GKN has developed the world’s first Disconnect All-Wheel Drive System for A-, B- and C-segment vehicle platforms, which improves fuel economy during steady state cruising by up to 4 per cent. The innovative Disconnect function enables vehicles to combine the enhanced traction, dynamics and stability of all-wheel drive with improved on-highway fuel efficiency.
On 3 February, Germany’s Continental AG took over full ownership of its joint venture, Zytek Automotive. It previously had a 50 per cent shareholding in the Fradley Park (near Lichfield) company, and following the buy-out is operating it as a part of the Continental Engineering Services (CES) organisation in the United Kingdom. Neither Continental nor former joint venture partner Zytek have disclosed the price paid for the 50 per cent share in Zytek Automotive.
Bentley has announced plans to expand the workforce at its Crewe headquarters by 100 people as the site becomes a “centre of excellence for all VW Group W12 engines”. The move will see the UK manufacturer produce up to 9,000 W12 engines per year, exporting units for the first time in its history. To manage increased production demand, Bentley will employ a further 100 people in 2014 as part of the £800 million investment programme it announced last year.
Continental has been named an ‘Excellent Development Partner’ by Tesla Motors, the US-based electric vehicle manufacturer. The acknowledgement from Tesla was given as a result of Continental’s collaboration and development of specialty tyres for Tesla’s Model S electric saloon. The tyre maker announced in August that it was supplying its ExtremeContact in size 245/35 R21 for the 21-inch rim Model S option sold in North America; now Conti reports that for global markets it has developed an XL version of its ContiSportContact 5 summer tyre in size 245/35 R 21 XL 96 W.
Northampton power train supplier Cosworth has announced the completion of the first part of its multi-stage power package for Subaru’s FA20 powertrain. The Stage 1 upgrade brings together a fully tuned stainless steel exhaust system, a bespoke four into two into one exhaust manifold, a high-flow sports CAT, a high performance panel air filter and a specially mapped ECU program to ensure all these components work together in perfect harmony while conservatively improving power by approximately 24hp over the original equipment. The FA20 features in the Scion FR-S (Toyota GT86) and the Subaru BRZ. Cosworth is currently exhibiting the Stage 1 Power Package at Booth #23324 at Las Vegas’ SEMA Show.
Automotive supplier Continental has already conducted trials with a ‘driverless car’ in the US, and now the firm will further its work in this field through a research partnership with the BMW Group. Under this arrangement, the two German companies will pool their development capacities to define the long-term prerequisites for introducing highly automated driving on European motorways.
A hot topic at the recent Automechanika trade fair was the significant battery support needed to program the increasingly complex activities coordinated by engine control units (ECUs) in vehicles, says CTEK, a global leader of smart battery charger development.
Starting in autumn 2013, Continental will produce a winter tyre for electric cars. The company previewed this tyre, the Conti.eContact Winter, at the Geneva Motor Show and shared that it can cut rolling resistance considerably compared with its standard equivalent. “The 20-inch size was decided upon due to rolling resistance and wear criteria,” commented Alexander Bahlmann, head of media and public relations for Continental’s Tires division. “It was the best size in comparison to a standard winter tyre; rolling resistance has been reduced by 25 per cent compared with a 16-inch tyre.”
Michelin North America has opened registrations for the 2013 Michelin Challenge Design competition and announced that this latest round will address weight reduction through design – a subject the tyre maker says is “becoming a new battleground in the struggle for increasing fuel efficiency.” Participants in the 2013 Michelin Challenge Design, which is titled ‘Half! Lightweight with a Passion’, have been set the task of exploring lightweight vehicle development by designing a family vehicle.
Only last week Continental announced plans to run a joint venture operation with Korea’s SK Innovation to develop, manufacture and market lithium ion batteries systems for electric vehicles; now the German company has released a few figures outlining why it sees so much potential in the electric vehicle market. As long as the price is right.
US specialist vehicle manufacturer Fisker describes its first-ever model, the Karma, as being “the first true electric luxury vehicle with extended range” and the “embodiment of an environmentally conscious vehicle with passion, style and performance.” Along with boasting a solar panel roof and reclaimed wood interior, the Karma sets itself apart from other cars by having 22-inch wheels fitted as standard equipment. And wrapped around these massive rims are Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tyres.
Mainstream media tends to pass over Start-Stop technology and instead focuses on plug-in electric or concept cars, yet despite this dearth of attention vehicle manufacturers continue to quietly go about their business and introduce ever more micro hybrids – Start-Stop vehicles – into their model ranges. This technology is admittedly only one of a number of powertrain alternatives under development, yet micro hybrids have gained considerable favour due to the ability of Start-Stop technology to cost effectively achieve EU emission targets while still providing motorists with vehicle range and usability.
Continental has announced it is partnering with lithium-ion battery specialist Akasol Engineering in order to develop the next generation of lithium-ion technology for electric vehicles. The two German companies’ work centres on a scalable battery concept that allows for modular expansion to accommodate vehicles of varying size. The batteries under development will also utilise a fluid cooling system that uniformly cools all parts of the unit, an action that enhances battery performance, vehicle range and service life.
Two shortcomings of today’s crop of fully electric vehicles (FEV) are their limited driving range and long charging time – for the majority of motorists this pair of factors outweighs the host of environmental and cost benefits such vehicles offer. Key culprits behind these limitations are vehicle batteries, however improving battery technology alone is no panacea. To unlock the FEV market and reduce “range anxiety”, several leading automotive industry firms have partnered in a European Union co-funded project aimed at optimising how the power provided by existing battery technology is utilised.