Sustainable products and technologies
- Schaeffler offers innovative mobility solutions as well as solutions for industry and the energy sector
- The company actively supports its customers in designing environmentally and climate-friendly products and technologies
Shaping the mobility of the future
patent applications filed2)
Part of GNFK StartThe Schaeffler Group offers innovative, environmentally and climate-friendly products and technologies. The company employs 7,784 people1) in research and development (R&D) at 20 R&D centers and other R&D sites. The extent and success of its innovation activity is illustrated by the number of patent applications2) submitted to the German Patent and Trademark Office based on inventions reported throughout the Group. 2,057 patents have been submitted in 2019 (prior year: 2,417). This achievement was also recognized by the nomination for the JUVE Award as the In-House Team of the Year for Intellectual Property (IP).
Schaeffler focuses its innovative strength across divisions on four focus areas where growth potential has been identified: “eco-friendly drives”, “urban mobility”, “interurban mobility”, and “energy chain”.
Energy efficiency, resource consumption, and system reliability are key issues in all transport sectors, but also in many industrial processes. They also affect the upstream energy chain since sustainable mobility and industrial production will ultimately only be achieved with energy from renewable sources.
Customers and users must be able to fully rely on the performance and durability of the products. To ensure this, the company continues to develop its quality management system.
Fundamental to the Schaeffler Group’s R&D activities is the goal of helping to shape the mobility of the future with safe, economically successful products and technologies produced in an ecologically and socially responsible manner. This goal is anchored in the company strategy via the four focus areas described below.Part of GNFK End
Focus areas “eco-friendly drives”
Part of GNFK StartSchaeffler is working on a variety of technologies that will make the mobility of the future more sustainable and efficient. With innovative ideas, creative engineering, and comprehensive manufacturing expertise, the company is developing solutions for combustion engine driven, hybrid, and all-electric powertrains.
Based on market analyses, a scenario was developed with the “Schaeffler Vision Powertrain” indicating that in 2030 around 30% of new cars will be equipped with internal combustion engines, 40% with hybrid powertrains, and 30% with purely electric powertrains on average worldwide. Therefore, a holistic view of the powertrain and the interaction of electric motors, internal combustion engines, transmissions, chassis, and the associated infrastructure is of high ecological and economic importance. Based on the degree of electrification – micro, mild, plug-in hybrid, or pure electric vehicles – Schaeffler is developing new solutions in the engine, transmission, and electric drive subsystems in a powertrain matrix. This includes electromechanical actuators as well as 48-volt hybrid technologies and efficient electric drives.
According to the aforementioned scenario, 70% of all newly registered vehicles will have an electric drive in 2030. Therefore, Schaeffler sees e-mobility as one of the key opportunities for the future. In addition to Industry 4.0 and Digitalization, it represents a cornerstone of the strategy “Mobility for tomorrow”. As part of the “Agenda 4 plus One”, Schaeffler has created a dedicated business division for its e-mobility activities. A majority of the products and system solutions for hybrid and all-electric vehicles are managed centrally from the e-mobility business division.
increase in revenue in the business division e-mobility
The focus on electric mobility is reflected in the development of sector-specific revenues: They increased from EUR 493 m in 2018 to EUR 676 m in 20193).Part of GNFK End
Schaeffler has established four competence centers for e-mobility since 2017: in Bühl, Germany; in Herzogenaurach, Germany; in Anting, China; and in Wooster, USA. With the competence center in China, Schaeffler is addressing the growing importance of the Chinese e-mobility market, while in Wooster, the company is working on U.S.-specific issues such as the electrification of larger cars.
The Schaeffler Group’s research-related facilities cooperate intensively with leading universities and research institutes in the field of e-mobility, including the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). At the institute, a research facility is operated as part of the “Schaeffler Hub for Advanced Research” (SHARE) program. The SHARE at KIT focuses on energy storage, electric drives, and automated mobility. Schaeffler operates four different SHARE programs worldwide.
Eco-friendly drives increasingly play an important role not only in mobility but also in industrial production. Schaeffler supports the industry in this transformation with highly efficient direct drives in machine tools that can be operated with the lowest possible energy consumption because the power can be generated directly at the point where it is needed. As a result, no mechanical transmission components are required and losses due to friction are minimized compared to conventional drives.
