During a media day for Magna International’s “Tech Week,” we got to visit the M1 Concourse in Pontiac, Michigan, to test drive some of the contract manufacturer’s electrified tech. This included a GMC Sierra 2500 converted to a BEV using Magna’s Etelligent Force 4WD powertrain. With it, we were able experience the system’s 14,500 lb towing capacity and drive some other unique EVs too.
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Magna International and its electrified technology
Even if you haven’t heard of Magna International, it’s a safe bet you’ve driven a vehicle that contains at lease one component the contract manufacturer has produced. During its “Tech Week” event in Pontiac, Michigan, Magna CEO Swamy Kotagiri detailed some of the company’s production numbers.
In total, Magna has produced over 3.7 million vehicles across thirty different models for ten different OEM customers including the likes of Ford, Rivian, GM, and soon, Fisker. In 2021 alone, Magna garnered $36 billion in sales, solidifying 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 shifting drastically toward electrified models, Magna has followed suit. By developing everything from electrified powertrains, to battery enclosures, and ADAS systems, Magna is providing several OEMs with the technology and components to go all-EV. Here is a quick recap of some of the electrified tech we’ve covered from Magna in the past:
Testing electrified models in Michigan with Magna
After covering this electrified technology from afar, Magna International was nice enough to invite us out 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 present on the Volkswagen ID.4.
What’s cool about this electric motor is that it manufactured without rare earth materials, making it more sustainable and cost effective.
Behind that EV in line was a Tesla Model S equipped with Magna’s EtelligentDrive system. This 3-in-1 eDrive system uses a motor at the front axle and two in the rear joined by a summation gearbox with clutch-based torque vectoring. The result is a Tesla sedan with 480 kW of total power that was built years before the Model S Plaid came out; it currently sits as an early example of Magna’s electrified expertise.
One of the more interesting BEVs 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 at the opportunity to drive a Chinese EV, a market I have a particular adoration for. The design itself felt very European, and I thought it was a smooth drive all-around. Nothing too flashy or luxurious, but nothing to scoff at either. The overall performance quality was certainly apparent.
The dual-motor, AWD version of the αT comes with a battery capacity of 67.3 or 93.6 kWh, delivering 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 technology
The one electrified model most of the journalists were clamoring to drive was the GMC Sierra equipped with Magna’s EtelligentForce technology. Magna had two of the Sierra’s available to drive, so my first few laps were in the electrified pickup without the trailer to experience the truck itself.
EtelligentForce is a drop-in 4WD powertrain system for passenger trucks and light commercial vehicles that electrifies the vehicle’s capabilities without compromising its payload or towing.
Magna’s eBeam is part of the system and can assist in OEMs electrifying existing ladder frame chassis without having to start over with a ground up platform. eBeam also helps provide 14,500 lbs of towing capacity, which was on display at M1 during our test drives.
While consumers will soon be able to purchase an all-electric GMC Sierra Denali pickup, we got to experience the towing technology early using a combustion model GMC Sierra 2500 made electric with Magna’s EtelligentDrive powertrain swapped in.
The electrified pickup drove smoothly, offering regenerative braking while towing over 10,000 pounds on a trailer behind it. Magna’s EtelligentDrive system is available on Class 1 to 6 vehicles. Here’s the electrified GMC pickup in action:
Magna’s future outlook for EV tech
After hearing from the company’s CEO, there’s a lot to be optimistic about as Magna continues to grow its arsenal of EV technology. Its eDrive components will appear in more and more EVs from OEMs going forward, including the Fisker Ocean which begins production with Magna in Austria this fall. Additional vehicles include an unnamed OEM in China in 2023 (Magna currently manufacturers for NIO and XPeng, so it’s probably one of those two), and an American OEM in 2024.
A major focus of Magna looking ahead will be its battery enclosures, which have already been developed and implemented in EVs like the Ford F-150 Lightning and GMC Hummer EV pickup. Magna’s CEO wouldn’t elaborate on what future models it would provide enclosures to, but the company is confident it will continue work with those same automakers in the future.
Kotagiri explained that Magna’s manufacturing of enclosures is both material and processing agnostic, meaning it can design and build EV battery enclosures to any customer’s specifications.
The best part is, every EV needs one, so Magna is in a lucrative position to provide to the growing demand for such components. Kotagiri also shared that Magna is investing about $500 million to expand battery enclosure assembly lines over the next three years.
Overall, this was a cool trip to Michigan to see a bunch of the EV tech – that we have covered for years – operate in real life. There’s a lot to be high on at Magna, as the company continues to make money hand over fist with no signs of slowing down as it shifts toward electrification.
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