Conti Partners in CV Hybrid Battery Project
Continental is working together with two other companies on a project related to lithium-ion batteries for commercial vehicles. Specifically, Continental, along with automotive suppliers ZF Friedrichshafen and ads-tec, are embarking on a joint project to develop production techniques for optimising the pre-assembly and final assembly stages of lithium-ion energy storage unit modules for use in hybrid commercial vehicles. This joint project, titled “FUEL” or “Future goes Electric”, is being sponsored by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of a government economic stimulus package.
According to Stefan Lorenz, head of Energy Management Hybrid & Electric Vehicles in Continental’s Powertrain Division, “the objective of FUEL is to develop innovative manufacturing technologies and to apply them to the new lithium-ion energy storage units being produced for trucks and buses. It is also intended to emphasise the German automotive industry’s aspiration to secure for itself over the long term a global lead in the intensively competitive emerging market for hybrid and electric drive systems.”
While the lithium-ion technology pursued by Continental is already being deployed in the first series production passenger cars, its application in commercial vehicles, especially trucks, presents particular challenges in terms of power output, service life and environmental requirements. The joint FUEL project is intended to facilitate development that will enable the manufacture of energy storage units to hybridise the commercial vehicle sector. As the hybrid systems supplier, ZF is responsible for integrating the energy storage unit into the overall system. ZF will develop and carry out testing to ensure that the lithium-ion battery technology and the other hybrid components are capable of meeting the rigorous demands of the commercial vehicle sector. Continental will take on the majority of the core work, such as the development of the battery components including production-optimised product design and the essential manufacturing, assembly and test procedures. As the third company involved in the project, ads-tec is responsible for developing and trialling automated production and testing technologies.
“All the partners in the FUEL project are developing the basis for new production engineering skills in the manufacture of energy storage systems for hybrid commercial vehicles”, explained Thomas Speidel, managing director of ads-tec. “The whole project implementation demands a high degree of simultaneous engineering, including the simultaneous development of new assembly and joining procedures. If validation throws up problems, we cannot rule out the possibility that this will require adjustments to procedures or design changes to the components affected.”
Once the government-funded project comes to an end in the summer of 2011, further technical development of the results it has achieved will be pushed forward to the point of commercial production. The plan is to develop an energy storage unit which can be flexibly integrated into a variety of vehicle designs. One energy storage system produces 60kW, more power than lithium-ion batteries currently used in passenger cars can deliver. Light trucks, used for local deliveries in urban areas, will utilise a hybrid drive fitted with an energy storage system designed to boost the petrol or diesel engine, especially when starting off and in the low engine speed range. Two energy storage units combined into a single system producing a total of 120kW will be used in city buses – the aim is to enable these vehicles to start off in purely electric driving mode.