Bearings, which add a healthy amount of weight to any vehicle, play a key role in lightweighting of vehicles, and thus making them more fuel-efficient. With the market for electric vehicles (EV) growing, auto makers are also demanding bearings that can handle higher speeds, temperatures and performance.
What is that one thing which is currently widespread in the automotive bearings market? It is the drive to reduce the weight of vehicles for improving fuel efficiency and bringing down CO2 emissions. This is compelling the bearing manufacturers to strive in that direction using the latest technologies, so that they can comply with the changing environment and remain competitive. Boosted by technological advancements in the automotive industry, bearings are finding more and more diverse applications and operations. Automotive bearings are components which are able to handle heavy loads quite effectively. They are usually characterised by high precision, reliability, durability and the ability to rotate at high speeds with the minimum possible noise and vibration. Bearings help reduce the friction between the moving parts of the vehicle.
Plain bearings do not have rolling elements and possess the wherewithal to withstand heavy loads and large carrying capacities. Hence commercial vehicles primarily use plain bearings. Thrust bearings, on the other hand, offer assistance in the support of an axial load and facilitate rotation between two parts. Ball bearings have a few advantageous properties such as wear resistance, high load bearing capacity, strength and overall performance, due to which this segment is likely to grow at a considerable pace during the forecast period.
The Asia-Pacific market is more encouraging than the ripe European and North American market, beacuse of the positive growth trend and the advantage of cost that it offers. In countries such as India and China, the government policies are favourable to the automotive industry. Hence there are a lot of opportunities for automotive production in the region, with several suppliers and OEMs having established manufacturing facilities to meet the market demands. India’s Make in India policy has opened the doors for 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI), which is a boom for the domestic and international automotive producers. OEMs in this region are serving well developed markets through exports, besides meeting the local demand.
Indian bearings market constitutes less than five per cent of global bearings demand. In terms of consumption, about 60 per cent requirement is catered through domestic production while remaining is met through imports. The bearing market size in India is estimated at Rs 95 billion.
According to the Persistence Market Research 2018, Europe is the world leader in the bearings market, with China occupying the subsequent position. China, which is the second largest market in terms of revenue, is likely to surpass Europe, since it is going to experience a fall by the end of 2026. By that same time, China’s forecast shows that it will become the largest regional market for bearings. Going by the research report, China will become the fastest growing market at an estimated CAGR of 5.2 per cent over 2018-26.
The global market for automotive bearings is categorised based on product type, vehicle type, application and sales distribution channel. Regarding product type, roller bearings will perform better than all the other types. Based on vehicle type, automotive bearings will see the highest consumption from passenger vehicles in the coming years. Coming to application, transmission systems will contribute the most to revenue generation, followed by wheel hub, steering system and engine. OEMs will dominate and continue to be the largest segment in sales distribution channel, with independent aftermarket (IAM) and original equipment supplier (OES) coming second and
Some of the trends that are picking up or are already in place are lightweight steel alloys of different grade, alternate materials such as ceramic etc. There also exists bearings which are sealed and lubricated for life.
“The current electric vehicles (EV) segment is pushing limits for bearings manufacturers and auto manufacturers to have bearings that can handle higher speeds, higher temperatures and higher performance. SKF already has proven products for EV,” states an SKF India official. Developed to address the requirements of high power density electric machines for electric and hybrid vehicles, the SKF eDrive ball bearings deliver several design and performance benefits such as lower friction and lower friction variation, higher electric machine efficiency, lower heat dissipation, higher robustness at high speed and high temperature, etc.
SKF has also developed a special compact rotor positioning sensor-bearing unit. These units combine low-friction and high-speed bearing functionality with the ability to provide high precision analogue signals to determine rotor angular position. This sensor-bearing solution delivers the information needed for sinusoidal or vector control for permanent magnet synchronous motors. The units are customisable to electric motor size and number of pole pairs.