Continental, Aft Automotive JV to focus on couplings for electric vehicles

HANOVER, Germany—Continental A.G. and Germany-based system supplier Aft Automotive GmbH are forming a 50/50 joint venture to further formalize an ongoing collaboration dating back to 2016.

The companies have jointly developed special couplings that connect the cooling circuit or the turbocharger/charge-air cooler with units in the engine compartment, and plan to expand this into the lines, hoses and connectors that are essential in the thermal management systems of hybrid and electric cars, as well as in cars with internal combustion engines.

“No lines, no hoses, no future mobility. Our lines and connectors remain vital lifelines in cars—both for hybrid and electric vehicles and for IC engines,” Philip Nelles, head of the Mobile Fluid Systems business unit, said in a statement. He is responsible for automotive lines and hoses at Continental.

Aft automotive’s focus is on developing and manufacturing functional components such as valves, ejector pumps, control system elements and line systems made of high-performance synthetics.

“The close collaborative partnership with Aft Automotive will … enable us to consistently expand our technological expertise in high-performance plastics for the future,” Nelles said.

The new JV will design, develop and manufacture couplings made of high-performance plastics for sophisticated thermal management systems increasingly needed in the new electric cars. These systems feature multiple cooling circuits aimed at keeping battery temperatures within the optimum range of between 20°C and 40°C, to extend the range of e-vehicles. Using couplings and lines made from high-performance engineering plastics, the weight of the hoses can be reduced. Smaller line cross-sections, for instance on the high-pressure side and in the battery cooling system, mean that less coolant is needed when compared with previous systems.

Elsewhere, too, engineering plastics are finding increasing application in new cars. Especially in vehicles with hybrid drives or electric motors, there is a growing trend toward replacing rubber with premium technical plastics. Not only can this yield further weight reductions, but it also can improve performance, Continental said. Plastic components reduce vehicle weight, which helps lower fuel consumption and cut CO2 emissions.

At the same time, IC engines are becoming more compact, changing the demands on connectors and lines as lighter, quieter and higher-power drives result in increased pressure and thermal loads.

For example, auxiliary unit components in the latest generation of IC engines have to withstand continuous temperatures of 160°C for more than 3,000 hours with temperature peaks of up to 210°C. High-performance plastics such as heat-stabilized polyamide are able to meet these demands in full.

The new company is planned to create more than 30 new jobs by 2025. Completion of the joint venture is subject to the approval of the relevant anti-trust authorities.

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