Just about every pickup truck ever built has a solid rear axle with the differential in the middle and the wheels, tires, and brakes mounted on either end. Very low tech and reliable as a locomotive. Pickup truck assembly lines have been configured for generations to bolt in the rear axle. It’s usually a matter of inserting and tightening a few bolts that mount the suspension to the frame.
Magna engineers asked themselves a question. What if we got rid of the differential, inserted an electric motor in its place, and made the whole rear axle assembly as easy to install as a conventional unit? Behold, the EBeam axle, as explained by the following video.
In a press release, Tom Rucker, president of Magna Powertrain, says, “It is a bold endeavor to electrify pickup trucks, whose owners demand the towing and hauling capabilities they are currently used to, and we’ve accomplished it with our eBeam technology. We know axles are core elements of a truck’s strength, and we are excited to have developed the first significant improvement to the solid beam axle in over 100 years.”
This is not a one size fits all product. Magna says the EBeam will be available in three configurations — a single motor with a one-speed transmission, a single motor with a two-speed transmission, or a dual motor arrangement with a single-speed transmission and torque vectoring. That last part means the power of the motors can be controlled individually to eliminate wheel slip on low traction surfaces. Magna adds that it can add a front motor to enable four-wheel drive capability if a customer requests it.
So who is going to use the EBeam axle? There’s no word about that — yet. The short answer is, any company that manufactures pickup trucks and wants to join the EV revolution. We know General Motors and Ford are hard at work designing electric pickups, but have you heard anything about similar efforts at Dodge, Toyota, or Nissan?
A pickup truck is about as simple as a hammer. A ladder frame that supports the engine, transmission, and suspension. The EBeam could slide underneath the frame rails just as easily as a conventional axle. Adding a battery pack below the frame rails is about as simple as finding T-shirts at a rock concert.
If a company doesn’t happen to have a contract with a battery manufacturer, Magna could probably help with that as well. It makes enough vehicles each year to qualify as a major global manufacturer even though most people have never heard of it. Chances are it has already talked to a battery supplier or two. The company is already building a factory to manufacture battery compartments for GM’s Hummer, and it could probably supply similar equipment to any other manufacturer who asked nicely.
The EBeam is brilliant. It makes electrification of the pollution-spewing behemoths that Americans love so dearly as easy as paddling down a river on a Sunday afternoon. It’s unlikely Magna would have invested the resources needed to make the EBeam a reality if there was no market for it.
Getting rid of emissions from large vehicles is vital. The EBeam could make it simple and affordable. Four bolts for the leaf springs, two bolts for the dampers, one connection for the rear brakes and you’re done. No changes to the assembly line required. No expensive R&D to make the conversion to electric power. Who wants to go first?