Michael Nash talks to Punch Powertrain’s Gert-Jan Vogelaar about the various opportunities that 48-volt systems can provide
June 22, 2017
A study by market research and consulting firm Navigant Research suggests that global sales of 48-volt (48V) systems will hit nine million units by 2025, with the rising popularity of stop-start technology as a primary source of growth. Several suppliers could take advantage of this, including Punch Powertrain.
The Sint-Truiden, Belgium-headquartered company is currently developing a variety of transmissions with 48V applications, some of which are near completion while others are a nod to the future use of electrification in mobility.
Flourish in fuel economy
Punch Powertrain has two outlooks on 48V technology; according to Gert-Jan Vogelaar, Strategic Marketing Director, the company is running both short-term and long-term development programmes.
“At the moment, we have a few applications in preparation on our current transmission, which will be a P0 48V application,” he explained. “The first will be launched in 2017. Our new continuously variable transmission (CVT), the VT5, also has a P0 application that will be presented at the 2017 Shanghai Auto Show. That’s what we consider short-term.”
Every OEM will choose the most appropriate solution for their needs. They can either choose to sell PHEVs or BEVs that offer high efficiency gains, but come with much higher price tags, or they can sell more 48V solutions
As for the long-term, Vogelaar explained that Punch is developing a new family of transmissions. “The second,” he said, “will be a low torque version, and is being developed with a P2 48V system included. But it will be another couple of years before that’s in production.”
The main advantage that 48V systems bring to vehicle design is the fuel efficiency gain, an ever-more important issue when considering the increasingly stringent regulations surrounding fuel economy and emissions.
Take, for example, China. In this, Punch’s primary target market for its 48V transmission solutions, fuel economy is an extremely important aspect of developing new vehicle technology. “The same applies in other markets,” explained Vogelaar, “but it’s such a critical piece of the equation in China, because China is really aggressive in the way its moving forward with vehicle fuel economy. The legislation is set to get stricter by about 8% every year.”
When looking ahead to future fuel economy targets in China, Vogelaar thinks 48V systems could be essential in helping OEMs to continue selling models in the world’s largest automotive market. This is because each company must comply with fleet-wide fuel economy standards.
“The targets limit what OEMs can or cannot bring to market,” Vogelaar explained. “If the company doesn’t comply, it can’t bring a new vehicle into the market, or won’t receive permission for production capacity. The end consumer may not care so much about fuel economy, especially with fuel prices at the level they are now, but their options will be limited by legislation.”
All kinds of things can be done with the help of 48V systems. It opens the door for improvements in powertrain efficiency and reductions in emissions, but some of the most interesting benefits are found in additional systems outside of the powertrain
Electrification is considered to be one of the best ways to improve fleet average fuel consumption. As well as opting to use 48V technology, OEMs could try to sell more plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) or battery electric vehicles (BEVs). Recent statistics from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) suggest that sales are rising sharply in both segments. In fact, a total of 507,000 so-called new energy vehicles (NEVs) were sold across the country during 2016, up from 331,092 in 2015.
Vogelaar does not consider the PHEV and BEV segments as a threat to future uptake of 48V technology. “Every OEM will choose the most appropriate solution for their needs,” he noted. “They can either choose to sell PHEVs or BEVs that offer high efficiency gains, but come with much higher price tags, or they can sell more 48V solutions. For us, that means we must work on a wide range of solutions, from conventional transmissions to 48V applications and pure electrics.”