Disruptive tech to succeed in powertrain space
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.
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 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,