In modern machine tools, there are several direct drives in different swivel axes and direct-driven linear drives. Schaeffler’s rotary and linear direct drives require less power while providing the power or torque yield that is typical in the market, and they have up to 30% less power loss. This not only leads directly to lower energy consumption, but also to positive indirect effects, such as less effort for cooling the motors. Schaeffler’s loss-optimized direct drives can therefore sustainably reduce energy consumption in industrial production.
Electric vehicle innovations
Part of GNFK StartSchaeffler already offers numerous innovative products and components for specific electrification levels: The spectrum ranges from electrically operated coupling devices to components and drives for mild hybrids, in which the electric motor has only a supporting function, to completely electric drives for hybrid and entirely electric vehicles.
In early 2019, Schaeffler went into series production with the third generation of the hybrid module. To further increase the degree of integration and thus further reduce the installation space required, the start-up element is also integrated into the module. In particular, this series rollout involves a solution with an integrated torque converter developed for the US market.
Furthermore, Schaeffler entered into the production of electric motors in 2019 with a modular and highly integrated technology platform. With the acquisition of Elmotec-Statomat, a manufacturer of stators, at the end of 2018, the industrialization of electric motors can be comprehensively outlined within the company. Extensive skill sets with regard to mechanical components, manufacturing processes, and winding technologies, as well as an advanced understanding of systems for the entire vehicle, guarantee short development times and ensure smooth processes in the production of technologically sophisticated electric motors. The application spectrum of the electric motor family, trimmed for efficiency and reliability, ranges from hybrid modules and dedicated hybrid transmissions (DHT) to electric motors for electric axle drives. Voltage levels between 48 and 800 V and power classes from 15 to over 300 kW are possible. Series production for various customer projects will start worldwide beginning in 2021.
In addition, Schaeffler contributes to making e-mobility more attractive and exciting with its involvement in the FIA Formula E. At the end of the 2018/2019 season, the team achieved a strong second place. This testifies to outstanding skills in the electric-based powertrain. With the “Schaeffler 4ePerformance” concept vehicle, Schaeffler also demonstrates how innovations from the racing environment can be translated into a pre-series drive concept.Part of GNFK End
Low-emission internal combustion engines
Part of GNFK StartIn order to make internal combustion engines as low-emission and energy-efficient as possible, Schaeffler is developing friction-reducing technologies throughout the powertrain that will reduce fuel consumption, for example through innovative surface coatings. Another focus is optimizing the valve train system. The goal is to always provide the optimum amount of air at each operating point in the cylinder and thus to increase efficiency and reduce emissions. In addition, Schaeffler is expanding its product portfolio in the area of thermal management. It is used to distribute the heat flow within the internal combustion engine dynamically and according to the demand. This allows the engine to reach its operating temperature faster, among other things, which decreases fuel consumption. Individual smart actuators with central control (smart single valves) will be used for this as a standard.
Hybridization – for example by using a “belt starter generator” – can reduce fuel consumption and emissions by about 5 to 7%. In addition to comfortable and efficient start-stop operation of the engine, the hybrid drive also enables brake energy recovery.
Schaeffler conducts ongoing research on synthetic fuels produced using renewable energy sources. Since no fossil fuels are used here, these “synfuels” should be able to power internal combustion engines in a carbon-neutral manner in the future.Part of GNFK End
CO2 reduction with CNG as fuel
As part of the publicly funded “GasOn” program, Schaeffler made a significant contribution to the development of a monovalent compressed natural gas (CNG) powered internal combustion engine which enables CO2 reduction of up to 25% in the entire engine. This means that this engine map already meets future emission limits today.
Part of GNFK StartSchaeffler identifies high future potential in fuel cell technology for the mobility sector. Existing manufacturing technology capabilities are being used to develop and produce powerful bipolar plates. These plates are a central component of fuel cells. The first prototypes of a fuel cell stack have already been put into operation and scaled up to an output of 120 kW.Part of GNFK End
Focus area “urban mobility”
Part of GNFK StartAccording to United Nations forecasts, two-thirds of the world’s population is expected to live in cities by 2050.4)
The need for individual mobility will change the way that people move around the city and autonomous vehicles will play an important role. Schaeffler is providing the technical basis for this kind of urban mobility concept: the “Schaeffler Mover”. The electric vehicle, which is powered by four-wheel hub motors, forms the basis for various utilization concepts from cars to robo-taxis to autonomous driving cargo solutions. Drive and suspension components are integrated in a compact unit, the “Schaeffler Intelligent Corner Module”.
