E-Motor Development at Continental

"The e-motors technology is in direct competition with combustion engines. The development engineers of the motors have not yet exhausted all possibilities to reduce fuel consumption and emissions today."

Hartmut Schneeweiss is the Director of Development Motors & Test at Continental AG, Germany.

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In a fast growing and developing market, how is your company setting itself apart?
Continental is meeting these challenges with a very innovative thinking development team. In the product development process, it is essential that all disciplines are closely linked with each other so that the result is an attractive product for the customers. Being innovative also means constantly optimizing our processes day by day.

In your opinion what major challenges is the automotive industry facing right now regarding the e-motor technology?
The e-motors technology is in direct competition with combustion engines. The development engineers of the motors have not yet exhausted all possibilities to reduce fuel consumption and emissions today. Another problem is the storage of energy. Today, the range is no longer the dominant theme. The biggest challenge in my opinion is the question of cost. When you buy a conventional car the costs are much cheaper than an e- car, based on very high volume, mature technology and excellent infrastructure. This will be relative in consumption and emissions when you drive the car. In most cases, electric vehicles driving today even with power directly from the power outlet are considerably cheaper than vehicles with combustion engines.

What impact do these challenges have on your work?
The target from the beginning must be to develop a generic modular system to achieve even attractive pricing on the market with smaller quantities per customer. Working together with the customer is to ask what I can do to increase the attractiveness of e-mobility.

What are the most intelligent systems for increasing energy efficiency?
To achieve this, it is important to analyze the system precisely. The individual components of the electric motor, battery, DCDC converters are already based on much more efficiency than the combustor systems.
But only in conjunction with an intelligent GPS system that suggests to the driver the route plan with the lowest energy consumption can really optimize the consumption values. Other components, e. g. an electric brake, will further reduce fuel consumption. This complete system know-how is what we offer the customer.

What is the motivation of Continental’s e-motor approach for automotive and commercial vehicle applications?
We generally want to help to reduce the emission levels, reduce costs all around the automobile and we want to play a leading role in the future of e-vehicle technology because the oil resources are definitely finite.

In your opinion what is the most promising e-motor design and why?
On this question there is no clear answer. It is based on the subject of costs and benefits. High efficiency is achieved with the PSM but this is paired with higher costs. An ASM is economical and robust but not as efficient as a PSM. Other concepts such as ESM and SRSM have as their advantages and disadvantages. Continental offers all types of engines to find the best system for their customer’s application.

Where do you see the future potential of the ESM?
The ESM is currently running with a larger volume in series. This means Continental is the market leader for e-motors in electric vehicles. But as remarked in the previous question the most important point are the costs. I do not think that the decision of the end user is made solely on the basis of e-motor type. Reach, usability outside the city and the cost is more the decision criteria. In this case, also the independence of the rare earth is an important criterion. In this respect, there is still a potential and our customers have already defined the cost targets for 2018.

During the first half-year of 2013 in Germany 2477 e-cars were registered, in France 4779 – almost twice as much. Why?
There are many reasons, even though electric vehicles are promoted at a premium of 7,000 Euros in France. But also for low-emission cars, the French will pay a premium of 2,000 Euros. The unattractive vehicle design, infrastructure and press releases from burning electric vehicles do not increase the positive publicity for e-vehicles. In Germany, the much higher purchase price comes to that. Most e-vehicles cost twice as much as comparable conventional cars and fuel costs are still relatively low today.

What future potential do you see for e-motors? How is your company approaching this?
Continental will continue to improve its development processes in addition to having a very good innovative team. I think these are the basic requirements for attractive products in the future to develop cost-effective and customizable products. The development of only good e-motors is not enough. Just across all of the areas of Continental, the market for e- mobility can be successfully revised and operated with the right systems.

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