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Power of 2: ZF touts new technologies for efficiency, safety and automated driving

“We are going to redefine what SUV means today so please take note!” quipped Rudi von Meister, president of ZF’s Asia Pacific operations, in his usual humorous manner.

von Meister obviously was not referring to the SUV as we know it, but rather the Advanced Urban Vehicle* concept that ZF unveiled at its Global Press Event held in Linthe, Germany on July 3. (*Note: ZF changed the official name of the concept vehicle from Smart Urban Vehicle to Advanced Urban Vehicle on July 16 to avoid confusion with the “SUV” acronym.)

The AUV is a maneuverable and emissions-free vehicle that is networked with the driver and surrounding environment, and is one of about three dozen vehicles equipped with ZF’s latest innovative technologies in the area of efficiency, safety and automated driving available for test drive at the event.

The event was held on the heels of ZF’s closing of acquisition of TRW on May 15 and ahead of ZF’s centennial in September. TRW has become ZF’s fifth division after the acquisition and ZF has become a leading global supplier in the fields of driveline and chassis technology, as well as safety and electronic systems. ZF has set efficiency, safety and automated driving as the three future strategic cornerstones for the combined company.

“We are starting from a position of strength. Both ZF and TRW have long track record of financial success and solid business plans. With global combined sales of in excess of €30 billion in 2014, we are already among the world’s top 3 automotive suppliers,” said von Meister. “Together we have the R&D firepower to develop leading edge solutions that respond to the megatrends that are currently defining and disrupting the world’s auto industry.”

AUV and HDA addresses future mobility needs

The key future megatrends identified by ZF are in fact efficiency, safety and automated driving and the AUV is a concept ZF has developed and built on its own to tackle specific issues faced with urban driving:  

mega cities such as Shanghai where there are heavy traffic, not much space and complex road situations.

The key technologies featured in the AUV that tackle these issues include electronic twist beam (eTB) with a unique front kinematic multilink front axle, Smart Parking Assist and PreVision Cloud Assist.

The all-electric drive eTB mounted close to the rear wheels features a torque vectoring function which assists movements of the front axle that can be steered at angles of up to 75 degrees, about 15 degrees more than conventional vehicles. The Smart Parking Assist allows automated parking space finder and parking itself via a push of a button in the vehicle or smart watch outside the vehicle. This feature allows the vehicle to be parked in very tight spaces, where front and rear allowable space can be as low as 30 cm. The PreVision Cloud Assist is a cloud-based advanced driver assistance system that uses experiences from previous drives and automatically brakes or speeds up the vehicle at the right timing for greater efficiency, lesser fuel consumption and more safety.

“The AUV addresses global megatrends and is not only a vehicle for featuring useful technologies for the mobility of the future, but also how ZF and our new team members at TRW can work together in order to create comprehensive integrated automotive package of our complimentary technologies,” said von Meister.

If the AUV is a solution dedicated to urban driving, then the Highway Driving Assist (HDA) is an economical and practical solution to highway automated driving for mass market vehicles.

ZF engineers stressed that the HDA uses a minimum set of sensors (radars and cameras) that achieves the same highway automated driving features already available in luxury brands but at only one-third the cost.

“You can buy a car like this later this year or maybe early next year,” said Andrew Whydell, an engineer with TRW. “We are focusing on more technology for the family car or the mass market, something you can buy next year or 2017/2018.”

von Meister believes that the track is set for automated driving, electronic and electrified drives, active chassis components, safety systems and connectivity and ZF and TRW will bring complimentary technologies. He warned, however, that automated driving will be established step by step, instead of happening all at once like the “Big Bang.”

“Beneficial automated driving is not mandatory, it depends really on the driving task at hand,” said von Meister. The AUV and HDA reflect this stance: different capabilities catered to different driving environments.


Power of2: integrated company to drive motion, mobility and safety

The full integration of ZF and TRW, which has a slogan of “Power of2,” is going to take about 3-5 years, according to von Meister.

“We are looking at processes that allow us to take advantage of the benefits of Power of2 without disrupting the unique business obligations to our customers and owners,” said von Meister. “For that reason, we first introduce TRW as an additional division of ZF.”

Over the next two years, ZF will begin to explore projects and collaboration across various parts of the business in order to identify and take advantage of synergies in cost saving opportunities as well as product development capabilities that these joint projects offer.

von Meister said in an interview that as someone with a multi-cultural background and experiences working at American, Italian and German companies along the industry chain, he is thrilled to be with ZF and play a role of “facilitator” to bridge the culture of ZF and TRW as the two companies integrate.

“I have the experience and background in automotive to be constructive having worked on the vehicle side, the truck side, the tier-one parts side as well as aftersales, so it’s kind of an interesting place to be,” said von Meister. “We have very strong leadership in different countries and businesses. What we did not have was somebody who could find ways to knit or integrate the company across the region and across the various businesses.”

von Meister believes that the key elements of what distinguishes the integration is that ZF plans to be a leader in efficiency and automated driving through joint integration capabilities and also leverage long track record of TRW as a global leader in automotive safety in order to address these key megatrends driving the auto market going forward.

“We have our driveline with chassis technologies, combined with TRW braking systems, steering and electronics, in order to deliver a full menu of chassis based technologies that will help us more flexibly and more responsibly adapt to the needs of the market,” said von Meister.


9HP to be locally produced in China

ZF showcased various versions of its core products – 8HP and 9HP automatic transmissions and Dr. Ye Guo Hong, president of ZF China, told the media that ZF is planning to localize production of its 9HP AT in China.

“We are in the middle of the process pushing for the project to be realized in China,” said Dr. Ye.

Regarding the recall of the imported Range Rover Evoque due to a defect with the 9HP, Dr. Ye indicated that ZF as a supplier has done all it can to support the recall efforts and reiterated that owners need to update transmission software to solve the problem. “Technology-wise the recall measure announced by the OEM resolves the issue with the defect,” said Dr. Ye.

Dr. Ye predicted that in order for China to meet fuel consumption targets of 5L/100 km by 2020 and 4L/100 km by 2025, ATs alone will not help OEMs meet the targets.

“China is mainly a gasoline country, not diesel. That means we have to decide what kind of development we are going to do, such as hybrid, plug-in or electrification,” said Dr. Ye.

He reiterated however that while theoretically possible, it does not make sense to endlessly increase the number of gears to 10, 11, or 12. “From an efficiency point of view, Volkswagen’s 10-speed DCT is not so much more efficient than ZF’s 9HP AT because the gear differential ratio is about the same.”

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