Hella, the automotive supplier operating under the FORVIA umbrella brand, has received major orders for highly integrated Front Phygital Shields from German premium manufacturers. These large-area, complex modules for the front of the vehicle are used as a style-defining, brand-differentiating design element of electric vehicles by means of lighting and multicoloring. With additional functionalities such as integrated sensor technology, radar permeability and heating, they also play a central role in automated driving. The customer projects comprise a total of eight different electric vehicle series and have a total volume of over one billion euros. The start of series production is planned from mid-2025. Development and production take place at Hella’s Competence Center for Car Body Lighting in Ljubljana, Slovenia; a variant specifically for the Chinese automotive market will be manufactured in one of the HELLA lighting plants in China.
“With our highly integrated Front Phygital Shields, we are addressing two key trend topics at once that will have a major impact on the future of mobility: electromobility and automated driving,” says Yves Andres, Managing Director Lighting at Hella. “On the one hand, electric vehicles do not have the classic radiator grille. This gives us completely new possibilities and degrees of freedom to stage the front of the vehicle. With our front technologies, we provide the style-defining element with which car manufacturers can stand out in the market and give electromobility a face. On the other hand, our Front Phygital Shields are a key technology for automated driving, as more and more sensors are installed in the front of the vehicle. For these to function reliably, they must be protected both mechanically and against environmental influences. We ensure this with our Front Phygital Shields and deliver a complete system from a single source.”
Front Phygital Shields are among the most technologically sophisticated products in Hella’s entire lighting portfolio. Depending on customer specifications, they are available in various levels of integration, for example with different lighting functionalities. Based on the respective customer requirements, headlamp and signal light functions can be integrated. LEDs can also be used to illuminate the front of the vehicle, highlight brand-typical design elements or generate coming home/leaving home animations. Taking into account different colour variations of the Front Phygital Shields as well as illuminated and non-illuminated versions among other things, a total of over 140 different designs are realized within the scope of the customer projects.
At the same time, the Front Phygital Shields ensure the implementation of automated driving functions, such as automatic distance control (ACC). For this purpose, the Front Phygital Shields act as a radar-transparent cover for the radar sensors integrated in the front of the vehicle to protect them from the effects of weather and dirt. At the same time, the heating function, which is also integrated, makes the radar sensors an environment perception technology that is independent of the weather. “Hella has been successfully active in the radome business for over twenty years. These year-long experiences have now been incorporated into the realisation of the multifunctional radomes,” says Boštjan Furlan, who is responsible for the Product Centre Car Body Lighting at Hella.
Front Phygital Shields are composed of up to eight different foil and plastic layers, some of which are made of sustainable recycled materials. For one of the customer projects, which comprises five different vehicle models, Hella is also using polyurethane plastics for the first time anywhere in the company. They give the Phygital Shields a self-healing effect: after minor damage or deformation caused by weather or stone chips they can return to their original state under the influence of heat, such as sunlight, thanks to the polyurethanes used.
“The customer projects not only extremely important for us because of the order volume. Above all, they once again underline our comprehensive competencies and our leading position when it comes to integrating technologies and creating new design freedoms,” says Managing Director Lighting Yves Andres. “At the same time, our Front Phygital Shields will change the look of the front of the vehicle from the ground up and shape the brand look for our customers for years to come. The fact that we are able to play a key role in shaping this development fills us with pride and once again underlines our strong positioning along key automotive market trends.”