The automotive industry is currently in the throes of technological upheaval. Although demand for combustion engines is likely to increase in the short term and only start falling gradually from around 2021, the focus of both manufacturers and end customers is increasingly turning to alternative drive concepts that are designed to offer sustainable forms of mobility. Hybrid designs, which bring together a combustion engine and an electric drive, are viewed by industry experts merely as a bridging technology on the way towards fully electric vehicles. At present, the two main contenders for the drive system of the future are based on the battery and the fuel cell. Each offers certain inherent advantages. While battery-powered vehicles may have the edge in larger towns and cities where recharging points are more widely available, cars equipped with a fuel cell drive have a greater range, i.e., they can cover greater distances. ElringKlinger is right up there at the cutting edge. Having laid the foundations some years ago, the Group is now well prepared for the impending shift from combustion engines to alternative drive systems.
ElringKlinger’s roots lie in sealing technology. The company produced its first gaskets way back in 1914, and to this day ElringKlinger has remained the world’s leading supplier of cylinder-head gaskets. For this reason, the company is often seen as a traditional gasket maker. Today, however, there is a lot more to its portfolio. Over the years, always with an eye to the future, ElringKlinger has added many new products to its range. Alongside the company’s traditional core business – sealing and shielding systems for engines, gearboxes, and exhausts – ElringKlinger has focused increasingly on lightweight construction as part of its wider strategy. This is regarded as a key technology within the automotive industry. Replacing metal components with lighter materials made of plastic or aluminum offers substantial benefits. In a vehicle with a combustion engine, lighter components translate into lower CO2 emissions, while in an electric car they increase the range. ElringKlinger has built up years of experience in the field of lightweight construction and supplies lightweight plastic components for both the vehicle body and the powertrain. All ElringKlinger products combine maximum functionality with minimal weight. What’s more, the company’s structural bodywork components can be used with any vehicle regardless of the drive system.
Another crucial element of the company’s forward-looking portfolio is electromobility. ElringKlinger began to position itself in a range of technologies when they were still in their infancy. The company started working on fuel cell systems as long ago as 1999, and just a few years later it diversified into battery technology. In developing customized product solutions for the electromobility market, ElringKlinger was able to draw on its core expertise in the fields of metal forming, plastic injection molding, joining and coating technology, and automated assembly as well as on the skills of its in-house tooling facility. Besides individual components, ElringKlinger now offers complete low-temperature fuel cell stacks. Turning to battery technology, ElringKlinger began making various components for lithium-ion batteries at series production level some years ago, e.g., cell contact systems and module connectors. In cooperation with its partners, the company can also supply complete battery modules and systems as well as energy storage units. Furthermore, thanks to ElringKlinger’s strategic purchase of a stake in the engineering firm hofer (Nürtingen, Germany), which specializes in electric drive technology, it has been able to greatly expand its e-mobility portfolio. As a result, the Group can now rightly boast proven expertise in the development and manufacture of alternative drive systems.
This revolution in vehicle drive technology involves far-reaching changes – for the automotive industry as a whole and for ElringKlinger of course. Having embraced a forward-looking strategy of concentrating on functional components, lightweight construction, and electromobility, the Group is transforming itself proactively from a mere component supplier to a provider of complete vehicle systems.