GKN opens UK Innovation Centre to fast-track next-generation electric vehicle technologies

Written by: Tom Austin-Morgan | Published:

GKN has opened a UK Innovation Centre in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, to help its automotive division to develop state-of-the-art vehicle technologies and systems for next-generation vehicles, including electrified drivelines, lightweight structures, composite materials and additive manufacturing.

“Our new UK Innovation Centre will develop an array of next-generation technologies that will deliver significant benefits to electric vehicle, motorsport and off-highway applications,” said CEO of GKN Driveline, Phil Swash. “For electrified systems in particular, GKN’s expertise will help automakers to develop lighter, quieter and more efficient vehicles.”

On display at the launch were a range of advanced composite driveline elements, as well as a live demonstration of lightweight carbon fibre driveshaft manufacturing.

Other technologies being developed at the Innovation Centre include a ‘TorqueShift’ system for electric vehicles that is said to mimic the seamless ‘dual-clutch feel’ in the company’s two-speed eTransmission. This is the world’s first fully-electric drive systems with two-speed gearing and Twinster torque vectoring and was developed for the BMW i8 hybrid supercar.

Two-speed systems can deliver more ‘miles per kilowatt’ than conventional eDrive systems. The biggest challenge in delivering a seamless shift in an electric powertrain is the software control. GKN’s engineers have developed a system for the TorqueShift demonstrator, which is claimed to master the high torsional stiffness, high inertia and high step ratio from the system.

Flywheel technology from GKN has helped to power hybrid vehicles to victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race. The UK Innovation Centre is developing a prototype energy storage unit, which will have larger capacity at lower cost than its previous-generation flywheel systems.

Flywheel systems provide an energy boost in peak-load scenarios, so combustion engines can be downsized for greater efficiency. This has been designed specifically with commercial vehicles and off-highway applications in mind, delivering useful electric-driving capability without the higher cost of a plug-in hybrid or fully-electric system.

GKN’s Official Partnership with Panasonic Jaguar Racing will see the UK Innovation Centre deliver technical consultancy and new technologies, including lightweight driveshafts, efficient differentials and custom-built parts using additive manufacturing. GKN’s experience in delivering state-of-the-art electric vehicle systems means it will also advise on the development of the I-TYPE 2’s all-electric powertrain.

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