POW­ER­TRAIN

Car India - - FIRST RIDE -

Where elec­tri­fi­ca­tion was the head­line ear­lier, the onus is on man­u­fac­tur­ers to im­prove com­bus­tion be­ing bet­ter than it ever was. The diesel en­gine is some­thing, Bosch say, that can be im­proved even fur­ther, to the tune of 10 per cent. That means slightly more power, yes, but with much higher fuel ef­fi­ciency and cleaner emis­sions. New-gen­er­a­tion in­jec­tion sys­tems use pres­sures as high as 2,500 bar in diesel en­gines as ad­vanced as they can be to­day. Yet the po­ten­tial for a cleaner so­lu­tion, half a per cent at a time, presents it­self as you read this. It’s con­stant evo­lu­tion, and that’s what the fo­cus is on.

Com­mon-rail

Un­like com­mon sense, com­mon-rail in­jec­tion sys­tems are quite com­mon. Present reg­u­la­tions al­most man­date di­rect in­jec­tion with con­trolled pres­sures to en­sure com­pli­ant emis­sions from diesel en­gines. Where it was the do­main of the large sa­loon a decade ago, sub-com­pact hatch­backs have it to­day. At our dis­posal were four unique ex­am­ples. The most ad­vanced were, of course, the two VW Group of­fer­ings: the Audi SQ7, with its triple-turbo 4.0-litre V8 mak­ing 435 PS and 900 Nm (the lat­ter from 1,000 rpm), and the Panam­era 4S Diesel, which uses the same en­gine with a bi-turbo setup for 422 PS and 850 Nm, the lat­ter also from 1,000 rpm. Both run Bosch com­mon-rail at a pres­sure of 2,500 bar — sig­nif­i­cantly higher than their pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion mod­els. These mod­els also use ad­vanced piezo-in­jec­tion sys­tems.

The next, run­ning the com­mon-rail sys­tem with 2,000 bar to­gether with so­le­noid in­jec­tion sys­tems in their four-cylin­der en­gines, were the Volk­swa­gen Pas­sat and the all-new Alfa Romeo Stelvio. The new Pas­sat, with its 190-PS 2.0-litre en­gine, feels sub­stan­tially more re­fined and re­spon­sive than its pre­de­ces­sor. The Stelvio is Alfa’s first SUV and uses the pop­u­lar 2.2 JTD mo­tor with 180 PS. For its size, it still man­ages to feel ex­cit­ing, even be­ing a diesel, with all the el­e­ments to set the Alfa apart mak­ing their pres­ence felt — such as the start but­ton on the steer­ing wheel.

Al­ter­na­tive Fuel

Not to be left be­hind, an­other av­enue for al­ter­na­tive propul­sion is com­pressed nat­u­ral gas (CNG). It makes for a cleaner al­ter­na­tive to con­ven­tional fuel, al­beit while us­ing the com­bus­tion en­gine only slightly adapted. Be­ing widely con­sid­ered as the clean­est fos­sil fuel, CNG is known to pro­duce al­most half the hy­dro­car­bons as well as con­sid­er­ably lower car­bon diox­ide emis­sions when com­pared to petrol or diesel.

The Audi A5 Sport­back 2.0 g-tron I drove is a model specif­i­cally adapted us­ing quite a few fuel man­age­ment sys­tems from Bosch. There isn’t any­thing re­ally to tell it apart from its con­ven­tion­ally-pow­ered coun­ter­part, save for the sec­ond fuel-gauge dis­play on the left in green. Even to drive, it feels no dif­fer­ent. The 2.0-litre four-cylin­der en­gine puts out slightly less when run­ning on CNG, with 170 PS and 270 Nm of torque. Even so, ac­cel­er­a­tion is brisk enough and, to­gether with its sleek pro­por­tions, the A5 makes for a good, com­fort­able, sen­si­ble, and clean car for city and tour­ing use alike.

Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion

The next ra­tio­nal step to­wards clean en­ergy comes from elec­tri­fied pow­er­trains. Bosch hope to make the ex­pe­ri­ence as stream­lined as pos­si­ble with a grad­ual shift from en­tirely fos­sil-fu­elled ve­hi­cles to part-elec­tri­fied or hy­brid ve­hi­cles and even fully elec­tric ve­hi­cles in the near fu­ture. Au­ton­o­mous driv­ing re­mains the key to solv­ing the traf­fic prob­lem which plagues ev­ery ma­jor global city. How­ever, the so­lu­tion isn’t merely switching to au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles; it’s pri­mar­ily about re­duc­ing the num­ber of ve­hi­cles on the road, and that means car shar­ing, some­thing pos­si­ble to­day, but an idea that needs to be elab­o­rated upon con­sid­er­ably in terms of im­ple­men­ta­tion. Un­til then, car-pool­ing in elec­tric cars, recharged us­ing so­lar or wind en­ergy, is the best way for­ward to en­sure we don’t erad­i­cate our­selves.

Not that there aren’t some cut­ting-edge en­ergy man­age­ment so­lu­tions avail­able to­day. The ad­vent of 48-volt elec­tri­cal sys­tems presents a cred­i­ble so­lu­tion to many chal­lenges shelved ear­lier with­out any fea­si­ble means of mak­ing them a re­al­ity. There are more com­plex sys­tems that can be em­ployed in cars, mak­ing them far more ef­fi­cient and re­li­able while re­duc­ing the load on the con­ven­tional 12-volt elec­tri­cal sys­tem that will con­tinue to run in par­al­lel for more tra­di­tional sup­port func­tions not re­quir­ing more po­tent elec­tronic man­age­ment.

