Expansion of Electric Vehicles leads Innovation in Bearings

Electric car charging in Amsterdam

The number of electric and hybrid cars on the road is on the rise leading to innovation in the bearings used on the production line.

Nobody could have predicted the huge number of electric and hybrid cars on roads worldwide today. In the USA alone there have been 238,000 electric vehicles purchased since 2008. Almost every car manufacturer now has an electric car being sold, from the BMW i3 to the Nissan Leaf. This surge in electric cars on the roads has to led to increased research and innovation needed by these major manufacturers in order to be the best.

Big bearing manufacturer SKF has been investing in the development of their bearings in order to keep up with the ever increase in demand for new and better ideas. SKF have been a leading global technology supplier since 1907 and pride themselves on always being being able to develop new technologies. It therefore comes as no surprise that SKF have developed a range of ball bearings that increases the mileage that an electric or hybrid car can travel. These are their energy efficient SKF e-Drive bearing that work by decreasing the levels of friction and heat, which allow the car to move more efficiently, improve the power density, to make the battery life more reliable.

SKF have also developed a SKF Rotor Positioning Sensor-Bearing Unit which was created for the use in Stop/Start driven systems. A few of the main features of the unit are that it leads to improved machine efficiency, low CO2 emissions and decrease in fuel consumption and reliable performance over complete operating range. When this unit is used in conjunction with e-Drive bearings the efficiency of the motor is enhanced. Working together the traction is enhanced which can improve the recovery of energy when braking, reduces the noise created by the motor which overall leads to a decrease in the total costs.

This combination of e-Drive bearing and Rotor Positioning Sensor-Bearing Unit is used in the Volkswagen e-up! which went on sale in October 2013, priced at around 26,900 Euros in Germany, and sold 2,500 of the car by February 2014.

Other major brands such as Schaeffler and NSK meanwhile have also developed new ideas to assist in the growing electric and hybrid vehicle market.

Schaeffler has been working to expand its range of solutions, mainly in the start/stop areas. Start/stop engines are becoming standard in the majority of vehicles on the roads now. Schaeffler have developed optimised bearings, specially-coated components as well as non-contact sensors and latching valves to allow for the large rise in the number of stop/start procedures.

NSK have also been developing their products, such as a silent needle roller bearing. The want and in some cases need for a vehicle to be more quiet, for example in luxury cars is on the rise and so car manufacturers are on the look out for innovative solutions to reduce noise pollution. The NSK silent needle roller bearing is said to cut the noise of a motor by a third in electric motors!

With 100% electric cars seeing a 361% increase in sales in 2013 (compared with 2012) alone, it is clear to see that the innovation is not slowing down, which means even more advancements to come from the bearing industry…watch this space!