ZF EM­BRAC­ING THE FU­TURE

Although the global mar­ket is highly com­pet­i­tive, ZF trans­mis­sions are be­com­ing more pop­u­lar with bus op­er­a­tors glob­ally as ZF keeps its prod­ucts in line with the lat­est in­no­va­tions.

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ZF Friedrichshafen AG’s Di­rec­tor Sales Com­mer­cial Ve­hi­cle Tech­nol­ogy Chris­tian Me­ichle says ZF is on the brink of an ex­cit­ing global revo­lu­tion in terms of the type of en­gine com­po­nents that are be­ing pro­duced as buses be­come more ad­vanced.

“With the com­mer­cial bus in­dus­try here in Aus­tralia you can clearly see that we are gain­ing dom­i­nant mar­ket share,” he says. “This is not only hap­pen­ing in Aus­tralia but world­wide.

“We have been work­ing on a lot of new de­vel­op­ments with our trans­mis­sions and our axles — just to keep ahead of the level that the mar­ket re­quires.”

One of the main is­sues ZF is look­ing at right now is ways that its prod­ucts can help re­duce fuel con­sump­tion of the buses its com­po­nents go into.

“There are many other con­sid­er­a­tions as well as fuel con­sump­tion, such as noise re­duc­tion and im­proved dura­bil­ity,” Me­ichle says.

Elec­tric and hy­brid ve­hi­cles of the fu­ture will re­quire spe­cially made ZF trans­mis­sions and much work has and is be­ing done in this area to pre­pare for this change.

“We are well pre­pared for the jump to elec­tric buses that has al­ready started to hap­pen in Aus­tralia,” Me­ichle says.

“I think this de­vel­op­ment has re­ally helped to put us in a strong po­si­tion within th­ese emerg­ing mar­kets and put us ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion.

“For driv­e­line man­u­fac­tur­ers, elec­tric ve­hi­cles can be a threat. Elec­tric ve­hi­cles don’t need a com­pli­cated trans­mis­sion – if at all. The elec­tric mo­tor brings the right power to the wheels without a trans­mis­sion.

“You could see this as a threat, but we have em­braced it as an op­por­tu­nity and that’s the dif­fer­ence in our mind­set. We de­cided long ago that we needed to nd so­lu­tions for elec­trication.

“If you look at China, they have put 100,000 elec­tric buses on the road last year. It’s un­be­liev­able they changed from diesel within two or three years. The case in China is very in­ter­est­ing be­cause they thought it would take them years to tran­si­tion to Euro 6, so they just jumped straight to elec­trication.”

There was a Bustech bus on dis­play at the 2017 Aus­trala­sia Bus & Coach Expo on the Gold Coast that fea­tured the ZF AVE 130 axle – the rst ve­hi­cle in Aus­tralia in which this most ad­vanced ZF axle has been used – so the or­gan­i­sa­tion is al­ready work­ing with for­ward-think­ing bus man­u­fac­tur­ers here in Aus­tralia and glob­ally.

“This is the one of the most ad­vanced axles that we have ever pro­duced. The ZF AVE 130 is

es­sen­tially a low-oor rear axle with two mo­tors in the wheel ends. It’s per­fect for low-oor buses and very prac­ti­cal for city bus ap­pli­ca­tions. It’s also very pow­er­ful at 240 kilo­watts.”

Hy­brid tech­nol­ogy is also very much on the cards, par­tic­u­larly for road coaches.

“We are also in the de­vel­op­ment of hy­brid trans­mis­sions for longdis­tance coaches, for this we will use a cen­tral drive elec­tric mo­tor trans­mis­sion,” Me­ichle says.

“We are one of the few com­pa­nies that are in­vest­ing a lot of money into re­search and de­vel­op­ment in or­der to sup­ply the mar­ket with the prod­ucts that it needs.”

But it’s not just the ac­cep­tance of change that is driv­ing the or­gan­i­sa­tion for­ward; the busi­ness struc­ture it­self has also con­trib­uted to the suc­cess of ZF.

“An­other key el­e­ment is that we are ded­i­cated to the bus mar­ket. We have a busi­ness unit within ZF that is ded­i­cated to bus and bus prod­ucts only – not prod­ucts that have been de­vel­oped for trucks and then adapted to bus – and that re­ally does make a big dif­fer­ence.”

“On the tech­ni­cal side, be­cause we are build­ing com­po­nents specically for buses, our au­to­matic trans­mis­sions have a pri­mary re­tarder which helps your brakes last longer, and that’s very im­por­tant in city buses where you are stop­ping and start­ing a lot and this is a signicant ad­van­tage over our com­peti­tors’ prod­ucts.”

Me­ichle has been with ZF for more than 20 years and has seen a lot of change over that time.

“It’s a very ex­cit­ing in­dus­try to work in and the tech­nol­ogy is al­ways im­prov­ing, which means you are al­ways learn­ing new things and try­ing to solve prob­lems that peo­ple in the mar­ket are fac­ing.

“I’ve been com­ing to Aus­tralia for 15 years now. I try to visit ev­ery two years and this has enabled me to un­der­stand the lo­cal bus in­dus­try and the Aus­tralian cul­ture of busi­ness

“As the mother com­pany, it’s im­por­tant for us to un­der­stand the lo­cal mar­ket and what makes it tick.

“Also it works the other way around, so ev­ery two years we have a tech­ni­cal sem­i­nar in Europe and a sales sem­i­nar to train the Aus­tralian team and teams from all around the world on the lat­est ZF prod­ucts and what the cus­tomers are do­ing, which is fan­tas­tic.”

ZF has al­ready acted on the chal­lenges it fore­saw within the tra­di­tional bus com­po­nent mar­ket years ago, and by be­ing proac­tive has turned th­ese into ma­jor op­por­tu­ni­ties as the in­dus­try edges closer to elec­trication and zero emis­sions.

This de­vel­op­ment has re­ally helped to put us in a strong po­si­tion within th­ese emerg­ing mar­kets and put us ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion

Be­low: Chris­tian Me­ichle, Di­rec­tor Com­mer­cial Ve­hi­cle Tech­nol­ogy at ZF Friedrichshafen AG

Top: ZF show­cas­ing its prod­ucts and in­no­va­tions at the Aus­trala­sia Bus & Coach Expo

Above: ZF Eco­l­ife - the uni­ver­sal ge­nius for city buses and coaches

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