Continental Transforms Powertrain Division into Vitesco Technologies in Response to High-Growth Momentum to Electrification

Responding to the momentum toward electrification in transportation markets, giant automotive supplier Continental is putting a new face on its powertrain division in the name of Vitesco Technologies. It will be home to an expanded line of e-mobility motor and drive products, increasingly based on advanced electronics and permanent magnet machines instead of combustion engines. 

“Our customers are increasingly and consistently turning to the electrification of combustion engines through hybrid drives as well as to pure battery-powered vehicles, so we are concentrating systematically on this area,” said Andreas Wolf, formerly CEO of the powertrain division and continuing as CEO of Vitesco. The company is based at Regensburg, Germany alongside Continental’s headquarters. 

Vitesco CEO Andreas Wolf

“The future is clearly electric. We are convinced of this,” comments Wolf, adding: “The transformation phase along the way will almost certainly be characterized by a combination of drive systems. In other words, classic combustion engines will continue to be used for many years and, especially in combination with efficient hybrid technologies, will make a significant contribution to lower emissions.” 

Vitesco headquarter in Regensburg 

Within this mix of drive systems, Continental expects diverging dynamics. The market for high-voltage components and hybridization solutions, for example, is growing at a much faster pace than anticipated. This sharp rise in production is leading to an economically attractive business at an earlier stage than previously thought. The company will decrease its investment in hydraulic components such as injectors and high-pressure pumps as well as products related to combustion engines including diesel, seeing less opportunity in these areas. 

“This transformation phase will likely extend over a number of years, as combustion engines essentially serve as the basic drives for hybrid solutions,” remarks Wolf. “We will step by step make more targeted investments in electrified and all-electric technologies, increasingly shift internal resources in this direction and continue to significantly strengthen our outstanding expertise in electronics.” 

In many of its product lines, Continental and, now, Vitesco also, are regularly active in the development of a variety of solutions based on magnetic materials and technologies. 

More than 100 million MAPPS have been produced at Continental’s Dortmund plant 

Most notable, perhaps, is Continental’s magnetic passive position sensor, MAPPS. Developed 23 years ago, the innovative sensor has enjoyed a remarkable run of more than 100 million units produced and its popularity is still growing with annual demand now at about 15 million units. It is used to gage the fill level in the vehicle tank and with its leakproof seal is corrosion-proof, making it suitable for all fuel types and usable worldwide.

“Thanks to its high reliability, the MAPPS continues to impress new customers who have used other systems in the past,” says Dr. Markus Distelhoff, head of the Fuel & Exhaust Management business unit, which is headquartered in Dortmund. “As a result, almost all premium manufacturers have now switched over to Continental’s sensor system.” 

The company recently introduced in its sensor line an Active Position Switch with integrated magnet as an easy and cost effective, wear less, non-contact measuring product based on Hall effect, usable to control the position of different ferromagnetic parts. It is designed for use of all kind of commercial vehicles and for rough environments. 

Variable compression actuator 

For light and medium duty applications, the company recently added to its powertrain product line the Variable Compression Ratio Actuator which is based on a high efficiency BLDC (Brushless DC) permanent magnet design. It includes a synchronous motor for variable compression ratio with integrated rotor position sensor for BLDC motor commutation. The actuator design is open, not sealed against engine oil and without a gearbox. 

Vitesco is currently working intensively on electric drives for two-wheelers, applying its extensive know-how in the passenger vehicle sector where Continental has been a pioneer of drive electrification for many years. This focus is primarily on the Asian markets, at least initially, the company says. 

“As a first step, we are concentrating on solutions for vehicles which were previously driven by combustion engines with an engine displacement of up to 150 cc,” states Torsten Bellon, head of Non-Automotive Product Line at Vitesco. “For this vehicle class, we will offer a 48-volt electric machine with corresponding electronics. We are in the process of completing the conceptualization and will shortly be starting the series development.” 

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