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Continental Is Ready for Electro-Mobility
- First prototypes for productionready electric motors starting May 3, 2010
- Continental starts Europe's first volume production in 2011 in Gifhorn
- Automotive supplier manufactures all key components for electromobility
- Development for electric and hybrid technology in Berlin
Ready to head into the electromobile future: When a new national electrocar initiative is kicked off in Berlin, it will practically be a home match for the international automotive supplier Continental, since a key center for the company's global development of electric drive and hybrid technology is located in Berlin Moabit. Some 280 highqualified specialists create the basis for the announced paradigm shift in individual mobility. If things go according to the wishes of the German federal government and its "National Development Plan for Electro-Mobility", one million electric vehicles will be on the road in Germany by 2020. At the plant in Gifhorn, Lower Saxony, prototype production will start on May 3, 2010, for the electric motors that will soon be going into volume production.
"In view of the current developments relating to the electric car, it is obvious that the race for the drive of the future is in full swing. This however now requires enormous investments, so there needs to be coordinated cooperation between all powers, i.e. the economy, politics and science. Therefore my appeal to political circles: the required framework conditions must be guaranteed for decades to come. Only in this way will we as an industry mobilize enough power and gather sufficient momentum, especially in Germany," says Continental Executive Board chairman Dr. Elmar Degenhart.
The industrialization of the new drive technology has already become reality at Continental, which has successfully completed the step from the development labs and test applications to industrialscale production. "Continental has pushed forward with the development of core components for electromobility already since the 1990s. We have repeatedly received production orders in this field, and we are more than willing to contribute our knowledge and experience to the 'National Platform for Electric Mobility' which has now been called to life," Degenhart explains.
As the first supplier worldwide, Continental has produced lithium ion batteries since 2008 for a standard production model - the Mercedes S 400 HYBRID. These particularly highperformance batteries are used as the energy accumulator for the electric motor, which helps the combustion engine save fuel in the mild hybrid version of the S Class, turning the car into a highly efficient luxury sedan.
Continental has also already long been beyond the lab stage with its power electronics for electric drives and their batteries. The current third generation is roughly 30% smaller than its predecessor. With these compact power electronics, the supplier also manufactures the important part of an electric or hybrid car that transforms direct current from the battery into alternating current for the electric motor and, conversely, stores the electric energy generated when braking in the battery.
Next milestone: electric motors in volume production at the Gifhorn plant
Starting in 2011, Continental will produce the first complete electric powertrain for a European carmaker's standard production vehicle. "For this, we have invested €12 million in our plant in Gifhorn, Lower Saxony. The annual production capacity is designed initially for up to 60,000 electric motors. With this step, Continental is putting the third key component for electromobility into production, in addition to the battery and power electronics," said José Avila, head of Continental's Powertrain division. Under the direction of the Berlin development center, the production of C samples - automotive jargon for a technical status right before approval for standard production - is currently getting underway on the newly developed production line in Gifhorn.
"Electromobility is a very promising forwardlooking technology. That is why we are now investing in the step towards industrialization, because we want to get the technology of the electric car onto the road as soon as possible," Avila adds.
Electric motors in a class of their own
With peak outputs of 60 kW or 75 kW, our motors from Gifhorn provide impressive torque, depending on the model.
When starting from a standstill, the electric motor can perform like no combustion engine of the same weight. The Continental synchronous motor, as it is coming off the line in Gifhorn as sample, weighs in at just 65 kilogram, thanks to enormous advancements in compact and lightweight construction. In comparison, a conventional combustion engine weighs between 80 (1.2 l) and 150 kg (2.0 l) without the transmission, depending on the manufacturer and model.
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