With a goal to become a global leader in vehicle electrification, Eaton announced Sunday at the ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) Annual Meeting the formation of its new eMobility business unit. The new business unit will be part of the company’s Vehicle Segment business group and will leverage expertise from Eaton’s Electrical Sector business group for use in future development of electric components and power management for passenger car and commercial vehicles.
“By partnering with Eaton Electrical, we think we can provide a whole system of smart power management and distribution,” says Larry Bennett, Eaton’s director of engineering, technology and innovation.
Eaton expects the adoption of battery-electric commercial vehicles to grow from 2 percent in 2016 to 9 percent by 2030. The company plans to invest $500 million in electrification research and development in the next five years.
“The trucks of the future are going to require a lot of intelligence and efficient operation,” says Bennett. “To achieve that efficiency, we need a lot of electrification on board.”
Eaton’s roadmap to electrification includes developing a solution to handle multiple voltage levels from various electrical components.
“We are starting to see a real increase in electric powertrains, especially in buses and light- and medium-duty vehicles for last-mile applications,” says Bennett. “We now are starting to look at heavy-duty electric vehicle transmissions for drayage applications in ports where trucks have a short cycle and a lot of time spent idling. There are significant advantages in emissions reductions by being able to electrify the various fleets.”
Eaton currently is in development of a 48v mild hybrid system that removes all features that run off the engine belt and moving them to the transmission or totally electrifying them.
“With engine-off coasting on a downhill grade, you still need to maintain electrical power to all the features on the vehicle,” says Bennett. “By moving the generator to the back side of the transmission and allow the rear wheels to drive this generator when the engine is off while going downhill, you now can provide power for power steering systems, air compressor, cooling systems and fans.”
Another use case for electrification to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is a fixed-displacement EGR pump that provides EGR flow independent of engine speed. “All the [engine maker] has to do is tell us how much EGR is needed, and we could control the speed of the motor to provide that exact flow rate,” says Bennett.
Eaton says it now has more than 3,500 Eaton Cummins Endurant 12-speed automated transmissions in the field with more than 20 million road miles since it was launched at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show last fall.
The Endurant transmission was purpose-built for line-haul applications, but Eaton expects to see that product move into some other applications typically served by the Fuller Advantage and UltraShift Plus transmissions in the next several years.
Scott Davis, general manager of Eaton Cummins Automated Transmission Technologies, says the joint venture is working on adding new functionality in the near future, including advanced shifting integration technologies and coasting enhancements.
“We are looking beyond the transmission into the entire powertrain to make shifting adjustments faster, smoother and more consistent,” says Davis. “With smart coast and neutral coast, you’re going to see us introducing more novel ways to execute such fuel-efficient features looking ahead.”