DETROIT—Freudenberg-NOK, with its global fortunes built on sealing internal combustion engines to keep them leak-free, isn't blinking at a future of battery-powered electric vehicles.
Those need to be sealed too, says Matthew Portu, president of Freudenberg-NOK Sealing Technologies.
“We have sealing technologies in both camps,” Portu said at an offsite Freudenberg media presentation here Wednesday during SAE's 2016 World Congress. “The recent announcement by Tesla that it had orders for 325,000 new cars was music to our ears.”
Vehicles that rely on electric batteries need their own array of seals, Portu says. A critical part of that work requires sealing each battery cell from the next.
Internal combustion engines have myriad connections and valves that must be sealed to ensure engine pressure. Freudenberg-NOK has built an empire supplying large catalogs of seals and gaskets to support the traditional technology.
But battery propulsion is a slowly rising star in the future of automotive powertrains. In addition to appearing on EVs such as the Nissan Leaf and Tesla Model S, battery drives are contributing to Chevrolets, Fords, BMWs and various other hybrids and plug-in hybrids.
Freudenberg-NOK's seals appear on 100 percent of all vehicles built in the U.S., Portu says. The company supplies EV-maker Tesla with radial shaft seals for its powertrains, driveline boots, and various gaskets, O-rings and other components.
Freudenberg-NOK produced $2.5 billion in the seal business in 2015, an increase of about 1 percent from 2014, the company told the press here Wednesday.
Portu says Freudenberg-NOK is on a campaign to reduce sales and administrative costs at the company, which employs about 5,000 in North America, to channel more of its finances into research and development on new sealing products.
Customer efforts to reduce vehicle emissions is requiring the supplier to develop new low-emission sealing solutions, which help reduce powertrain friction.
Illustrating the urgency for new innovations in the traditional product line, Portu noted that one-third of its 2015 sales came from sealing products that are less than four years old.