ZF’s first plug-in hybrid transmission has entered global volume production.
The 8-speed automatic transmission which is set to first feature in BMW’s new X5 xDrive40e comes with an integrated electric motor which will reduce standard fuel consumption by as much as 70 percent.
This announcement is significant for ZF and the industry as a whole. As a company which has consistently driven innovations both in the commercial and non-commercial vehicle sectors, ZF is emerging as a clear champion of high-performance, low-emission transmission systems in an industry which is looking to the future.
A new breed of low-emission transmission
Performance considerations have clearly played a large part in the development of this new transmission. In the newest BMW X5 model, it will provide a maximum power of 38kW (113 HP) and a torque of 250 Nm from standstill.
ZF have placed a lot of impetus on the hybrid systems ‘plug-in’ functionality and emphasised the capability for ‘purely electric driving’ (driving without the supplementary power of combustion). Accordingly, the BMW 4×4 can be driven purely electrically at a speed of up to 120 km/h and within a range of 31 kilometres.
These impressive statistics owe a lot to the technology company’s compact yet high-performing electric motor which they’ve managed to integrate into the 8-speed transmission.
“Electrifying the driveline is an essential means for ZF to further increase efficiency and significantly reduce emissions,” emphasizes Dr. Stefan Sommer, CEO of ZF Friedrichshafen AG.
“As plug-in hybrid vehicles become more prolific, consumers are exposed to the performance capability of hybrid technology in general, for which we expect demand to increase for a long time, and our plug-in hybrid transmission in particular. It makes individual mobility more environmentally friendly, more dynamic, and also more sustainable, and is completely suitable for everyday use at the same time.”
What about a hybrid transmission for the commercial vehicle market?
ZF are clearly striving for low-emission innovations in the non-commercial vehicle market, but what does the future hold for trucks, buses and other commercial transporters. The bad news is that currently, ZF offer no comparable ‘plug-in’ hybrid transmission for commercial vehicles.
This is largely because commercial vehicles tend to drive in different patterns to cars. Many commercial vehicles (particularly heavy trucks) will be travelling longer distances than their non-commercial cousins so the ‘plug-in’ hybrid technology doesn’t make a lot of sense.
There are other ZF hybrid systems which are more suitable for commercial vehicles though. The ZF TraXon Hybrid makes significant fuel and efficiency savings possible even in very heavy trucks. In particular, the TraXon system makes considerable savings possible when a truck is stuck in heavy, long-distance traffic.
While this hybrid system is still in its infancy, the future potential of the technology is clear to see. And the 8-speed automatic hybrid going into volume production represents a clear commitment to low-emission technology on behalf of ZF.