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GKN develops all-wheel drive system for plug-in hybrid vehicles

electric all wheel drive

GKN Driveline's new eAxle technology is to enable the use of plug-in hybrid technology in smaller cars with all wheel drive.

The eAxle is an evolution of systems developed for hybrid supercars that use electric all-wheel drive to boost performance and efficiency.

GKN has secured orders for a major global platform and production is now underway at the company’s eDrive production facility in Bruneck, Italy. The first application is the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer PHEV.

GKN Driveline chief executive Phil Swash said: “GKN Driveline continues to bring the future of eMobility into the here and now. Our total focus on driveline innovation, our unmatched expertise in all-wheel drive and our 14 years of production experience in eAxles are now making eAWD viable in smaller, more affordable vehicles. From the i8 to the 2 Series Active Tourer, GKN’s work with BMW reflects our position as the development partner of choice for the coming wave of plug-in hybrids with eAWD.”

The lightweight single-speed design has a transmission ratio of 12.5:1, reducing the electric motor speed in two stages. The system generates up to 2,000Nm and 70kW of additional torque and power – enough for a vehicle’s pure electric mode to achieve speeds of up to 125km/h and for an all-wheel drive (AWD) mode that accelerates considerably faster than conventional mechanical AWD systems.

GKN Automotive president of engineering Peter Moelgg, said: “GKN’s eAxle technology is passing a key milestone in its evolution at a time when the demand for all-wheel drive and plug-in hybrids is strengthening. This latest system advances the business case for electric all-wheel drive capability in hybrids. A number of automakers are introducing our technology on their premium models and starting to transfer eAxle hybrid versions of higher volume models.”

The eAxles transmit the electric torque directly to the vehicle’s wheels, providing more immediate response and dynamic acceleration. Input speeds of 14,000rpm are now possible and are expected to exceed 20,000rpm in the next few years – far higher than is possible with hybrid transmissions.

GKN launched its first eAxle applications in 2002. The company was awarded Official Porsche Technology Partner status for its contribution to the plug-in hybrid Porsche 918 Spyder program. It launched the world’s first two-speed eAxle in the plug-in hybrid BMW i8 and also supplies the eAxle on the Volvo XC90 T8 Twin Engine PHEV program. 

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