ZF and e.GO Mobile provide more details on joint people mover
Many traditional and new-mobility OEMs and suppliers see a great deal of future global potential for electric and autonomous vehicles to be used to transport both people and cargo. ZF is one of them, its 2016 Future Study predicting enormous growth—mainly in the city center logistics industry by 2030.
In May 2017, the company announced that it was teaming with e.GO Mobile AG on autonomous and electric people and cargo movers for future city transport. The joint venture, called e.GO Moove, announced plans to develop, produce, and sell vehicles equipped with ZF’s electric drive system, chassis components, and optional capabilities for autonomous driving. The joint venture, headquartered in Aachen, Germany, showed its first prototype on the campus of RWTH Aachen University.
ZF wants its development of technology for people and cargo movers to demonstrate its expertise in not only intelligent mechanical systems but also autonomous driving—for what it calls the mobility solutions of the future. The JV was built on the belief that autonomous, connected, and highly flexible e-shuttle vehicles will help play a significant role in urban and metropolitan areas of the future as safe, comfortable, efficient, and environmentally friendly modes of transport.
The company founded Zukunft Ventures GmbH in September 2016 to pursue this and other new mobility options. The new company has a clear mission, namely to invest in companies that are actively developing new technologies relevant for ZF’s future growth and expanding its portfolio to include sustainable technologies that will keep it one step ahead of the competition.
Apart from the new JV’s electrified drivelines, ZF wants to demonstrate its AV capabilities with ADAS and sensor-fusion technologies, along with its scalable ZF ProAI supercomputing control box and cloud-updateable integrated vehicle systems. The controller uses artificial intelligence algorithms for vehicle-to-infrastructure applications to enable learning. It can communicate with other vehicles and surrounding environment to enable swarm intelligence, helping make vehicle fleets safer and more efficient. ZF and e.Go Mobile AG are working with Nvidia to develop and test the autonomous driving functions for the e.GO Mover.
“New vehicle concepts such as electrically powered people and cargo movers must be developed to be highly iterative and, at the same time, be inexpensively produced,” explained Prof. Dr. Günther Schuh, Founder and CEO of e.Go Mobile AG. His company has installed an Industry 4.0 infrastructure on the campus of RWTH Aachen University to efficiently build vehicles and develop them for volume production. The e.GO Moove JV is headquartered in Aachen, where engineers as well as production and sales experts are working on a rapid market launch.
In a run up to the 2018 IAA for Commercial Vehicles in Hanover, Germany, in September, ZF held a Technology Day as a preview for select media that included an update on e.GO Mover, which the company says is part of an entire digital logistics offering including hardware, software, and services highlighting the company’s strategic orientation.
ZF CEO Wolf-Henning Scheider and e.GO CEO Schuh announced that series production will begin in Aachen in 2019. Five-digit volumes are initially scheduled for annual production beyond 2019, and ZF is expecting that the demand will pick up quickly.
With the e.GO Mobile JV, ZF is looking to broaden its customer base beyond traditional OEMs with new mobility companies like those operating city buses and future robo shuttles.
“We see potential, in particular, at the interface of logistics and passenger transportation,” said Scheider. “New-mobility customers have high expectations. They require fast co-development and high systems expertise from their suppliers.
“In the area of people movers, our estimated market volume during the next five to seven years will sum up to around 1 million units worldwide—and all electrified and partially automized,” he added. “In terms of numbers, we expect that they will run [at more than] automated passenger cars in this period.”
Scheider sees the benefits for commercial vehicles when it comes to introducing autonomous systems: “Initially, we expect to see automated driving activities more commonplace on company premises and logistics depots, in harbors, or in agricultural environments as operations there tend to be more recurrent and the surroundings are not too complex.”
The e.GO Mover shown by the JV is an all-purpose mini city bus that can be equipped for local transport for private and commercial purposes. Provisional specs include a 4971-mm (195.7-in) length, 2016-mm (79.4-in) width, and 2540-mm (100-in) height. Curb weight is expected in the 2100-kg (4630-lb) range. It can seat up to 10, with standing room for five.
The city bus is based on a modular spaceframe platform concept that can be lengthened and heightened (but not widened), all using a “skateboard” where most of its technology resides. That includes ZF axle, braking, steering, and propulsion systems. It is powered by a 150-kW ZF electric drive system. The battery pack is about 9.5 cm (3.7 in) thick and provides up to 60 kW·h for operation time of up to 10 h and up to a 150-km (93-mi) range. From a typical end-route depletion of about 20% to full charge is estimated to take about 4 h.
The skateboard enables the easy addition of body types for cargo carrying, but the first iteration will be the people mover shown, with the complete aluminum/plastic body supplied by Rehau. The final version delivered at the end of 2019 will have more of a city bus interior with more conventional seats and a space for wheelchairs.
The bus will be equipped with a driver position for homologation purposes but can be optionally equipped with a sensor pack and other technology for SAE Level 4 automated driving initially on specific routes defined with bus operators. Unlike with a city bus, something closer to door-to-door service is expected through a smartphone app, Uber-style.
From initial brainstorming to production will have taken less than two years. Production is expected at 400 units for 2019, primarily for test fleets. A second factory is being built by e.GO for the Mover.
This factory will start production in the third quarter of 2019, said Schuh, 200 units of which will contain the full set of automated driving sensors: “We have now 72 applicants, mainly cities, who want to have this set for the first two years of testing.”