GKN has unveiled a new Innovation Centre in Abingdon, Oxfordshire, where it will develop technologies and systems for the next generation of automotive vehicles.
Electric drivetrains will be a key area of focus, and the facility will help support GKN’s partnership with the Jaguar Racing Formula E team, announced at the recent Frankfurt Motor Show. Other technologies that will feature prominently include composite materials, energy storage and additive manufacturing. According to GKN, it has already used laser sintering to deliver custom-built fluid ports for Jaguar’s I-TYPE 2 Formula E racer.
The centre’s Abingdon site is the former home of Williams Hybrid Power (WHP), which developed flywheel technology for both motorsport and commercial vehicles. GKN acquired WHP for £8m in 2014.
“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 Phil Swash CEO of GKN Driveline.
“For electrified systems in particular, GKN’s expertise will help automakers to develop lighter, quieter and more efficient vehicles. No other company can apply aerospace experience to automotive applications in the same way as GKN, unlocking exciting opportunities for additive manufacturing and composites.”
As well as the partnership with Jaguar’s Formula E team, GKN used the Frankfurt Motor Show to debut its eTwinsterX system. Claimed as the world’s most advanced electric driveline concept, eTwinsterX uses a two-speed transmission system that was originally developed by GKN for the BMW i8, which provides a better balance of acceleration and top speed than conventional single-speed electric drive units.
At its Innovation Centre, GKN is now developing a new ‘TorqueShift’ system for electric vehicles. Using complex software control, the technology will aim to deliver a seamless shift across the two-speed transmission. According to the company, it has built a highly-sophisticated system for the TorqueShift demonstrator, which is able to master the high torsional stiffness, high inertia and high step ratio from the system.
An interview with GKN Driveline CEO Phil Swash will be appearing soon in The Engineer.