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Two-Speed eAxle From GKN is the First of Its Kind, Used by the BMW i8

Truth be told, the next big thing for EVs is improving the capacity of battery packs all while keeping production costs as low as possible. Many companies, including the Panasonic and Tesla Motors joint effort, are concentrating on this matter, but ’til anything materializes to production-ready vehicles, there’s something else that may interest EV enthusiasts.
Two-Speed eAxle from GKN 1 photo
Cue the GKN two-speed eAxle for hybrid and electric vehicles. This piece of tech debuted with the arrival of the BMW i8 plug-in hybrid sports car, but what’s the catch behind this contraption? Just like the world’s smallest disconnecting all-wheel drive system, GKN focuses its current efforts on miniaturizing because packaging is king right now.

As simply put as possible, this two-speed eAxle thingy adds an aditional gear ratio

This extra gear ratio enhances hybrids or EVs with better acceleration, as well as improved electric range. Moreover, the ensemble enables the electric motor and its associated systems to be downsized, thus reducing mass all while increasing efficiency for the thermal engine for both frugality and CO2 emissions.

The British company is adamant the eAxle technology enables “axle-split hybrids”

In plain English, a conventional hybridised engine provides the primary power to either the front or rear axle, with the other axle driven by an eAxle module. This bit of tech is said to respond intelligently in order to deliver better all-wheel drive torque delivery, as well as improved pure electric range and even a more refined parallel hybrid mode.

To put the two-speed eAxle into perspective, electric and axle-split hybrid vehicles up to now except for the BMW i8 have used single-speed units. The drawback with such a design is that a fixed ratio takes its toll on a hybrid’s acceleration and top speed, but also implies disconnecting the axle at certain speeds in order to prevent the motor from overspinning. All in all, the GKN two-speed eAxle isn't half bad for a package that weighs 27 kilograms (59 pounds) while measuring less than 325-mm x 562-mm x 313-mm.


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