Powers that Be

Globally renowned for its driveline and other automotive components, Dana is at the leading edge of practical solutions for the electric commercial market.

Until recently Dana activities were divided into three basic units: Light Vehicle, Commercial Vehicle and Off-highway. Dana has now added a new business unit to its global portfolios, that of Electrification.

“With the addition of the Electrification Business Unit within Dana Incorporated, we are complementing our traditional driveline and axle underpinnings with the future replacement of the internal combustion engine (ICE), in an electrified powertrain” says Peter Verde, Sales Manager EV and Electrification at Dana Australia. “It’s a brave new world that we are embarking on, and we are putting a lot of focus on electrification.”

Dana’s strategy to lead and succeed in this field has driven their strong company acquisition activity over the past five years. One of these key companies is a Canadian based innovator, now known as Dana TM4. Their range of high voltage electric motors and inverters to suit vehicles with a GVM of 4.5 tonnes or greater is keeping Peter very busy handling Australian enquiries.

In Australia Dana predominantly works with the TM4 products and a client base which can vary from the heavier end of the light vehicle category, such as a Toyota Landcruiser chassis, all the way up to large scale mining trucks.

On such a diverse scale a vehicle the size of a Landcruiser can be equipped with one smaller electric motor package, while a mining truck might have one larger motor at each wheel end.

“That’s the unique part of all this,” says Peter. “We are involved in electrifying trucks, passenger vehicles, off-highway machinery and industrial equipment of all types and sizes, and everything else in between like military, mining, marine products — essentially anything except aircraft.”

Dana has clients already using the equipment and technology in Australia, some are in an early prototype testing phase while others are now well into their production phase.

Locally, Janus Electric has used Dana TM4 componentry in its innovative battery swap-over electric prime mover concept.

“They have come up with a great concept and we work very closely with Janus and a number of other companies in different segments” says Peter. “They are certainly forward-thinking and very proactive in the market.”

Innovators such as Janus will not only spur on the larger OEMs to increase their involvement in electric vehicles, but they will also give second life opportunities to fleet customers by providing them with an entirely new option: to repurpose their truck as an electric vehicle using a conversion. “It will give them additional flexibility and an opportunity that they never had before,” says Peter.

Here and overseas, Dana is closely involved with a significant number of clients, some of which are start-up operations and some that are established businesses. Dana supports them all equally and assists their market competitiveness by developing the necessary factors behind the scenes for future growth by providing product support and technical expertise.

Each market and application comes with its own challenges. Some are relatively straightforward to overcome, such as closed loop haulage in a quarry, agricultural or port situations. Others are more challenging such as interstate linehaul freight on the open highway.

A rapid roll out of recharge facilities will help assuage the concerns of potential electric vehicle operators looking at making a commitment to this type of low emission technology. At present Dana is not involved in battery production and is instead concentrating on the other necessary aspects of commercial vehicle electrification.

“We are currently focusing on the core components such as the motor, inverter, thermal management, and the electronic control units,” says Peter. “When it comes to the recharging process, while we have a technical team who can offer suggestions and support design teams, it’s not currently our primary domain.”

Dana already has an extensive range of electric motors and invertors developed and in circulation, which are conventionally chassis mounted, with ‘e-Axles’ soon to be introduced.

Positioning an electric motor in the chassis in a similar configuration as an ICE permits the use of a larger unit providing significantly higher power and torque rating and consequently a much higher gross vehicle mass. Fitting a motor to the power divider or the axle drivehead has some restrictions in its size due to the dimensions of the space available, and consequently offers much lower power and torque capabilities.

“We have clients who are looking forward to the local availability of our e-Axle products, however others are very comfortable with the existing chassis mounted arrangement because they know they can achieve the power and the torque they need for their application this way,” explains Peter. “Both segments will be required moving forward.”

Dana’s e-Axle products are also suitable for heavy trailers, where a possible scenario might be a transport operator wanting to use the electric motor at night on a single trailer combination delivering to a supermarket located in an area subjected to a conventional ICE driven truck curfew.

“At the other end of the scale, there could be a quad roadtrain traversing a steep grade where two prime movers may typically be required to propel the vehicle,” says Peter. “Whereas, if there was an e-Axle assisting on each trailer, the process may be achieved with a lower horsepower single prime mover.”

In the end, it ultimately comes down to the fleet reviewing their numbers to determine if this is something they would like to embark on according to Peter.

“It’s not an overnight job to develop these systems and it takes a bit of investment to develop something that is tailored for a specific niche application,” he says.

When looking at its position in the rapidly evolving e-Mobility space, Dana has been and continues to be, front and centre in the entire evolution. The company’s combination of past successes, present capabilities, and application knowhow lead to a clearly defined strategy for the future. The combination of these elements positions Dana as a global leader in vehicle electrification and hybridisation and one that can partner with and support OEMs at any stage in their electrification progression, with scalable individual modules or complete, fully integrated systems.