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EV drive sparks new filter needs

German filter giant M+H eyes Australia for expanded warehousing, product lines

21 Apr 2022

LONG-standing German filtration company Mann+Hummel has its eyes on the future, with innovation coming to develop cabin filters for electric vehicles that will draw minimal energy from the batteries to ensure long range, and for fuel-cell drivetrains that need filters for the ion-exchange unit and for the wastewater.


Mann+Hummel chairman, Thomas Fischer, told GoAuto News that his company is also developing smart filters that save energy by only filtering as much air as is needed.


“The less air you need to exchange in the cabin, the less energy you need,” he said when speaking at the Australian Automotive Aftermarket Association Expo.


“By saving energy in the cabin through a more efficient filtration system, the longer the EV can travel. In an EV, an energy saving equivalent to travelling 50km is a lot for a small car.”


Mann+Hummel (M+H) is a family-owned company started in 1938 and formed from a textile business that moved into filters for engines.


It made the felt cone-shaped, oil-bath air filters for the first civilian Volkswagen Beetles made from the late 1940s and quickly expanded its filtration market. It now has more than 21,000 employees in 80 global sites.


The company publishes more than 150 patents a year, and has over 4500 to its name making it one of the largest patent-holders in Germany – including those related to polyester fleece air filters that are more efficient than paper filters and more easily adapted to the unconventional filter shapes attributed to the increasingly confined under-bonnet areas of new cars.


Although known for automotive filtration, it is also actively involved in anything separating harmful product from humans, including water filtration in schools and hospitals.


Mann+Hummel senior vice president Automotive and Aftermarket, Asia-Pacific/Middle East-Africa, Cedric Dackam, said: “We are involved in anything related with filtration.”


“This includes mining and off-highway activities because in the future, as is now, commercial vehicles will remain very important,” he said.


“We know that electrification of cars is coming, but we believe that in the heavy-duty segment, the market will remain for longer. So we have the solutions that the market needs.”


Mr Fischer said his company was a firm believer that there will be only battery EVs, but fuel cells.


“If you look at how China develops, they say we need fuel cells. We need synthetic fuels, which comes out of hydrogen, and Australia will be one of the powerhouses for hydrogen,” he said.


“So, in the future you will have energy from hydrogen for battery EVs and fuel-cell EVs and synthetic fuels for the combustion engine for all these cars and mobility solutions. 


“And even with all this, you will need filtration in the future.”


Mr Dackam said H+M filter systems available to Australian consumers covered much of what the market needs and the company was moving to expand its local sales.


“For Australia, we are developing a specific Australian catalogue so that the customer can understand our products and how they best suit their vehicles,” he said.


“We are now also opening new regional warehouses to serve the customer directly, not only in the store but also in the region, as fast as possible.


“We have to make it easier for the customer to find the right product.”


Mr Fischer said the warehouse would be one of the focal points to optimise availability for the customer.


“We have a lot of production facilities in Asia and we have to make them understand which parts are needed here in Australia,” he said.


“At the moment, production in Thailand focuses on the Thai car park and in China, the Chinese car park. Often the cars and engines are the same so that makes it easier to supply to Australia.”


He said that many of the European brands of vehicles, including truck markers, use M+H filters.


“If you go to the OEMs and look at their filter parts you will see many M+H products because in many cases, we are already the only suppliers.


“So we have those parts and obviously what we are trying to do is to make sure that the market understands that the quality that you provide in aftermarket is as good as the one that you have in a business as a supplier worldwide.”


Mr Fischer said there was a lot of opportunity in the automotive market and that the Australian market was very mature with major players.


“But there still is a ton of opportunity and we are not shy,” he said.


“The Australian market has competition, but I think that with our technology and innovation that we still do this better.


“There are a lot of other companies in the market but we strongly believe that there's enough space for an additional supply, especially from us as we are the leader in the world in technology and innovation in this segment.”


As an example, the company said it sees opportunity in Australia in the recreational market with products such as water-fuel separators and similar technology.


Mr Fischer said there were changes in the development and technology of filtration, such as using new media for the filters.


He said he could see development of paper filters begin to stagnate as the new synthetic media become more popular.


“Selling cellulose and paper filters are likely to stagnate while synthetics will become more in demand,” he said.


“There will still be demand for cellulose but increasingly, everything is about energy efficiency.


“Besides the quality of the filtration in synthetic media, you get a better energy efficiency.”


H+M’s experience with the pandemic expanded the market for its activated carbon filters that prevents the growth of mould and bacteria.


Its cabinet filters, with a phenolic coating, can separate COVID particles.


“And that is why we love to be outside of the automotive field as well,” Mr Fischer said.


“Next month we will introduce a filter which has additional chemical treatment that will take activated carbon and get ammonia smell out of the air with use in places like hospitals and homes for the elderly to make it better for people working, living and visiting.


“It doesn’t yet have an application in the car because I don't think that this smell is a big problem.


“But it could come if you keep the air longer in the car. For example, if we look at keeping the air longer in the cabin it could mean a reduction in the energy for the filtration, which could be a benefit.”

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