During a media day for Magna International’s “Tech Week”, we visited the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan, to test drive some of the contract manufacturer’s electrified technology. This included a GMC Sierra 2500 converted to a BEV with Magna’s Etelligent Force 4WD driveline. With it, we were able to experience the system’s 14,500 lb towing capacity and drive some other unique electric cars as well.
Magna International and its electrified technology
Even if you have not heard of Magna International, it is certain that you have driven a vehicle that contains at least one component that the contract manufacturer has produced. During his “Tech Week” event in Pontiac, Michigan, Magna’s CEO Swamy Kotagiri detailed some of the company’s production numbers.
In total, Magna has produced over 3.7 million vehicles in thirty different models for ten different OEM customers, including Ford, Rivian, GM and soon Fisker. In 2021 alone, Magna raised $ 36 billion in sales, consolidating its title as the largest contract manufacturer in North America and the fourth largest in the world.
As the automotive industry as a whole is changing drastically towards electrified models, Magna has followed suit. By developing everything from electrified drivelines, to battery enclosures and ADAS systems, Magna supplies several OEM manufacturers with the technology and components to run entirely electric cars. Here is a quick summary of some of the electrified technologies we have covered from Magna in the past:
Testing electrified models in Michigan with Magna
After covering this electrified technology from afar, Magna International was kind enough to invite us to the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan, to experience it first hand. This included Magna’s eDS Low CE 3-in-1 eDrive front axle system, currently available on Volkswagen ID.4.
The cool thing about this electric motor is that it is manufactured without rare earth metals, which makes it more durable and cost-effective.
Behind that electric car was a Tesla Model S equipped with Magna’s EtelligentDrive system. This 3-in-1 eDrive system uses a motor on the front axle and two on the rear connected by a summing gearbox with a clutch-based torque vector. The result is a Tesla sedan with 480 kW total power that was built years before Model S Plaid came out; it is currently an early example of Magna’s electrified expertise.
One of the more interesting BEV cars that was available to drive during Magna’s event was the Arcfox αT, an electrified model sold in China as part of a joint venture between Magna and Beijing Electric Vehicle Co. Ltd. (BJEV).
I got to drive the FWD version around the M1 Concourse and was excited about the possibility of driving a Chinese electric car, a market for which I have a special adoration. The design itself felt very European, and I thought it was a smooth ride all around. Nothing too flashy or luxurious, but nothing to mock either. The overall performance quality was really obvious.
The AWD dual-engine version of the αT comes with a battery capacity of 67.3 or 93.6 kWh, and delivers NEDC ranges between 525-708 km (326-440 miles). It can accelerate to 100 km / h (62 mph) in 4.2 seconds and reach a top speed of 180 km / h (~ 112 mph).
Towing with Magna’s Etelligent Force technique
The only electrified model most journalists called for driving was the GMC Sierra equipped with Magna’s EtelligentForce technology. Magna had two of the Sierra available to drive, so my first laps were in the electrified pickup without a trailer to experience the truck itself.
EtelligentForce is a drop-in 4WD driveline system for passenger trucks and light commercial vehicles that electrifies the vehicle’s capacity without compromising its payload or towing.
Magna’s eBeam is part of the system and can help OEMs electrify existing step frame chassis without having to start over with a basic platform. eBeam also helps provide 14,500 lbs of towing capacity, which was shown on the M1 during our test runs.
While consumers will soon be able to buy a fully electric GMC Sierra Denali pickup, we got to experience the towing technology early on with a combustion model GMC Sierra 2500 made electrically with Magna’s EtelligentDrive driveline replaced.
The electrified pickup drove smoothly and offered regenerative braking while pulling over £ 10,000 on a trailer behind it. Magna’s EtelligentDrive system is available on class 1 to 6 vehicles. Here is the electrified GMC pickup in action:
Magna’s future prospects for electric car technology
After hearing from the company’s CEO, there is much to be optimistic about as Magna continues to expand its arsenal of electric car technology. Its eDrive components will appear in more and more electric cars from OEMs in the future, including the Fisker Ocean which will start manufacturing with Magna in Austria this autumn. Additional vehicles include an unnamed OEM in China 2023 (Magna currently manufactures NIO and XPeng, so it’s probably one of those two), and a US OEM 2024.
A big focus for Magna to look ahead will be its battery cases, which have already been developed and implemented in electric cars such as the Ford F-150 Lightning and GMC Hummer EV pickup. Magna’s CEO would not develop which future models it would provide enclosures for, but the company is convinced that it will continue to work with the same car manufacturer in the future.
Kotagiri explained that Magna’s production of enclosures is both material and processing diagnostic, which means that it can design and build electric car batteries according to any customer’s specifications.
The best part is that every electric car needs one, so Magna is in a lucrative position to meet the growing demand for such components. Kotagiri also said that Magna will invest approximately $ 500 million to expand the battery housing assembly lines over the next three years.
All in all, this was an awesome trip to Michigan to see a bunch of electric car technology – which we’ve been covering for years – work in real life. There is a lot to be high on at Magna, as the company continues to make money without any signs of slowing down when it comes to electrification.
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