“Schaeffler Mover” awarded
In 2019, the “Schaeffler Mover” was awarded the German Mobility Prize from the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure and the initiative “Germany – Land of Ideas”. Particular emphasis was placed on the universal application possibilities for a wide variety of passenger or goods transport.Part of GNFK End
Micromobility: relieving city congestion
Part of GNFK StartIn the field of micromobility, Schaeffler is also helping to relieve congestion in metropolitan areas. Micromobility includes micro vehicles such as scooters, e-boards, and e-bikes. With the “Bio-Hybrid”, Schaeffler offers a four-wheeled vehicle with a roof that is pedaled by the rider and supported by an electric motor. To industrialize the “Bio-Hybrid”, the activities were bundled in Schaeffler Bio-Hybrid GmbH. The passenger and cargo versions were presented at the CES trade fair (Consumer Electronics Show) in 2019 in Las Vegas. The modular concept, whose market launch is planned for the end of 2020, offers numerous application possibilities – from transporting goods via a mobile coffee shop to sightseeing vehicles in the tourism sector.
Red Dot Award for the “Bio-Hybrid”
For the innovative design concept of the “Bio-Hybrid”, Schaeffler received the renowned Red Dot Award in the reporting period.
In addition, Schaeffler is working on innovative drive systems for vehicles in urban areas, called the electronic chain. This is characterized by fewer mechanical parts and therefore less wear. Because the mechanical chain is omitted, less lubricant gets into the surrounding area and the system becomes more robust. The electronic chain can help achieve a breakthrough in zero-emission city logistics, reduces maintenance costs with sharing concepts, and enables economical fleet operation.Part of GNFK End
Focus area “interurban mobility”
Part of GNFK StartIn the course of progressing urbanization, the movement of people and materials between urban centers is increasing. Schaeffler is developing increasingly low-friction and highly reliable components that help to make long-distance transport, both by rail and by air, more resource and climate friendly. Concrete developments include bearings with ceramic rolling elements, for example, which have a much lower frictional resistance than conventional rolling elements made of steel and thus reduce losses in the drives. In addition, Schaeffler is investing worldwide in appropriate production capacities to improve customer proximity and reduce transport distances.
Another development focus is on predictive maintenance and servicing of wheelset bearings for railway vehicles. According to Schaeffler’s calculations, it is possible to save at least one wheelset bearing maintenance operation, and in some cases even two, out of four to five over the life cycle of a vehicle. This allows the number of maintenance operations to be minimized, which in turn saves resources for cleaning and greasing the bearings. As a result, vehicles can be used longer or their power reserves can be more fully utilized, which leads to a significant reduction in maintenance costs. This is not only more cost-efficient than replacing the old bearings, but also results in shorter delivery times. Schaeffler has drawn up its own life cycle assessment in which the complete product life cycle of a standard wheelset bearing was analyzed using special assessment software and compared with the bearing refurbishment.
Around 95% of CO2 emissions can be saved by reconditioning wheelset bearings compared to new production. Per reconditioned axlebox bearings, this corresponds to the emissions of an air passenger traveling from Frankfurt to Crete, or a nearly 3,000 km journey in a typical middle class car with 65 kW.
Schaeffler has created its own brand called X-life to identify particularly high-performance bearings for industrial applications. Thanks to an optimized internal design, X-life bearings achieve longer operating lives, lower friction and lower bearing temperatures under the same operating conditions. The lubricant is also subjected to less stress. Alternatively, the increased performance capacity of the bearings can be used to optimize installation space and thus reduce weight. Rolling bearings in X-life quality are widely used in rail vehicle applications, for example in wheelset bearings, drives, and traction motors.
