In which direction are we heading? This is often a popular question when we start to think of the future. It’s a good question, but also very difficult to answer. As Director of Global Sales at MANN+HUMMEL I have worked intensively over the last 16 years in responsible positions on themes which have to do with the future of our company. Up to now it was relatively easy for my team and I to make good and reliable sales forecasts and to correspondingly adjust our sales activities. Four months ago I became responsible for sales to customers in the area of electric mobility – an area where it is a challenge to predict the future.
MANN+HUMMEL has been the market leader for filtration solutions for combustion engines in the automotive industry for a number of years. But how is this sector evolving? How long will we continue to fill up with diesel and gasoline? Will the transition to electric cars take place in five, ten or only in 25 years? And what about alternative drives such as the fuel cell? Well one thing is certain, all cars need filtration solutions and even electric vehicles require corresponding products. For example, all electric cars naturally have a cabin filter which protects the vehicle occupants against dust and depending on the version also against harmful gases such as NOx, SO2 or ozone. And you will naturally also find oil filters in an electric car because oil cools and lubricates electric motors with a gearbox. The oil has to be cleaned before the lubrication process and MANN+HUMMEL offers the respective products for this task.
Electric cars, however, create new challenges. The high-performance batteries have to be cooled and coolant is needed to do this. In oder to avoid damage to the cooling system, the coolant has to be continuously cleaned. We already produce these coolant filters in series. The cooling process also leads to further problems in the battery with the formation of condensation water on cooling surfaces and lines. Everyone knows that electricity and water are not made for each other and therefore MANN+HUMMEL has developed a dryer cartridge which absorbs air humidity and is therefore able to prevent condensation.
And another example is that in order to protect the battery system against deformation or damage, there must be continuous pressure equalization. For this purpose MANN+HUMMEL has developed a membrane which allows the useful but prevents the harmful. It allows the passage of air, but at the same time retains particles and liquids. MANN+HUMMEL therefore offers a degassing unit which we developed in the course of our work for the BMW i3. It opens additionally when a redefined pressure increase takes place and thus helps to minimize the negative consequences of a malfunction.
There are similar examples for fuel cell cars. A cathode air filter, for example, protects the catalistagainst particles and harmful gases to lengthen the life of the fuel cell. The ion exchanger filter on the other hand reliably removes ions from the full cell coolant. That is important because the presence of ions in the coolant would increase its electrical conductivity which in turn would lead to short circuits in the fuel cell.
In total, this means that MANN+HUMMEL is already in a good position to provide the required filtration technology of tomorrow. And we are also thinking one step ahead: our brake particulate filter, for example, is a completely new product which according to my knowledge has not yet been developed to this extent by a competitor. It filters the particulates which are generated during braking directly at the source and is therefore designed to reduce the emission of of particulates in cities for example.
This is because the bigger part of the particulates are today not produced in engines but by tire, brake and street abrasion and the dust which is stirred up, including electric cars and fuel cell cars. So you can see that we are prepared for the future and today we can already offer our customers solutions for their products which they will perhaps only launch on the market tomorrow.
Consequently, the coming years look very good for the area of filtration in the automotive industry. We believe that more and more hybrid vehicles will be launched on the market as an interim solution which means that in terms of sales we will continue to be able to supply our traditional products for combustion engines and at the same time offer new products for electric components. According to the knowledge we have today, our opinion is that the combustion engine will then slowly decline. The question of when and most importantly how quickly this is set to happen cannot be predicted. Even well-respected researchers are unable to agree on this point.
Some of them think that after 2030 around 40% of all new car registrations will be for electric and mainly hybrid drivetrains and others predict the figure to be less than 25%. How this will play out in the individual regions of the world is quite a different question because then other factors come to bear such as politics, economic considerations and societal decisions. Sometimes I would like to have a crystal ball to enable me to see what the future holds for us in 15 or 20 years. This would enable me to plan and make even more precise estimations. But one thing we can be sure about is that the change in drive concepts will change our range of products and therefore it will be necessary to react quickly to the changing market, for example, through quicker decision-making processes.
But we at MANN+HUMMEL have already shown in the past that we do not wait for changes to happen and then react, but that we can proactively contribute towards shaping the future. And therefore in my opinion we will also have an important role to play in an electrified world of mobility.