Lutz Scholten, head of the Emission Reduction Solutions unit in the Mobile Fluid Systems structure, said his team follows publications from clean emission regulation bodies on a worldwide basis. "A lot of the things we are now pursuing in this new structure have been defined by governmental bodies, who are telling us what are the emissions we have to get rid of," he said.
ContiTech works very closely with its customers in how they want to attack emissions reductions, and which functions they want to realize and what is the best manner it can assist them in meeting those goals.
That can mean needing high-temperature and high-pressure loops to get functions done, or particulate filter functionalities that need high-temperature resistant rubber that can withstand those temperatures to make these processes workable.
For example, Scholten said a California board may define a certain carbon dioxide level that must be met, and ContiTech can help its customers get there. "We are defining and pre-developing loops and circuits that can support these functionalities," he said. "Then we address the manufacturers and come up with practical solutions to be a viable partner to getting the emissions down."
His business currently is more focused on the traditional engine — preferably combined with a hybrid drive. "We have to address CO2 emissions where the source is, and this is definitely the case with internal combustion engines and all the improvement needs in (increasing) gas mileage and (decreasing) CO2 and other emissions," he said.
On the emissions reduction side, being able to work with a combination of materials is a key to success, according to Scholten. Stainless steel can be used in high-temperature applications such as turbochargers, which can reach as high as 300°C.
In addition, hydroforming can be used in certain applications with stainless steel, resulting in a component that weighs maybe a third of what a multilayer rubber hose would weigh in the same application, he said.
Hoheisel said his unit looks to "design to environment," where the process not only has functionality but also addresses end-of-lifecycle, where the potential to reuse a material has growing importance as sustainability efforts gain traction.
"There's no single aspect where we're saying 'I'm using material A or B,' " he said. "But at the end, we're looking at the temperature, we're looking at the durability, we're looking at pressure and permeations.
"We have the engineering and the simulation capabilities of then deciding for which application, and for the physical demands, which material is the best solution for our customer."
And Conti isn't afraid to team up with others to ensure it is using the best technology. Last year it launched the JoinPlas joint venture along with aft automotive to focus on the manufacture of couplings using plastics specifically adapted to the application. Production is slated to start in Germany as early as the end of 2021.
In looking at thermal solutions and battery cooling, Hoheisel said it involves a complex design that is many feet long and includes numerous small connection points in the system through the battery to ensure the cooling functions are working properly. And the best way to do this is with a quick connector between Conti's line and the battery pack.
It's the same with ICE technology, he said, where quick connectors are used to ensure easy mountability in OEM factories.
"With the JoinPlas JV we now basically have the opportunity to design not only the lines but the end-to-end connections in-house, with the respect of designing for mountability and securing the tightness and permeation performance of our lines," Hoheisel said.
Global vs. regional
The head of the Thermal Solutions Segment said it takes a market approach where it looks at the needs and regulations of each region. But as a global player, Conti has a big advantage in that it can learn from the different needs in various regions and transfer that know-how on a global scale.
"All in all we are working very closely with our customers to see what their distinct technical challenges are, and we can customize our solutions to the specific requirements on a regional basis," Hoheisel said.
On the emissions reduction side, Scholten said CO2 emissions are as harmful in the U.S. as they are in Europe and Asia, and the means to making the needed reductions typically are similar.
"Therefore, we have these umbrella functions to inject experience, to inject knowledge about treating certain emissions with technologies by advanced fluid loops," he said. "It really stimulates speed in getting the emissions down in regions where we have distinct functions that align with our customers."
Looking at the future, Scholten said his unit is considering timetables up to 2035, given that once emissions standards are published it usually takes two to four years before they become mandated. Then firms have to start pre-development, and the normal product lifetimes can run 20 or more years.
Hoheisel said that it all comes down to agility. The firm now is able to serve individual technical trends starting with ICE, moving onto hybrids and now full electric battery vehicles, all while working in parallel on fuel cell technologies.
"We are watching the markets very carefully because I would say, so far, the pace of alternative drives has rather been faster than the projections of a couple of years back, " he said. "We still believe in 2030 there will be a significant share of ICE or hybrid drives in the market, and therefore I think the only good solution is the agility in order to react to the changing demands in a very flexible setup."