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ULTRAN: Ultra Lightweight Rear Drive Unit (RDU)

What was the challenge?

A key priority for Jaguar Land Rover is to design and produce new lightweight components without compromising properties and utility. Development of such components must take into account environmental conditions such as temperature (-40o to +150oC), chemical resistance and mechanical properties. Impact resistance of new plastic components also needs to be considered, particularly on the undersides of vehicles, which are exposed to stone strike.

What was the solution?

The project consortium designed an innovative rear drive unit (RDU) product, with 25% lower mass than the current production unit. To enable this design, multi-material joining solutions were needed. WMG completed the following key elements of the component development:

  • Applied expertise in polymer composite performance and adhesives
  • Selected appropriate materials
  • Completed experimental validation using multilayer (composite, rubber and aluminium) lap shear tests, under various environmental conditions
  • Completed on and off-road conditions testing, simulated through:
  • ASTM abrasion tests
  • Stone strike replicated by using a gas gun
  • Kerb or rock strike using a drop tower
  • Vehicle jacking (e.g. replacing wheel after puncture) using electro-mechanical compression equipment

What was the impact?

WMG’s work contributed to weight savings of 8.5 kg (from a baseline of 34.1 kg), realising a saving of over 500 kg of CO2 over the lifetime of the vehicle1. Although applied on a Range Rover RDU, the technology would be appropriate for any vehicle transmission.

“An innovation project that sets out bold and high risk engineering goals is exactly the type of R&D we want to see. This project achieves 25% lower mass than the current production unit which is absolutely incredible!”

Roland Meister, Head of Automotive, Aerospace and Autonomous Vehicles at Innovate UK

Find out more about our Materials and Manufacturing research group here.