Earlier this year, Allison Transmission Holdings Inc. made a unique double deal buying both London-based Vantage Power, as well as the on-highway electric vehicle systems division of AxleTech, both on the same day. Obviously, the deals represented a major change in the landscape of powertrains and e-powertrains.
Diesel Progress wanted to take a look behind the thinking of doing those two acquisitions at one time. Allison’s Michael Foster, executive director and chief technology officer E-mobility Solutions, provided the following comments.
What was the strategy and thinking behind both acquisitions?
The two acquisitions align with Allison Transmission’s innovator position in propulsion technology and will complement our existing capabilities to advance electrification options for commercial vehicles. Our goal is to expand Allison’s position as a leading provider of complete propulsion systems and to be able to provide a full spectrum of solutions, including central drive and electrified axle solutions, for our customers.
It seems like the acquisition gives Allison an immediate, quick and all-in move into electrified powertrains.
Completion of these acquisitions will accelerate our electrification strategy, as well as, enhance our research and development in vehicle digitalization and connectivity. Allison plans to lead the commercial vehicle industry forward with electrified propulsion solutions, as well as fully-integrated electrified systems.
How does Vantage fits into all this?
Vantage Power is a UK-based start-up in electrification, battery systems and vehicle connectivity. They specialize in developing electrified propulsion and connected vehicle technologies for medium- and heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers. With particular focus on battery technology development, vehicle integration and control systems, as well as vehicle connectivity and telemetry, Vantage Power technologies have been deployed in a range of applications, from complete electric hybrid re-power systems for buses to grid energy storage.
Technologies around batteries, control systems or vehicle integration developed by the Vantage team can be applied to any of our electrification products. It was the alignment of skills and capabilities, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Vantage engineering team that brought them to the forefront. Their background, history and passion for sustainability blends well with what we’re trying to do at Allison.
Do AxleTech’s e-products pretty much plug and play into the Allison range immediately? From there, does it serve as sort of the electrification “base” to develop further products, is it sort of the new e-center for Allison? Or both?
The highly integrated e-axle solutions are designed to be easily integrated into commercial trucks and buses and provide a ‘bolt-in’ EV solution to replace traditional powertrains. The e-axle product family is ideally suited for both medium and heavy duty applications and fill out a complete portfolio of central-drive and axle integrated EV solutions. The Allison portfolio provides a variety of propulsion solutions for commercial OEMs, and positions Allison to be a supplier of complete EV systems.
Allison Transmission is already providing its AXE Series electric powertrain to Peterbilt for evaluation and testing in an electric Class 8 truck. The Model 579EV truck features 1475 hp (1100 kW), delivering industry-leading performance as well as efficiency.
Allison is also partnering with Alexander Dennis Limited (ADL), one of the world’s leading bus and coach builders, to develop efficient, powerful electric buses. ADL and Allison have been partners for many years in conventional transmissions. The first step in this new, strategic alliance is the deployment of Allison’s new ABE Series electric powertrain systems for low-floor bus applications.
These e-axles are designed to replace the full propulsion system. But will only take the place of the traditional axles, leaving room for the OEM’s to include the size and style of equipment needed.
Our recently announced Innovation Center in Indianapolis will consolidate our product engineering groups and facilitate internal and external collaboration for technology and product co-development This facility will feature expanded and unique virtual and physical system simulation, development and validation capabilities to support customers, partners and suppliers relationships including regulatory compliance simulation, as well as broader collaboration on future technology and product initiatives.
Does Allison see its e-future mostly in on-highway? Is there an off-highway side to all this? Defense?
Allison’s e-Mobility Solutions is committed to address the needs of advanced technologies across all of our end markets. While on-highway applications currently offer the broadest adoption of electrification, we recognize a variety of other application in both off-highway and defense where electrification makes sense. The AXE and ABE products, and technologies contained within, are very well suited for applications beyond on-highway and could provide immediate solutions.
Our Vehicle Environmental Test Facility, currently under construction, will allow our engineers to test on- and off-highway vehicles in extreme environmental conditions and duty cycles, allowing us to better serve our customers. We can also conduct further testing on a wide range of propulsion systems, from the conventional powertrains to alternative fuel, electric hybrid and fully electric systems.
What is Allison’s overall view on the future of e-powertrains in general?
Electric cars are being launched at a fast pace and electric vans are soon to become a fixture of last-mile deliveries in city centers, but electric buses and heavy trucks tend to attract fewer headlines. These markets are growing fast – not just in China, which is home to the vast majority of the world’s electric bus fleet. Concerns over local air quality are accelerating the shift to electric vehicles (EVs) in many major cities around the world.
Beyond local air quality improvements and CO2 emissions reduction, there are other benefits to be derived from electric commercial vehicles (CVs) too. Environmental noise is a major concern in many communities. By cutting noise and vibration, electric propulsion can also improve the operating environment for those driving and working with vehicles such as refuse trucks. All of these factors are creating demand for electric CVs.
As the market for electric CVs expands, technology suppliers such as Allison Transmission are investing in electric drive systems, such as the e-axle, to support OEM customers. These technological advances will continue for the long term as truck and bus makers strive to improve the efficiency of their electric CVs.