Technology development

Overview

Technology has differentiated GKN for centuries, and not only an ability to innovate in terms of product, but also a drive to improve the process, ensuring we can make more, more cost effectively and still retain unmatched levels of quality.

We are widely known as the world’s largest and most technology advanced driveshaft manufacturer, but we have a huge range of capabilities honed across both automotive and aerospace industries.  From All-Wheel Drive and electrified drivetrains, we are also leaders in composite design and manufacture and additive manufacturing technologies.  Our partnership with Panasonic Jaguar Racing gives us an opportunity, a challenge, to “make the car faster”, and in so doing to develop the next generation of automotive drivetrain technologies.  If there is one thing we have learnt about challenges over the last 250 years, it’s that they always bring out the best in us.

Driveshafts

Driveshafts

The challenges with electrified drivetrains differ significantly from traditional internal combustion engine powered vehicles. In road cars, refinement is crucial as quiet electric motors allow occupants to hear noises created by other systems.

Another challenge is that torque is transmitted in both directions.  To provide drive, and, during deceleration, to recuperate energy, charging the battery.

Driveshaft 2

In a race car the noise element is less of a concern, but refinement remains key, particularly when switching from drive to energy capture.

A driver wants maximum efficiency and supreme confidence in the vehicles braking performance while maximising energy regeneration. The better we can deliver power and re-charge the battery the more time the driver can spend pushing the limits of the car.

We will focus on efficient regeneration and seamless torque transfer in a package that is smaller and lighter than the competition.

Transmission

Transmission

The world of electric race transmissions presents some unique challenges, cooling is a particular concern.  The key issue in a racing car is how to keep things at the right temperature while minimising weight.

Oil is heavy, and nobody wants to be wasting energy churning up the liquid that is in the sump. If you decide to use a to dry sump you end up adding pumps and hoses.

Transmission2

There has to be a middle ground, and we’ve won awards for finding it. Clever ways of guiding oil where it needs to be, clever internals that self-lubricate and are lighter because they are only strong where they need to be, and a host of other innovations.

We have developed transmissions for some extremely high performance road cars such as the Porsche 918 and the BMW i8, but open wheel race cars are a whole new field. Pragmatically we know we’re not going to be able to solve this one over night, but our award winning technologies have given us a few tips and tricks that might help this season... and longer term? You’ll have to wait and see!

Differential

Differential

Traction can be a limiting factor when employing high torque electric motors, tyres can only handle so much, and the differential is key to maximising control as the car is accelerating. 

It is from a deep understanding of differentials that we have built innovative technologies such as the electronically controlled Twinster, defining the driving dynamics of vehicles such as the Range Rover Evoque and the Focus RS.

This understanding of passive differentials will be invaluable in Formula E as we lead the mapping and optimisation programme. Over time we hope to push harder, applying a few other tricks to build a light, efficient and differential harmonised with the vehicle as a whole.

Pumps

Pumps

Race cars need to move fluids around even if they are electric. Things need to be cooled, and lubricated but every system costs power and weight.

We’re an expert in powder metal manufacture and as the worlds largest sinter metal company we have a wealth of experience to draw from. By using powder metals to form parts, not only do we waste less material as components don’t require as much post production machining but we can create component geometries that you simply couldn’t achieve with conventional tools. It’s the last bit that lead to some really interesting opportunities with pumps.

Our unique technologies enable us to think a little bit differently. Same pump efficiency, less weight and less power required.

Additive manufactured components

Additive manufactured components

Our background in powder metal processes has positioned us uniquely for the rise of additive manufacture as a legitimate means of creating production ready components.

The ability to quickly deposit material where you want it allows for rapid development, and also gives complete freedom of design. The reality is that it requires as much a change in design mind-set as it does the materials and manufacturing expertise.

Fortunately, we manage both, which means we can pretty much apply this new way of thinking to any area of a vehicle. The key for us will be prioritising those things we think will bring the team the biggest performance gains.