Schaeffler is betting heavily that components for hybridized powertrains will keep gasoline and diesel engines relevant -- and emissions compliant -- for the foreseeable future. “For 2030, even if there is an aggressive scenario,
70 percent of new cars will still have an internal combustion engine,” said Martin Scheidt, Schaeffler senior vice president for engine systems r&d. “This means that it is worthwhile to continue improving the combustion engine.” Scheidt added that counting existing vehicles, 90 percent of cars on the road in 2030 will most likely have some form of traditional powertrain.
Scheidt identified hybridization, combustion efficiency and mechanical improvements as areas where efficiencies can be found. Among Schaeffler’s recent advances is technology that shuts down one cylinder by using oil pressure to activate a camshaft rocker that prevents valves from opening. That system appears this year on Ford’s new three-cylinder EcoBoost 1.0-liter gasoline engine, which the automaker says improves efficiency by 6 percent.
In addition, Schaeffler displayed an array of components for 48-volt and high-voltage hybrid systems. The company says its new P2 48-volt module (installed between engine and transmission) can reduce consumption by 15 percent in the new WLTP emissions test. The supplier also makes dedicated transmissions for hybrid vehicles.
Efficiency & complexity
Zink said that increasing the efficiency of internal combustion drivetrains also means more complexity. “We have three drive sources if diesel stays in the market, which we think it will,” he said, including gasoline and electricity as the other two. “We have at least six hybrid installation modes. The key will be to master the complexity.”
Schaeffler is already feeling the effects of that struggle. The company is now financially healthy after a near-disastrous effort to take over Continental in 2008. Last year, however, was marked by “ups and downs,” Chairman Georg Schaeffler said. Revenue topped 14 billion euros for the first time and net income was up 14 percent to about 980 million euros.
However, last June the company lowered its earnings guidance, finishing the year with an operating profit of 11.3 percent, which was below 2016’s level of 12.7 percent. The operating profit outlook for this year is 10.5 percent to 11.5 percent, which is under the target of 12 percent to 13 percent set out in Schaeffler’s Mobility for Tomorrow strategic plan. CEO Klaus Rosenfeld said the ongoing shift to electrification and electric vehicles meant that Schaeffler had to build a lot more prototypes, increasing its r&d expenditures.
Looking to this year, “The environment will remain challenging,” Rosenfeld said in a note to shareholders and investors. “[Last year] made us aware of the fact that we have to take an even more forward-looking approach.”