ZF, the German auto component maker, has trained its sights at software development as the global auto industry gets electrified. Renowned for its range of chassis and driveline components, including transmissions and e-motors, as well as electronic sensors, the company is now branching into software capabilities. “In the future, the combination of hardware and software, as a complete systems supplier, will be the key to success,” said Sascha Ricanek, VP of ZF Race Engineering and MD of ZF Race Engineering GmbH, in an interview with Autocar India.
- ZF using Formula E experience to build software capabilities
- To provide automakers with hardware and software solutions
- Electric two-wheeler segment to see concerted efforts from ZF
ZF’s partnership with Mahindra Racing
“Being a hardware supplier for more than a hundred years, it’s a challenge for us to get into the field of software development,” Ricanek said. And this is where ZF’s partnership with the Formula E team – Mahindra Racing – comes in.
ZF supplies the entire drivetrain, including the electric motor, transmission and electronics to the Indian racing team. “We are very happy with the collaboration with Mahindra because we are getting feedback, directly from the racetrack, back into our development department, which helps a lot,” commented Ricanek.
Efficiency gains through software
Speaking on developments that the company is focusing on in Formula E, Ricanek said, “It’s all about efficiency at the end of the day.” He mentioned that it wasn’t only important to improve efficiency while accelerating, but also while recuperating, when the driver lifts off or brakes. “That’s what we learned with the new powertrain we are supplying to Mahindra, where we have a single-stage driveshaft that has fewer mechanical parts. So we have a smaller loss. That helps a lot in terms of gaining efficiency.”
However, Ricanek added that there is much more that can be done than just hardware interventions. “We are learning that software becomes more and more important.”
With the hardware already frozen and homologated for the next season, ZF has realised that software can help it achieve some crucial efficiency gains and push the boundaries further. “From one race to the other, we are looking into different tracks, how our driver goes into the track and where we can outperform using software settings and optimising efficiency,” said Ricanek.
And these are learnings that the company can even translate on to the road. “You can even see this in road cars when you are predicting while driving, like looking for a downhill or uphill slope, or the status of a traffic light. The way you interact as a driver with the car is very important, and the same applies to Formula E.”
As such, ZF plans to leverage this expertise at software to better cater to automakers. “We know our hardware components are the best, so it’s on us to give input to the OEMs on the systems side as well,” Ricanek said.
ZF’s interest in two-wheeler segment
Sascha Ricanek, VP, ZF Race Engineering: ZF is entering the two-wheeler segment very strongly because we think it is a fundamental part of the last mile concept.
Commenting on ZF’s partnership with Mahindra Racing, Ricanek mentioned, “Yes we are in talks to expand this.” He further hinted at a race-to-road knowledge transfer.
“We are in close contact and are currently looking forward to working together more closely, based on what we have learned in Formula E. And one very interesting sector which will pop up in the future, may be for us together, or for some sub-brands of Mahindra, is the two-wheeler segment,” said the ZF Race Engineering boss. It may be recalled that Mahindra already has a presence in the two-wheeler segment through the Peugeot Motorcycles brand which it fully acquired in 2019.
Ricanek continued, “We (ZF) are entering that segment very strongly because we think that the two-wheeler is a fundamental part of that last mile concept. We are already delivering e-bike motors, and would like to go into (electric) motorbikes too.”
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