving of more than 200 watts, which equates to around 13 miles of additional range in a fully charged electric SUV with a 120-kWh battery capacity.

Despite the rapid rise of electric vehicles, range anxiety remains the number one issue for those unsure about making the change, with every second driver in Europe listing it as one of their top three concerns they have with electrified vehicles*. 

Automotive technology experts Schaeffler, are doing a lot of work in this area as CEO Automotive Technologies Matthias Zink explains, “Schaeffler’s smart technical solutions and wide range of components and systems for fully electrified powertrains, improve the day-to-day practicality of electric vehicles, by reducing power consumption and increasing range.” 

One area where Schaeffler is using its unrivalled expertise, is in high-efficiency bearing solutions. A key way of boosting electric vehicle range is to reduce frictional losses, where energy that would otherwise be used for powering the vehicle is lost as heat through bearing friction. Schaeffler has already developed advanced bearing solutions which are meeting this challenge. A set of highly efficient transmission bearings from Schaeffler can significantly reduce friction, saving about 50 watts of energy compared to conventional solutions, boosting range or offering extra power for heating. Just as importantly, Schaeffler’s EV transmission bearings are specially adapted for the high rotational speeds of electric-drive transmission input shafts and are designed to accommodate the optimal load.

To extend range even further, Schaeffler offers TriFinity wheel bearings. Wheel bearings are subjected to immense forces during normal driving operation and are constantly in motion, rotating around 100 million times for every 70,000 miles travelled. Schaeffler’s TriFinity wheel bearings reduce frictional losses by a massive 67% compared to conventional bearings, a saving of more than 200 watts, which equates to around 13 miles of additional range in a fully charged electric SUV with a 120-kWh battery capacity. 

The triple-row TriFinity wheel bearing also offers a weight saving of about 10% over standard double-row ball bearings in the same footprint, plus a longer service life. 

Efficient thermal management, offers a major opportunity for range improvement and is an area where Schaeffler has been developing solutions for around 15 years, including supplying thermal management solutions to vehicle manufacturers.

Schaeffler is developing a portfolio of high-tech solutions ranging from versatile, multi-application components to highly integrated thermal management systems, and 4-in-1 E-Axles that combine the motor, transmission, power electronics and thermal management in a single, optimised unit. The 4-in-1 E-Axle eliminates the additional hoses and cables required by decentralised thermal management systems, so less energy is lost, and because it has fewer parts, it is both lighter and easier for vehicle manufacturers to install.

This fully integrated solution also yields further increases in range and charging speed because it keeps the powertrain, including the battery, consistently at the right temperature and also keeps the vehicle’s occupants comfortable. Thanks to the optimised interplay between its four subsystems, the 4-in-1 E-Axle can save about 1 kWh of power per 60 miles of travel in a compact electric car with a 75-kWh battery. That’s approximately 7% more range, or about 23 miles.

Schaeffler is also developing a new type of heat pump for use both in the 4 in1 e-axle and as a stand-alone component. The heat pump turns thermal energy from the surrounding air and waste heat from the motor, power electronics and battery into usable heating. This conserves battery power, which is at a premium in the colder winter months. 

Compared to a compact car with a 75-kWh battery and decentralised thermal management, the same vehicle with a 4in1 e-axle and heat pump system will use around 4 kWh less energy per 65 miles (measured in WLTC, based on an outside temperature of -7°C). That equates to a 17 percent increase in range, or a gain of 30 miles. Alternatively, that saving can be put into added comfort and safety in the form of heated seats and steering wheel, heated exterior mirrors, and a heated rear windscreen (which together use about 410 watts of power). Another advantage of the Schaeffler heat pump system is that it uses the naturally occurring refrigerant carbon dioxide (R744), which is much less harmful to the environment than the conventional refrigerant (Rf1234yf). R744 is non-combustible, has a low greenhouse gas potential, and does not damage the ozone layer. For vehicle producers and owners, this represents an investment in both climate protection and the future.

* (source: Shell EV-Driver-Report 2023)
How Schaeffler is helping increase the range of EV's The 4-in-1 e-axle integrates the vehicle’s thermal management system with the drive components of Schaeffler’s classic 3in1 e-axle (electric motor, transmission, and power electronics) to form a single efficient system.
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