, a leading international development partner and supplier to the automotive industry, is focusing firmly on the future by maintaining its investments in R&D at a high level despite the Covid-19 crisis.
The company also intends to further strengthen its R&D activities by expanding its global competence centres, including those in Germany and China. It sees key development areas as being battery systems and hydrogen applications — for which Mahle already supplies numerous products. It has recently begun installing hydrogen testing infrastructure at its headquarters in Stuttgart.
Mahle CEO Jörg Stratmann has weighed in to the topical debate on how to achieve global climate targets, advocating an approach that is open to all technologies. At a press conference last week, he said: “We must tackle the climate targets using effective technologies and all the solutions currently available to us.
“Viewed from an international perspective, there will not be one single powertrain of the future. That is why Mahle is continuing to follow its dual strategy: electrification, development of the fuel cell, and the use of hydrogen and alternative fuels in an intelligently electrified combustion engine.”
He added: “At the moment, the change in powertrain technologies is driven primarily by political objectives. The current one-dimensional debate focused on a single drive is not productive. We want a dialogue that has a basis in technology.”
As part of the expansion of its global R&D infrastructure, the group has recently set up a new competence centre for mechatronics in Kornwestheim, near Stuttgart, and all international activities in this field will now be coordinated from there.
In Fellbach, also near Stuttgart, a new, ultra-modern test bench for electric drives has been commissioned, which is one of only a few in Germany.
Meanwhile, an e-mobility development centre in Suzhou, China, is scheduled for completion in December. Mahle will pool its expertise in mechatronics, thermal management, and fluid management at the site and work on solutions specifically for the Chinese market.
The company sees the use of hydrogen as key when it comes to shaping carbon-neutral mobility—both in fuel cell technology and in the combustion engine. Through policy initiatives and a highly diverse range of collaboration agreements in the industrial sector, the group is working hard to accelerate the establishment of these technologies.
At Mahle, R&D activities relating to hydrogen are pooled in a project house. At the press conference, Dr Martin Berger, Mahle’s head of corporate research and advanced engineering, presented a current project involving a type IV hydrogen tank. The design consists of a liner made of plastic and an outer casing made of carbon fibre.
The company is working on the development of a new production process for this tank that will increase its hydrogen storage density and make it cheaper at the same time. It is also installing hydrogen infrastructure to test fuel cells and hydrogen-powered combustion engines.
To accelerate the market penetration of battery electric mobility, Mahle is working on battery cooling. To allow for fast charging, the temperature in the battery cell needs to be evenly distributed and must not rise too high. On this point, Mr Berger said that by harnessing the concept of immersion cooling, charging times can be reduced and batteries made smaller.
He concluded: “Immersion cooling paves the way for a whole new generation of battery systems. With this technology, EVs will be cheaper, lighter and more resource-efficient.”