SAGINAW — The hundreds of engineers at Nexteer Automotive here are turning their expertise from electronic power steering to the sun.

Nexteer, located a the former General Motors Saginaw Steering Gear plant next to I-75, said Wednesday it is expanding its product portfolio into alternative energy.

The company’s first product, SunSteer, is a solar tracking actuator and will be built at the company’s headquarters in Saginaw.

“The team at Nexteer relied on our industry leading automotive technologies to develop a product for the renewable energy market that accurately positions solar arrays to follow the sun,” said Vince De Zorzi, senior vice president and COO at Nexteer. “SunSteer is built right here in the U.S., with more than 90 percent U.S. content and greater than 50 percent of its content produced in Michigan, including the Great Lakes Bay Region.”

SunSteer uses a precision built, high-efficiency ball screw-and-ball nut combination that provides operating efficiencies of up to 95 percent. This provides the ability to reliably move solar array loads with best-in-class energy consumption. Under normal operating conditions, SunSteer will accurately track the sun’s position, while consuming less than $2 of energy per year. High-performance coatings developed under extreme vehicle testing environments are used on SunSteer to reduce corrosion and provide long life field performance of greater than 20 years in the field.

“We found that our products offered levels of reliability and efficiency that were in many cases unprecedented in the alternative energy markets,” said David Westphal, executive director for the SunSteer program. “This has allowed us to develop new product applications that help provide long life expectancy and very low energy losses, both critical needs in the global pursuit of low cost energy.”

SunSteer positioning accuracy of less than one degree provides a highly cost effective system for photovoltaic, concentrated photovoltaic and concentrated solar power. Using Nexteer’s advanced electronic power steering technology, SunSteer requires no hydraulic fluids and provides high mechanical load capabilities with minimal environment risk or impact.

“SunSteer fits perfectly into the Great Lakes Bay Region’s economic development partnership that focuses on the regional development of comprehensive solar solutions and manufacturers” added De Zorzi.

Nexteer’s current products include electric and hydraulic steering systems, steering columns and driveline products for original equipment manufacturers. Its 10,000 employees serve more than 60 customers in every major region of the world. The company has 20 manufacturing plants, five engineering centers and 15 customer service centers strategically located in North and South America, Europe and Asia. Nexteer’s customers include GM, Fiat, Ford, Toyota, Chrysler and PSA Peugeot Citroen, as well as automakers in India, China, and South America.

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