Electric motors still have huge potential when it comes to safety and climbing talent Photo: Magna
Electric actuators still have huge potential when it comes to safety and climbing talents. This is evidenced by new developments from the resource Magna. The first super electric cars are already on the horizon.
A Mercedes rolls off one conveyor belt, and a BMW on the other. In the next hall, a Jaguar is taking shape – and soon workers are making a Toyota. Is there such a thing in the highly competitive world of car brands? Yes in Graz.
In the domestic production of contract manufacturer Magna, competitors have been peacefully sharing space for a long time in order to offer customers models such as the Five, GT-Supra or E-Pace in sufficient numbers. After all, the industry’s gray reputation has 120 years of experience building complete vehicles. And the Austrians occupy a key position, especially when it comes to all-wheel drive vehicles. After all, Magna manufactures about 60 percent of all four-wheel drives that roll over the hill and fade globally under the manufacturer’s flowery, changing names.
“We are currently at a tipping point,” Walter Sackle says. And that has a lot to do with drive train electrification, according to Magna Powertrain’s global head of product management, New Possibilities. “The focus is on software,” says Sackell. At its annual innovation conference, the Graz-based company presented this digital dimension to a few hundred experts from the industry – and demonstrated it in practice at the nearby Formula 1 race track in Spielberg.
Convenient to the location, things are very fast. For example, at the steering wheel of a converted Jaguar i-speed, you can see how new technology is again pushing the boundaries of what is technically possible. The scenario is well known to many drivers: the corner is approached very quickly on a slippery road. The car pushes out, and the hard work of ESP is announced. But if it is necessary to make a sudden evasive maneuver and the driver pulls the steering wheel, then the best control unit of the braking system is cumbersome – and soon the exit ends in a ditch.
With the Evoque upgraded to the ‘Etelligent Reach’ concept, even inexperienced drivers stay on track on the same journey. And that’s even with reduced turning and corrective interventions on the steering wheel – exactly the actions that overwhelm most drivers in such situations. This is made possible thanks to an improved four-wheel drive, more powerful electric motors and a new computer chassis.
The Graz-based company has integrated the brake control unit, previously operating individually, into a central brain. This responds faster and is more sensitive to dangerous situations and also has more reaction options. Unlike conventional SUVs, electric motors and wheel brake interventions operate as a single system in the test vehicle.
The same applies to the third functional component of the system’s network: torque vectoring to the rear axle with its clutches that can variably distribute torque to the individual rear wheels. The effect: The rear wheel can be braked within the curve at the same time and in a perfectly coordinated manner, while the other wheel can be supplied with more torque – all from the power of two electric motors, each with a power of 160 kW / 218 hp.
The person at the wheel drives a comprehensive system with steering wheel, brakes and accelerator pedal. According to Magna, safety reserves should be about 15 percent higher than on brakeless vehicles, and potential cornering speeds should be three to four percent higher. The most significant effect: the required steering angle is reduced by half, which significantly increases the reserves of comfort and safety. Recovery across both axes is also made more battery friendly. Sackl also assumes there will be “good demand” for the new all-wheel drive electric vehicle. Some of the technology will already be installed in newcomer Fisker Ocean from this fall. Electric SUVs were also manufactured in Graz, by the method.
The possibility of installing two powerful electric motors on both axles would soon also bring about a turning point in an even harsher environment: a fox and a hare could wish each other good night undisturbed when the all-electric motor could whisper its way. The most impassable terrain. It can already be experienced in the rocky Styrian forest. It passes through mud holes or over steep rocks as easily as in a powerful combustion engine similar to the Land Rover Defender or G-Class (by the way, Magna likes to translate it as “Graz Class”). Just without engine noise.
A 160 kW (218 hp) engine on the rear axle and a fellow 120 kW (163 hp) at the front ensure power transmission on the test vehicle. Depending on the battery, long rides through the bushes will not be a problem. And with a power distribution of more than 1,000 potential Nm per wheel, the car can handle the toughest jobs off any road right from the start. The electric start crawler gear really improves the traction of the test vehicle when driving slowly off-road. But a real two-speed gearbox can also be envisaged, with classic off-road reduction helping to overcome the most ferocious obstacles. The software can also be used to virtually mimic a Cardan shaft. All necessary locks included.
Equipped in this way – and with the right structural freedom – the iconic Mercedes G-Class will likely become the first all-electric off-road king of the following year. Made in Graz, of course.