FST — a unit within the Freudenberg Group, the second-largest non-tire rubber manufacturer in the world — generated about $2.66 billion in overall sales for 2017, about 55 percent of that coming from its automotive activities using both rubber and plastics in automotive seals.
Moehlenkamp said Freudenberg already has a deep knowledge base at the component level, with e-mobility bringing a sizable amount of component business that's very similar to what it does today.
The area Freudenberg needs to grow in is the battery. Moehlenkamp said that area is completely different compared to its current business, with the most important element being the integration process of these battery packs or systems into the entire electric propulsion system.
"We have to learn a lot," Moehlenkamp said. "We have to partner with our customers."
The process already has begun, as FST has made two strategic acquisitions that significantly strengthen its capabilities within fuel cells and lithium-ion batteries. The first was a deal for Munich-based fuel cell system manufacturer Elcore, and the other for a significant interest in Midland, Mich.-based Xalt Energy, a developer and manufacturer of lithium-ion battery cells, power electronics and battery management systems.
"We definitely lack electronic, electrical engineering and mechanical competence," Moehlenkamp said. "With the acquisitions, we bring a certain base level of those competencies and now we have to go from there and evolve to become stronger and stronger. We intend to add more resources to this, we have to hire electro-chemical engineers for the battery cell making, but we have to also hire software and electronics engineers for the integration of fuel cell and battery technology."
Moehlenkamp said the two deals, along with Freudenberg's existing expertise at the fuel cell component level, have been brought together to create the firm's Battery and Fuel Cell Division. The unit has been tasked with pursuing E-mobility and fuel cell opportunities in the commercial truck and bus, marine and energy industries, among others.
These deals give Freudenberg the ability to produce all major components of a fuel cell stack in-house, Moehlenkamp said.
"We want to be in control of the quality," he said. "We've enjoyed our traditional business for decades. We see the battery and fuel cell technology as an addition, or an expansion, for the time being. Over time, with our expertise we're building right now in fuel cell technology and battery modules, we will be much better positioned when it comes to thermal management and the cooling of those items. I think it will have a positive side effect."