In another sign of the automotive supplier industry shifting to commoditize the components needed for OEMs to build electric vehicles, ZF has introduced a solid rear axle for pickup trucks that has an electric drivetrain built into it.
The company says that its eBeam electric axle assembly includes the electric motor, power inverter, and transmission in the axle assembly, providing everything needed to propel a pickup truck in an off-the-shelf solution for manufacturers that haven’t invested in the development of such vehicles yet.
It works with both 400-volt and 800-volt battery systems, so there is a path to the future as vehicles shift to the faster-charging battery packs. ZF makes the 800-volt silicon carbide inverters itself. The electric motor can deliver as much as 350 kilowatts (470 horsepower) and 16,000 newton-meters (11,800 lb.-ft) of torque.
The axle can also pair with ZF’s Active Kinematic Control rear-wheel steering system to reduce pickup truck turning radii.
The importance of the pickup truck market is obvious, even from Germany. “In 2021, one out of every four vehicles sold in the U.S. was a medium or full-size pickup truck,” said Jörg Trampler, program director, Electrified Powertrain Technology, ZF Group. “To reach ZF's 'zero emissions' goal, and support the industry's sustainability targets, we knew we had to tackle the challenge of creating a clean powertrain system for trucks without compromising the features and performance that truck customers expect. We have done that with the eBeam Axle.”
The market for electric pickup trucks in the U.S. is forecast to grow at 54 percent CAGR, to $15 billion by 2030, according to ResearchandMarkets.com report, “The U.S. Electric Truck Market Research Report.” That market stood at just $308 million in 2021.
Ford reports selling 8,760 F-150 Lightnings since its June launch, and as deliveries increase that truck should start shifting pickup buyers to electric power in bigger numbers.
“Our research shows new EV pickup trucks are leading more consumers to consider an EV product,” said Vanessa Ton, senior manager at Cox Automotive. “EV pickups are a catalyst for EV growth”
Cox’s research shows an opportunity for automakers looking to electrify a pickup truck because these EV buyers don’t exhibit the same brand loyalty of typical pickup shoppers. “[Internal combustion] buyers prioritize horsepower; shoppers interested in EVs care more about technology,” she said.