L'azienda tedesca investe sempre di più in tecnologie legate alla mobilità sostenibile. Ma per le batterie, attende lo stato solido
Continental non è solo un'azienda produttrice di pneumatici. Anzi, negli ultimi anni ha diversificato sempre di più arrivando a diventare uno dei maggiori fornitori automotive in molti campi. In questo processo di diversificazione, l'azienda tedesca ha iniziato ad occuparsi con sempre maggiore impegno nella mobilità elettrica. Di poco tempo fa l'annuncio di esser riuscita a creare un sistema mild-hybrid a 48V in grado di funzionare in modalità esclusivamente elettrica.
Oggi l'azienda annuncia che "i clienti si stanno spostando sempre di più verso powertrain elettrificati". Per questo motivo sposterà l'attenzione sempre più verso la mobilità sostenibile riducendo allo stesso tempo gli investimenti su componenti idrauliche e tecnologie tradizionali. Addio iniettori e addio pompe ad alta pressione, insomma. I profitti in questa area di business sono destinati ad assottigliarsi.
Pronti per ogni tipo di elettrificazione
Andreas Wolf, a capo della divisione Powertrain di Continental, ha dichiarato: "Il futuro è elettrico, su questo non ci sono dubbi. La transizione verso questo tipo di mobilità porterà a tanti tipi di propulsione in cui la componente elettrica gioca un ruolo più o meno importante. Per questo la nostra azienda ha già in produzione soluzioni per auto elettriche, ibride e anche fuel cell (qui una carrellata su tutti i tipi di ibrido in circolazione).
Le batterie non sono d'interesse immediato
Stranamente, Continental ha valutato poco conveniente la produzione di batterie agli ioni di litio. Riguardo a questo, ha deciso di restare momentaneamente in pausa e, nel caso, di entrare a giocare in prima persona quando si saranno definiti gli scenari inerenti le batterie allo stato solido. "Il mercato della produzione delle batterie, allo stato attuale, non presenta prospettive di investimento allettanti - ha detto ancora Wolf - Preferiamo investire altrove in attesa di vedere l'arrivo di nuove tecnologia".
Powertrain Business to Change Course and Focus on the Electric Future and Clean Air
- Stronger focus on electrified drive systems and e-mobility
- Powertrain CEO Andreas Wolf: “Our customers are increasingly turning to the electrification of drive systems, so we are concentrating systematically on this area.”
- Decreasing investment in hydraulic components such as injectors and high-pressure pumps
- No market entrance into the production of solid-state battery cells
Regensburg, August 7, 2019. Continental is putting more focus on the electric future of mobility. This is due to the tightening of political targets, that are leading to an increasingly disruptive market in which future technologies are determined by regulations. “Our customers are increasingly and consistently turning to the electrification of combustion engines through hybrid drives as well as to pure battery-powered vehicles. We have long been a technological leader in the field of electronic control units and related functional software. In keeping pace with our customers and markets, we are now focusing more rapidly and systematically on our strengths and are targeting the future of electric mobility with our broad and successfully applied experience,” says Andreas Wolf, head of Continental’s Powertrain division, which in the future will operate under the name Vitesco Technologies with Wolf as CEO. “With this strategy and gradual optimizations to the portfolio, we aim to ensure that the powertrain business remains financially strong, competitive and sustainable in the long term,” he adds.
“The future is clearly electric. We are convinced of this,” comments Wolf, adding: “The transformation phase along the way will almost certainly be characterized by a combination of drive systems. In other words, classic combustion engines will continue to be used for many years and – especially in combination with efficient hybrid technologies – will make a significant contribution to lower emissions.”
Within this mix of drive systems, Continental expects diverging dynamics. The market for high-voltage components and hybridization solutions, for example, is growing at a much faster pace than anticipated. This sharp rise in production is leading to an economically attractive business at an earlier stage than previously thought.
Changes to the systems and solutions business for combustion engines
Combustion-only components, meanwhile, are set to offer only selective growth opportunities in the future, which has prompted Continental’s Powertrain division to reduce investment in the hydraulic components business. This part of the strategy relates primarily to injectors and pumps for gasoline and diesel engines. “Investments in research and development and in production capacity for innovations are becoming less profitable,” says Wolf, explaining the reasoning behind this decision.
This means that existing orders will be fulfilled, but new orders will play an increasingly marginal role. “This transformation phase will likely extend over a number of years, as combustion engines essentially serve as the basic drives for hybrid solutions,” remarks Wolf, before adding that the business in components for exhaust-gas aftertreatment and fuel delivery would also be reviewed. “The main reasons for this are intense price pressure and a high degree of dependency on the further development of the diesel engine market. We are currently examining all possible options here to ensure our portfolio is sustainable, profitable and competitive. We’re also considering partnerships,” Wolf says.
The announced changes will affect segments, technologies, locations and jobs to varying degrees. “Given all these changes, it is important for us to look for specific solutions. In doing so, we must remember to involve our customers and employees in the transformation process. Wherever possible, we will make our employees fit for the future in the new technological fields by providing them with new skills and enabling them to take on new responsibilities,” Wolf notes.
Greater use to be made of the high growth momentum of electrification
The Powertrain division is already one of the few providers capable of supplying complete electrification systems from a single source. The portfolio includes efficient technologies for 48-volt electrification, electric motors and power electronics for hybrids and battery-powered all-electric vehicles, as well as those for fuel-cell vehicles, intelligent energy and thermal management systems.
“Clean drive systems for clean air have long been our guiding principle. As a result, we already today offer ultra-clean conventional drives. Our technologies enable drivers of both gasoline and diesel vehicles to keep well within emission limits,” Wolf explains. “In the medium term, we will make transportation for the masses even cleaner by offering comprehensive support for mild- and full-hybrid solutions. The next generation of technology for long-term, CO2-free mobility is already being developed in our laboratories and workshops. This includes e-drives as well as technologies for CO2-neutral, hydrogen-based fuels, fuel cells and synthetic fuels,” Andreas Wolf continues.
He adds: “We will gradually shape our future-oriented transition in the powertrain sector and from a position of strength. In the future, Vitesco Technologies will concentrate primarily on areas where we can benefit from competitive advantages and develop attractive business models. With a focused portfolio, Vitesco Technologies will be very well positioned for this and we are confident that this will allow us to successfully harness the growth opportunities offered by the growth of electrification. We will step by step make more targeted investments in electrified and all-electric technologies, increasingly shift internal resources in this direction and continue to significantly strengthen our outstanding expertise in electronics.”
No market entrance into battery cell production
In this context, Wolf also indicates that Continental will not consider potentially entering into the production of solid-state battery cells in the future. Until now, the company was open regarding a potential investment in this regard. However, Wolf states that the disruptive market no longer offers any attractive economic prospects for battery cell production for Continental.