The operating life of rolling bearings can be significantly extended or the load even increased with special materials as well. The carbonitrided high-performance Mancrodur rolling bearing steel is also suitable for wheelset bearings. The combination of high-performance steel and special heat treatment results in approximately 30% more load carrying capacity and thus offers a more than doubled nominal service life.Part of GNFK End
Focus area “energy chain”
Part of GNFK StartThe move away from fossil fuels and the transformation of mobility require a profound change in the entire energy sector, creating new market potential. It ranges from generating energy to providing energy to concepts for energy use. Schaeffler’s activities in the “energy chain” focus area are aimed precisely at these market segments.
The irregular availability of renewable energies requires new energy sources and electricity storage technologies. This is the only way to ensure the sustainable mobility of tomorrow. Alternatives such as hydrogen are becoming increasingly important. Schaeffler has recognized the potential of hydrogen technology as an energy source of the future and has developed key components for fuel cells and fuel cell stacks. Schaeffler has been a guiding member of the global hydrogen interest group “Hydrogen Council” since 2020. The international initiative consists of 81 companies from the energy, transport, and industrial sectors and aims to further advance the industrialization of hydrogen technology. In addition, Schaeffler is a founding member of the “Hydrogen Alliance Bavaria” founded in 2019. The alliance aims at further advancing climate protection, energy, mobility, and technological innovation and using the potential of hydrogen technology as the energy source of the future.
In its development work, the Schaeffler Group also relies on improved and completely new products for wind turbines. The company is one of the leaders on the world market depending on the type of turbine. The focus here is on bearings with lower friction and wear. Global investments in manufacturing capacity for these bearings are helping to support the shift towards renewable energies. In addition, Schaeffler offers monitoring systems via cloud-based software. This also increases the reliability of the systems in this area and extends the operating times, which directly leads to better use of resources.
In rolling bearing arrangements in hydroelectric or marine current power plants as well as in pumps and compressors, there are concepts in which lubricants are avoided and rolling bearings are lubricated with media or even run dry. In addition to the goal of saving resources, the focus is on the possibility of dispensing with costly and high-friction sealing systems. Rolling bearings operated in this way have the highest demands put on the robustness of the materials used and their surfaces. With this focus, Schaeffler is participating in the Poseidon II research project from the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy in which suitable materials and special surface coatings are being developed to further improve the sustainability of rolling bearings and rolling bearing systems.Part of GNFK End
Research and development as a systematic strategy and planning process
Part of GNFK StartThe Technology function is responsible for research and development within the Schaeffler Group. Schaeffler’s innovative strength is also based on its annual cross-departmental strategy and planning process, which consists of several phases:
- The Technology Dialogue looks at current megatrends and the resulting requirements for technologies and innovations. In this way, Schaeffler lays the foundation for future development directions and products.
- In the subsequent phases – the Strategy and Planning Dialogues – the development activities are specified.
In addition, market trends are examined from an individual customer perspective. Among other things, Schaeffler organizes annual “Top Technology Meetings” with key customers. The company uses the market analysis results for its customer-specific requirements management. Customer expectations are thereby systematically translated into sustainable products and technologies.
In order to represent customer expectations in new products, Schaeffler has created a standardized product creation process (PCP). It specifies in detail which steps are necessary to develop a product that meets the requirements of all relevant stakeholders (customer, company, and legislators). This includes proof of the product functionality, stable production and logistics processes, and suitable suppliers. As part of the PCP, customer requirements for the entire product life cycle are agreed upon in writing, from production to operation and maintenance to disposal. The PCP also explicitly states compliance with sustainability criteria.
Schaeffler also works with other companies across the industry to improve the market and production conditions for future, more sustainable products. For this reason, Schaeffler is involved in the “European Association of Automotive Suppliers” (CLEPA5)). Schaeffler is involved in various working groups focusing on technology and sustainability issues such as autonomous driving, the Euro 7 emissions standard, and compliance.Part of GNFK End
1) The values reflect the workforce headcount at the end of the year.
2) Patent applications concern first filings filed at the German Patent and Trade Mark Office.
3) Previous year’s figures according to the segment structure reported in 2019.
4) United Nations: World Urbanization Prospects 2018.
5) Comité de Liaison Européen des Fabricants d’Equipements et de Pièces Automobiles.