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ZF Forms Electrified Driveline Business

New unit combines former powertrain and e-mobility divisions
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“The future belongs to the electric drive,” declared ZF executive Stephan von Schuckmann during a virtual conference (video above) in late June.

The statement is especially noteworthy, considering von Schuckmann heads the supplier giant’s Car Powertrain Technology Division. It also provided some strong foreshadowing.

Electrification Plans

On July 29, ZF announced plans to create a new business unit to better reflect the industry trend toward electrification.

                            Stephan von Schuckmann (Image: ZF)

Due to launch Jan. 1, the electrified driveline business will combine ZF’s current Powertrain and E-Mobility divisions. Von Schuckmann will head the integrated unit and succeed manufacturing expert Michael Hankel, who is retiring after 17 years with the company, on ZF’s board of management.

At the end of 2018, Powertrain Tech employed more than 20,800 people and generated annual sales of €8.6 billion ($10.1 billion). That’s more than twice as many employees and nearly four times the revenue of the E-Mobility business.

Separately, ZF is said to be considering divesting its 40% stake in lidar specialist Ibeo. Media reports note a sale would help the supplier reduce a growing debt load it has accumulated from various acquisitions, including this year’s $7 billion deal to buy Wabco.

Changing Focus

ZF expects vehicles with stand-alone combustion engines to shrink from 90% of the global new car market today to 61% by 2030.

                                                                                                          (Images: ZF)

By that time, the supplier predicts, pure EVs will account for 24% of the market. The remaining 15% will be comprised of plug-in and traditional hybrids.

Von Schuckmann says the bulk of the future non-hybrid applications will be teamed with 48-volt mild-hybrid architectures. Such systems serve as a bridge technology and will help carmakers meet increasingly stringent emissions and fuel economy standards.

What’s Next?

ZF is taking an even more aggressive electrification approach than the overall industry.

“Our committed goal is to grow faster than the market,” von Schuckmann says.

This means being at the forefront of electrification. High-voltage components currently account for 12% of ZF’s passenger car drive technology. By 2030, such products are expected to represent more than half of that business.

Today, only 27% of the company’s product portfolio is solely dependent on an ICE drivetrain. Moving forward, ZF says it will no longer develop these types of components.

This doesn’t mean the company is immediately phasing out any product lines. But all next-generation systems must be electric or hybrid capable, this includes electric axle drives and hybrid transmissions.

The focus will be on long-range plug-in hybrids and full EVs. “With our modular systems, we offer customers flexibility they need in the foreseeable future and help them to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions,” von Schuckmann says.

“The pace of change toward sustainable action must accelerate even further,” he asserts. “There is no pause, no hesitation, no turning back.”

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