Automakers test GKN’s hybrid and AWD technology in Arctic conditions

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GKN has demonstrated a range of new hybrid all-wheel drive (AWD), AWD Disconnect and torque vectoring technologies that will make future cars more intelligent, efficient and enjoyable to drive. Representatives from a range of automakers have test driven a range of innovative drivetrain concepts at the driveline expert’s Wintertest proving ground in Arjeplog, Sweden.

“By 2025, driven by GKN advances, AWD will be the driveline of choice for many drivers and premium cars,” says Rob Rickell, president of group technology at GKN. “There has already been a major shift in the market and the public’s perception of AWD. Demand is growing strongly for AWD models based on front-wheel drive platforms – and automakers see that AWD makes hybrids and plug-ins a much more attractive proposition for consumers.”

Demand for AWD in the smaller cars of the B- and C-segments is growing steadily, particularly in markets such as China where the bestselling top-of-the-range models are often AWD. With a new generation of more fuel-efficient AWD systems now in production, drivers are enjoying the extra grip, stability and performance.

GKN pioneered the introduction of torque vectoring technology and AWD Disconnect systems and has invested in the development of hybrid AWD technologies. AWD Disconnect systems respond to driver inputs and road conditions to seamlessly switch between AWD and two-wheel drive modes, actively disconnecting components such as the propshaft and rear axle to reduce friction losses and improve fuel consumption.

GKN is the only Tier 1 supplier that can produce a complete AWD system in-house, as well as the electronics and software engineering. The company is now working with a number of vehicle manufacturers on AWD hybrids that use GKN’s innovative eAxle technology. Porsche recently awarded GKN Technology Partner Status for its successful completion of the work on the 918 Spyder plug-in hybrid supercar.

At Arjeplog, representatives from automakers experienced the latest applications for GKN driveline technologies, as well as a number of prototype systems. The low-friction ice test tracks produce on-the-limit conditions, making it easier for test drivers to access the AWD system’s full performance.

As GKN Driveline’s vice president of AWD Product Technology, Rob Genway-Haden, explains: “In back-to-back comparisons, almost everybody prefers AWD to front-wheel drive. Not everybody realises that with our latest generation of intelligent AWD systems, the difference in fuel efficiency can be around just 3%. By adding our AWD Disconnect, this can be minimized even further. Around 80% of the losses in an AWD system are frictional losses and so when you disconnect the rear axle, you remove a lot of the losses. There was particular interest in our AWD Disconnect system for A-segment platforms as it is the only scalable solution available to automakers.”

Feedback from test drives of GKN’s eAxle systems was overwhelmingly positive. A plug-in hybrid with a GKN eAxle can improve fuel economy by 30-50% at the same time as boosting performance. GKN has already supported a number of ground-breaking and commercially successful eAWD programmes, including the Mitsubishi Outlander, Porsche 918 Spyder and BMW i8.

“By adding AWD, hybrids become an even more appealing proposition to drivers,” adds GKN Driveline’s vice president of Product Technology, eDrive systems, Theo Gassmann. “Automakers see GKN’s eAxles as a way of hybridizing FWD platforms in a way that adds more value for customers. On RWD platforms, they can enable engineers to achieve remarkable things with the power distribution and dynamics.”

Among the vehicles tested and demonstrated during GKN Driveline’s 2015 Wintertest programme are the Range Rover Evoque with standard and Active Drivelines, the BMW i8 with GKN’s two-speed eAxle, the Jeep Renegade with GKN’s AWD Disconnect system for compact SUVs, and the BMW X6 with GKN’s electronic torque vectoring system. A number of development vehicles used in research programmes for automakers were also demonstrated.

March 12, 2015

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Dean has been with UKi Media & Events for over a decade, having previously cut his journalistic teeth writing and editing for various automotive and engineering titles. He combines extensive knowledge of all things automotive with a passion for driving, and experience testing countless new vehicles, engines and technologies around the world. As well as his role as editor-in-chief across a range of UKi's media titles, he is also co-chair of the judging panel of the International Engine + Powertrain of the Year Awards.

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