As Automakers Work to Achieve Aggressive Efficiency Targets, a Variety of Innovations are Supporting This Pursuit, Including Thermal-Management and Turbocharging Solutions
The global automotive industry continues to focus on developing cleaner, more highly efficient powertrain technologies to meet strict emission standards and consumer desire to pay less at the pump. The demand for alternative and fuel-efficient combustion engine powertrain solutions shows no signs of slowing, and a forecast from J.D. Power and Associate’s strategic partner LMC Autmotive predicts that by 2025, 36 percent of new passenger vehicles in the global market will have alternative powertrains. J.D. Power also states that the remaining 64 percent of passenger vehicles will be equipped with conventional gasoline engines with much more fuel-efficient transmissions.
Global fuel economy policies have been a driving force in moving automakers and suppliers to develop more fuel-efficient, environmentally friendly vehicles and technologies. Worldwide, we’ve recently experienced a great deal of progress in standardizing emission and fuel economy regulations.The Global Fuel Economy Initiative’s (GFEI) report, “Fuel Economy State of the World 2014,” states that in 2012:
- The U.S. and Canada were the first countries to set 2025 fuel economy standards, and Mexico proposed its first national emissions and fuel economy regulations.
- The European Union, China, and Japan updated, tightened, and extended light-duty fuel economy regulations. India developed standards, and discussions are underway in some Southeast Asian and Latin American countries.
- Chile introduced its first fuel economy labelling policy.
- Mauritius, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, developed and implemented what appears to be the first fuel economy/CO2-based feebate system in the developing world.
As OEMs seek alternative and conventional powertrain technologies to stay aligned with toughening emission and fuel economy standards, the race is on for suppliers to develop innovations to help them meet these goals. One way is through thermal-management technologies, such as flow-control devices and heat exchangers, which assist a variety of powertrain assemblies in their green pursuit. Thermal-management systems maintain optimum battery temperature, which is essential for battery life and range of electric vehicles, and take advantage of the internal-combustion engine’s thermal capacity to maximize performance, helping achieve both enhanced fuel economy and reduced emissions. In fact, the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy reports that fuel economy could be enhanced by more than 5 percent through the use of technologies that recover engine exhaust energy.
In addition, turbocharged engines have become a significant focus in the marketplace, with many suppliers and automakers using downsized, more powerful engines to achieve target fuel economy levels and reduce emissions. Honeywell's Global Turbo Forecast estimates the industry will generate $12 billion in revenue by equipping 49 million vehicles with turbochargers annually by 2019. In fact, 14 of the 38 Ward’s 10 Best Engines nominees for 2015 are turbocharged. Thermal-management comes into play with turbochargers, since the engine is operating under extreme heat. Heat shields and other thermal-management solutions are necessary to protect vehicle components such as electronics systems from overheating.
In anticipation of 2025 and what it might mean for alternative and conventional powertrains, Dana has been working on solutions to help support automakers in the quest to enhance fuel economy and reduce emissions. As a result of the U.S. government’s legislation requiring the fuel economy rating of any vehicle be measured during the warm-up phase of the powertrain (i.e. cold start at -7C), Dana developed its active warm-up (AWU) heat exchangers and exhaust gas heat recovery (EGHR) technologies. AWU heat exchangers are designed to support OEMs in achieving fuel economy targets and reduced emissions, particularly in those cold weather climates that present a difficult challenge for engine efficiency. The heat exchangers accelerate the warm-up phase, achieving fuel efficiencies more quickly in the initial operation of the vehicle and providing up to 4 percent improvements in fuel economy.
Dana also developed its EGHR solution to enable automakers to optimize operating temperatures in the vehicle by utilizing otherwise wasted heat and directing it back to the powertrain and cabin to improve warm-up times. EGHR allows customers to reduce friction in the engine, transmission, and axle by redirecting exhaust heat to rapidly warm powertrain fluids during cold start and warmup, resulting in improved fuel economy by up to 3 percent and reduced overall emissions. When coupled with Dana’s AWU heat exchangers, the EGHR system is able to significantly reduce the time it takes to achieve optimum operating temperature in the powertrain and increase fuel efficiency.
Looking ahead to the future, AWU heat exchangers and EGHR will serve as platforms for other solutions as consumer and government demands for clean, fuel-efficient vehicles continue to increase. The need for hybrid, electric, and enhanced traditional powertrains will continue to grow as regulations become more stringent, propelling the demand for the next generation of energy-saving technologies.
We’d like to hear your thoughts:
- Do you think consumers are willing to pay more for vehicles with green technologies?
- Are fuel economy and emissions ratings important to you when buying a vehicle?
- Do you prefer a traditional gasoline powered vehicle or an EV/hybrid for fuel savings and environmental benefits? Why?
- Would you consider a diesel?
Published by Ted Zielinski