Hy­brids

In­no­va­tions such as start/stop were only the be­gin­ning. The coast­ing func­tion, eC­lutch, and en­gine man­age­ment sys­tems have now been given a boost with more ad­vanced elec­tri­fi­ca­tion pos­si­bil­i­ties. For a first-hand ap­proach, the new Volk­swa­gen Golf TSI 48V Hy­brid was present. With an aim to fur­ther fuel ef­fi­ciency, the rate of op­ti­mi­sa­tion is stag­ger­ing. Ev­ery lit­tle de­tail is un­der an elec­tronic mi­cro­scope, with con­trol units analysing ev­ery inkling of po­ten­tial fuel sav­ing and range ex­ten­sion.

An­other evo­lu­tion which we man­aged to sam­ple was the Audi A3 TFSI 48V Hy­brid eC­lutch. Hav­ing driven the A3 eC­lutch the last time around, the new one pre­sented a mega op­por­tu­nity to see how much more has changed. For starters, where I needed to use the clutch pedal to get go­ing the last time, this time I just had to se­lect a gear and go. The sys­tem au­to­mat­i­cally recog­nises the speed and driver in­put and de­liv­ers just the right amount of juice to keep go­ing at that pace. The coast func­tion is also ev­i­dent as it uses elec­tric power to keep you go­ing with the en­gine a silent by­stander wait­ing to be called upon. The num­ber of times (76!) the eC­lutch de­cou­pled and re­cou­pled the pow­er­train the last time as­tounded me. This time, I was sure it would be just as much or even more. Where the last A3 was more re­ac­tive, this one felt more pre­dic­tive, and is a huge step for­ward to­wards the ul­ti­mate goal in that sense.

Of course, ef­fi­ciency can en­ve­lope a broader spec­trum of au­to­mo­biles and there is no rea­son why large lux­ury cars can­not be more ef­fi­cient. Case in point: the new Mercedes-Benz E 350 e. With a fru­gal 2.0-litre turbo-petrol en­gine and a 65-kW elec­tric mo­tor, the com­bined 286 PS and 550 Nm is enough for the two-tonne lux­ury sa­loon to get wher­ever it needs to in a hurry, with­out be­ing in­ef­fi­cient.

Electrics

What is elec­tri­fi­ca­tion with­out the purists? By purists, I’m talk­ing about all-elec­tric cars. One, a proper set-for-pro­duc­tion com­pact hatch­back made with light­weight ma­te­rial; the other, a more util­i­ty­ori­ented cre­ation that will re­place the Deutsche Post de­liv­ery vans over time. The first is the e.GO.

Made for city use, the e.GO of­fers ad­e­quate per­for­mance with rea­son­able range. It’s set for se­ries pro­duc­tion in 2018. Pow­ered by Bosch’s 48-volt elec­tri­cal sys­tem and a 14.4-kWh bat­tery pack, it allows for a 5.7-sec­ond dash from 0-50 km/h and a range of 130 km. At 3.35 me­tres long, it of­fered enough room for four, and the 650-kg weight means it won’t be too tax­ing on the bat­tery ei­ther.

The Streetscooter, on the other hand, is made es­pe­cially for the Ger­man postal ser­vice. It can get up to 120 km/h and has a range of 80 km. The re­quired range is just be­tween 50 and 60 km. More im­por­tantly, the life of the bat­tery is 16 years.

eAxle

The eAxle elec­tric axle drive sys­tem from Bosch pro­vides elec­tric drive so­lu­tions across a mod­u­lar, scal­able plat­form to suit var­i­ous ap­pli­ca­tions. Ideal for city or high­way use, the eAxle com­bines drive and trans­mis­sion func­tion­al­ity to­gether with cut­ting-edge Bosch mo­bil­ity so­lu­tions into one com­pact pack­age. It is avail­able in a range of out­puts from 50 kW (68 PS) to 300 kW (408 PS).

Bat­tery Tech

Bat­tery tech­nol­ogy is a crit­i­cal as­pect of fu­ture tech­nol­ogy im­ple­men­ta­tion. At present, the range and more po­tent abil­i­ties of sys­tems are lim­ited only by ca­pac­ity. What is needed is more charge in a smaller area at a lower cost. Bosch are re­search­ing bat­tery tech­nol­ogy that will make it pos­si­ble to drive longer dis­tances with­out recharg­ing, and will also cost less than cur­rent bat­ter­ies. Ten years from now, Bosch ex­pect about 15 per cent of all new ve­hi­cles world­wide to have an elec­tric pow­er­train. With this in mind, Bosch are in­vest­ing €400 mil­lion (Rs 3,000 crore) a year in elec­tro-mo­bil­ity.

To­day’s lithium-ion bat­ter­ies are su­pe­rior in this re­spect, stor­ing more than three times the amount of en­ergy per kilo­gram. At a weight of 230 kg, the bat­tery of a mod­ern-day elec­tric car pro­vides ap­prox­i­mately 18 to 30 kWh. To achieve the de­sired 50 kWh, a bat­tery weigh­ing up to 600 kg would be nec­es­sary. This isn’t re­ally fea­si­ble in a com­pact ve­hi­cle, which is why the tar­get is 190 kg, with a tar­get charge time of 15 min­utes for 75 per cent ca­pac­ity.

The fu­ture lies in solid-state bat­ter­ies, or post-lithium tech­nol­ogy. While the tech­no­log­i­cal aware­ness may be present, it is still in the re­search and pre­de­vel­op­ment stage.

48-volt elec­tri­cal sys­tem opens new realms of pos­si­bil­i­ties

Bosch eAxle is both mod­u­lar and scal­able ( Left) Var­ied range of use for the eAxle

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