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GKN evolves eAxle
A fine mesh: GKN says its latest eAxle gearbox is the perfect match for C-segment vehicles and can even accommodate four-wheel drive.
Cheaper, smaller, lighter GKN eAxle offers 4WD EV tech for more vehicle segments
15 March 2016
DRIVETRAIN specialist GKN Driveline has taken the lessons it learnt developing
final drive axles for plug-in hybrid supercars and applied them to a new
lower-cost unit, offering more flexibility for manufacturers developing small
The British company’s eAxle quite literally cut its teeth on projects such as
the Porsche 918 Spyder and then with a two-speed unit under the bonnet of BMW’s
i8, but GKN is now offering the technology to manufacturers of more everyday,
Weighing about the same as a bag of cement (20.9kg), the latest evolution of
single-speed eAxle is, according to GKN, now compact, light and cheap enough
for applications in the higher-volume markets for plug-in hybrid electric
vehicles (PHEVs), bringing the fuel-saving technology within reach of more
In addition to driving just one set of wheels, the company says its hybrid
solution is the only one of its kind that can accommodate four-wheel-drive
systems, broadening its applications and appeal to car manufacturers.
GKN has not revealed which brands will be next to adopt the new model, but has
confirmed that Volvo selected the eAxle for its new XC90 T8, and has previously
worked with PSA Peugeot Citroen as well as BMW and Porsche.
With a reduction ratio of 12.5, the single-speed, two-stage transmission can
provide up to 2000Nm of torque and a more modest 65kW of power when under pure
electric drive, slashing 0-100km/h acceleration of internal combustion-powered
small cars by “several seconds” while cutting fuel consumption by “more than 50
per cent”, the company claims.
How much combustion power is added to the electric drive is down to the
individual manufacturer and the engine options available to them.
When cruising at higher vehicle speeds, the eAxle disconnects the electric
drive from the transmission to limit the effects of aerodynamic drag on battery
GKN Driveline eDrive Systems managing director Rainer Link said the evolution
of the eAxle would attract more manufacturers to its range of specialised
“GKN’s position as the only hybrid technology supplier that can also deliver
complete all-wheel-drive systems makes us an ideal partner on these programs,”
“Our vehicle integration teams can support auto-makers in the tuning of their
vehicle’s eAWD mode, ensuring that the torque delivery results in the right
front/rear balance and delivers the brand’s trademark driving characteristics.”
Various car-makers are starting to introduce models in the smaller and more
affordable end of the PHEV and pure electric markets, such as Audi and its A3
e-tron and the BMW i3, but with suppliers such as GKN shaving the cost of
componentry, more brands are likely to eye the segment.
From a four-wheel-drive perspective, all-paw purveyor Subaru has recently
announced that its new global platform would accommodate electric and hybrid
drive, and the Japanese car-maker could be one of many brands considering the
An evolution of the more compact eAxle could also result in multi-speed
versions for affordable PHEVs, borrowing technology from the BMW i8 sportscar
for a boost to performance of C-segment hybrids.
Lexus recently followed BMW’s lead into multi-ratio electric drive
transmissions with a four-speed automatic transmission for the Multi Stage
Hybrid system that drives its LC500h sports coupe.
Like a combustion engine gearbox, adding ratios to an electric motor allows
torque multiplication for improved performance and greater motor versatility
and efficiency, and more car-makers are expected to introduce the technology as
EVs become more commonplace.