Magna makes transmission transition to EVs — carefully


Magna is reorienting its production footprint and employing modular manufacturing systems to find a balance, carving out growing space on shop floors for EV components. As volumes for EVs and hybrids gain ground, the company will be able to add further “building blocks” to boost output as needed, Rucker said. 

“We can start, you know, with 20,000 to 40,000 units a year and then scale up to 100,000, 200,000, 300,000 relatively easily,” he said.  

Not all components the company currently builds for ICEs will be needed in EVs, Rucker acknowledged, but many manufacturing “competences” will transfer over. He pointed to Magna’s expertise in gear and shaft manufacturing as one skill set that will carry forward.  

“That capability … is going to become even more important because when you’re driving a battery electric vehicle,” Rucker said, “there’s no noise, so your gear suddenly needs to be extremely quiet.” 

As Magna adjusts to the new product mix, some plant closures or overhauls are a certainty, Rucker said. But the company is forecasting expansion of its manufacturing network as drivers embrace EVs and hybrids.  

MORE MARKET, MORE GROWTH 

Building products for a wider swath of the market is the reason that Magna expects growth.  

One example is the company’s transmission business. Currently, Magna targets only about 40 per cent of the market with the dual-clutch and manual transmissions it builds. In the years ahead, its electric drive systems will target every EV on the road.    

Entirely new components required by EVs will play a role as well. Last fall, for instance, Magna announced it would be building aluminum battery enclosures for Ford Motor Co.’s electric F-150 pickup. The lightweight enclosures will be needed on all EVs to protect batteries and electronic components from the elements.  

Meantime, the powertrain division’s r&d pipeline has also begun to bear fruit.  

Magna’s latest e-drive system, known as EtelligentReach, will premiere on a pair of EVs toward the end of 2022. EtelligentReach – what Rucker describes as a “complete system” — includes a pair of electric motors, inverters, gearboxes and specialized software to boost range and performance. Stacked up against production BEVs in the same class, the new e-drive system increases range up to 30 per cent, Rucker said.  

The new powertrain will be turning the wheels of an EV launching in North America this year, as well as powering a vehicle for one of Magna’s existing clients in Europe. Both are SUVs and expected to be relatively low volume in the short term, Rucker said.   



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