Nexteer’s latest business victory, like its new ownership, also came unexpectedly. As BMW vetted possible candidates to supply EPS to its i3 electric vehicle three years ago, the automaker invited Nexteer to submit technology for a judging process that included longtime suppliers to the German automaker.

“To this day, I don’t know why they invited us,” says Richardson, who speculates BMW may have remembered some steer-by-wire technology Nexteer supplied the automaker several years earlier. “They came back and said, ‘We don’t know how you did it, but you won the drive. In fact, we’re not even sure who you are.’”

The EPS launches on the i3 in May, as a single-pinion mechanism that Richardson claims pushes the boundaries of state-of-the-art in terms of power output and power density. It is a highly efficient system, he says, with low standby power demand and performance attributes in line with BMW’s “Ultimate Driving Machine” standards.

“It is unique to BMW at the moment,” Richardson says of the technology, which uses next-generation dual-core processors incorporating FlexRay vehicle communication bus capability. It meets the newest Autosar standards, Nexteer says, and includes lane-keeping and park-assist driver-assist functions.

“We’re very glad to be launching that with them at the highest level of capability.”

The i3 represents just the tip of the iceberg for Nexteer and BMW. Richardson says the same EPS system with subtle tweaks will appear on all 12 products underpinned by BMW’s new small-car platform. The volume would account for roughly half of all BMWs produced globally.

“The i3 is the first of many vehicles,” he says.

Richardson also sees Nexteer continuing to take advantage of the industry’s general migration to electric steering from hydraulic. He estimates the present global penetration of EPS in the U.S. and Europe at upwards of 64%, while China sits at about 24%. Brazil has just begun adopting the technology, which on average boosts an OEM’s fleet fuel economy 4%.

That’s the equivalent of shaving 500 lbs. (218 kg) from a vehicle, he says.

“When an OEM looks at his candidate responses,” to tightening global fuel-economy and carbon-dioxide emissions regulations, “this conversion from hydraulic to electric is at the top of the list.”

At the same time, he admits, EPS probably will not gain much efficiency in the coming years.

“We’ve made the big gains already,” he says, but adds that moving the half-ton-truck segment in the U.S. to EPS proves no product is off limits to electric steering. Even the big, three-quarter-ton trucks are ripe for electrification, although there are safety considerations that must be ironed out.

“That’ll be solved with dual-wound motors and redundancy in software,” Richardson says, hinting that a solution from Nexteer for big trucks lies shortly down the road. “That’s not launching this year, but it is in the product pipeline.”

jamend@wardsauto.com