Continental and Aft set up jv for automotive solutions for hybrids/EVs

Continental and Aft set up jv for automotive solutions for hybrids/EVs

German technology company Continental and system supplier aft automotive are setting up a 50:50 joint venture to manufacture couplings made of high-performance plastics for the for the future of mobility. The two companies have already been jointly developing special couplings that connect the cooling circuit or the turbocharger/charge-air cooler with units in the engine compartment since 2016. This successful development partnership is now being further expanded by setting up a joint venture.

“No lines, no hoses, no future mobility. Our lines and connectors remain vital lifelines in cars – both for hybrid and electric vehicles and for IC engines,” said Philip Nelles, head of the Mobile Fluid Systems business unit and therefore responsible for automotive lines and hoses at Continental. He adds: “The close collaborative partnership with aft automotive will enhance our skills as a system supplier and enable us to consistently expand our technological expertise in high-performance plastics for the future. The new company is planned to create more than 30 new jobs by 2025. Completion of the joint venture is subject to the approval of the relevant anti-trust authorities.”

Unlike conventional vehicles, electric vehicles require multiple cooling circuits with sophisticated thermal management. Batteries in electric vehicles achieve optimum operating efficiency at temperatures between 20 and 40°C. This temperature span enables long ranges, allows the batteries to work more efficiently and extends battery lifetimes. For that reason, in similar fashion to drive and power components, the batteries have to be either cooled or heated, depending on the outside temperature. That results in complex circuits that significantly increase the demands on the individual components. The weight of the new hose generation is also being further reduced. Smaller line cross-sections, for instance on the high-pressure side and in the battery cooling system, mean that less coolant is needed when compared with previous systems.

The right mixture of rubber, polyamide and aluminium materials and an ingenious line geometry ensure the system has adequate inherent stability. Special lines and couplings made of high-performance plastics are developed for this.

Up till now, line systems have often been made of rubber or stainless steel. Especially in vehicles with hybrid drives or electric motors, though, there is a growing trend towards replacing rubber with premium technical plastics. This has allowed the developers to achieve further weight reductions while simultaneously improving performance: Plastic components reduce vehicle weight and thus help lower fuel consumption and cut CO2 emissions. At the same time, the downsizing of space in IC engines is changing the demands on connectors and lines because lighter, quieter and higher-power drives result in increased pressure and thermal loads. For example, auxiliary unit components in the latest generation of IC engines have to withstand continuous temperatures of 160 degrees Celsius for over 3,000 hours with temperature peaks of up to 210°C. High-performance plastics such as heat-stabilised polyamide are able to meet these demands in full.

Since it was founded in 2009, aft automotive, based in Greven in the Münsterland region of Germany, has become an established system supplier to the automotive industry. Its focus is on developing and manufacturing functional components such as valves, ejector pumps, control system elements and line systems made of high-performance synthetics.

The company now has 189 employees across three sites in Germany, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia and achieved sales of EUR53.2 million in 2018.

“Our components for safety-related systems are manufactured fully automatically and undergo extremely rigorous product tests; these ensure operational reliability, durability and efficiency. We have access to every system in-house ranging from a state-of-the-art 3D printer for prototyping to the test area for series production. Our joint venture will combine our know-how and experience in the future,” declares aft Founder/CEO Dirk Kramer.