Dis­rup­tive tech to suc­ceed in pow­er­train space

Auto components India - - COVER STORY - Text : Bhushan Mhapralkar

In the au­to­mo­tive pow­er­house, the en­gine is in­creas­ingly com­ing un­der scru­tiny with strin­gent emis­sion norms and fuel econ­omy tar­gets. They put the spot­light on In­ter­nal Com­bus­tion (IC) en­gine. The ef­fi­ciency of an IC en­gine is claimed to be be­tween 18 and 40%. There is scope for im­prove­ment in ef­fi­ciency by re­duc­ing fric­tion, pump­ing losses and heat waste. There­fore, the OEMs and sup­pli­ers glob­ally work to make the IC en­gine more ef­fi­cient. They are seek­ing so­lu­tions to in­crease the ef­fi­ciency of pow­er­train for in­cre­men­tal gains.

The evo­lu­tion­ary and dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies are likely to suc­ceed in the pow­er­train space. There is lit­tle doubt that in­tel­li­gent elec­tri­fi­ca­tion holds the key to a more rad­i­cal IC en­gine tech. Me­chan­i­cal hy­brids could of­fer sub­stan­tial cost re­duc­tion over an elec­tric sys­tem. The growth of both reg­u­la­tion and tar­gets for low car­bon ve­hi­cles sets a ma­jor chal­lenge. A bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of life cy­cle emis­sions will en­able more in­formed choices.

En­gine down­siz­ing

Reg­u­la­tory pres­sure and the need for su­pe­rior ef­fi­ciency are driv­ing en­gine down­siz­ing. The idea is to gen­er­ate more power from less space, and re­duce weight. The quest to down­size is be­ing achieved by cut­ting down on the num­ber of cylin­ders. This drives en­gine dis­place­ment down but the power and torque out­put in­creases with the help of tech­nolo­gies like tur­bocharg­ers that sup­plies more air to the en­gine and make it more ef­fi­cient. Bet­ter con­trol sys­tems are be­ing em­ployed. This is be­ing done by heav­ily con­trolled and op­ti­mised valve train and fuel de­liv­ery sys­tems which dif­fer for petrol and diesel IC en­gines. Fac­tors that have been dic­tat­ing en­gine down­siz­ing have not been just reg­u­la­tion, but mar­ket de­mand and the dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives of the re­spec­tive gov­ern­ments on the en­gines and their as­so­ci­ated tech­nolo­gies.

In 2014, petrol en­gines ac­counted for close to 87% of the pas­sen­ger car en­gines sold in China. Over 71% of the pas­sen­ger ve­hi­cles sold in China dur­ing the same year had en­gines with dis­place­ment ca­pac­ity be­low 1.6-litres. The re­main­ing per­cent­age ac­counted for en­gines that had a dis­place­ment ca­pac­ity be­tween 1.6 and 2 litres. In South Korea, 45% of en­gines sold in 2014 had a dis­place­ment ca­pac­ity be­low 2 litres. En­gines with ca­pac­ity be­tween 1.5 and 2 litres ac­counted for 37%.

Over 82% of IC en­gines sold in South Korea in 2014 were thus with a dis­place­ment ca­pac­ity of un­der 2 litres. In 2014, close to 62% of the en­gines sold in In­dia were diesel pow­ered. There ca­pac­ity was be­tween 1.0 and 1.6 litre. The sale of petrol en­gine ac­counted for 48% with ca­pac­i­ties be­tween 1.0 and 1.6-litre. In fact, close to 36% of petrol en­gines sold in In­dia in 2014 are said to be be­low 1.0-litre dis­place­ment ca­pac­ity. Though not as much as in Europe and some other ad­vanced mar­kets, the pres­ence of tur­bocharged diesel and petrol en­gines is rising in In­dia. The trend is push­ing tur­bocharger sales. It is in­flu­enc­ing a travel to­wards IC en­gine tran­si­tion­ing from a pri­mary propul­sion source to a sec­ondary power source.

Tur­bocharg­ing

Tur­bocharg­ing and en­gine down­siz­ing are cor­re­lated. As down­siz­ing picks up pace, tur­bocharger sales rise. At the cen­tre is the need to sat­isfy the power thirst of cus­tomers. As en­gines down­size to lev­els un­prece­dented, the global tier-1 sup­pli­ers like Honey­well, Con­ti­nen­tal, Bosch Mahle, Cum­mins Turbo En­ergy and BorgWarner are sup­port­ing the need for tur­bocharg­ing. Many of these sup­pli­ers are also spe­cial­is­ing in other as­so­ci­ated pow­er­train tech­nolo­gies like EGR sys­tems, SCR sys­tems, vari­able valve train man­age­ment, etc. Un­like be­fore the tier-1 sup­pli­ers are work­ing with OEMs and en­gine spe­cial­ists like Cum­mins, Deutz, Perkins, Volvo, Lom­bar­dini, etc., to turn out ef­fi­cient and less pol­lut­ing pow­er­trains.

With at­ten­tion on cleaner and leaner burn­ing en­gines with­out sac­ri­fic­ing the thirst for power, OEMs are in­creas­ingly look­ing at bet­ter valve train con­trol. This is made pos­si­ble by Vari­able Valve Timing (VVT), Vari­able Valve Lift (VVL), and di­rect in­jec­tion tech­nolo­gies. The 3 tech­nolo­gies help re­duce waste heat and pump­ing losses. Di­rect in­jec­tion tech­nolo­gies are driv­ing digi­ti­sa­tion. Op­ti­mis­ing com­bus­tion ef­fi­ciency,

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