As GKN Driveline's senior vice president for engineering, Ray Kuczera is at the forefront of the supplier's electrification plans as the industry moves toward mainstream acceptance of the technology. Kuczera discussed this and other topics with Automotive News Europe correspondent Peter Sigal.
GKN has recently raised its forecast for electric driveline sales. What are you seeing in the market that gives you the confidence to do this?
There are a lot of different things moving the market. We have seen some vehicles [that use GKN components] become very successful. For example, the Volvo XC90 plug-in hybrid started out with a very low volume forecast but it has since ramped up. The manufacturers are also designing vehicles that are more appealing to the mainstream. In the past if you saw an electric-drive vehicle it was generally quirky looking.
Do you see electrification solutions such as 48-volt mild hybrids and electric axles gaining ground faster than full-electric vehicles?
Yes, not everybody is ready to make the full leap, and neither is the infrastructure. If you look at the time it takes to charge an electric vehicle, even if you have Tesla’s Supercharger, if there are five people ahead of you then you can have a pretty long wait. Hybridization is a great way to bridge that gap while we see the infrastructure being constructed.
Are the European and North American markets moving at different speeds toward electrification?
We always see differences between regions. It seems the Europeans are a little more accepting, and they’ve been more aggressive on fuel economy standards. A lot of this is driven by consumer desire as well as legislation, but we’re confident that this move will be a longer-term global trend.
GKN has orders worth 2 billion pounds ($2.84 billion) for electric-drive technology on its books. What are the main components?
It is a combination of mechanical gearboxes for electric axles and complete e-axles with the electric motor and inverter integrated. We're seeing that a lot of automakers are moving in the direction of integration.