Car­mak­ers forced back to big­ger en­gines

Lesotho Times - - Motoring -

PARIS, France — Tougher Euro­pean car emis­sions tests be­ing in­tro­duced in the wake of the Volk­swa­gen scan­dal are about to bring sur­pris­ing con­se­quences: big­ger en­gines.

In­dus­try sources say car­mak­ers that have spent a decade shrink­ing en­gine ca­pac­i­ties to meet emis­sions goals are now be­ing forced into a costly U-turn as more real­is­tic on-the-road test­ing ex­poses deep flaws in their small­est pow­er­plants.

Re­nault, Gen­eral Mo­tors and Volk­swa­gen are re­port­edly pre­par­ing to en­large or scrap some of their best-sell­ing small car en­gines over the next three years. Other mak­ers are ex­pected to fol­low, with both diesel and petrol en­gines af­fected.

The re­ver­sal makes it even harder to meet CO2 tar­gets and will chal­lenge de­vel­op­ment bud­gets al­ready stretched by a rush into elec­tric cars and hy­brids.

Alain Ra­poso, head of pow­er­train at the Re­nault-nis­san al­liance, ex­plained: “The tech­niques we’ve used to re­duce en­gine ca­pac­i­ties will no longer al­low us to meet emis­sions stan­dards.

“We’re reach­ing the lim­its of down­siz­ing,” he said at the Paris mo­tor show, which ends on Satur­day, while Re­nault, VW and Opel all de­clined to com­ment on spe­cific en­gine plans.

For years, car­mak­ers kept pace with Euro­pean Union CO2 goals by shrink­ing en­gine ca­pac­i­ties, while ad­ding tur­bocharg­ers to make up lost power. Three-cylin­der en­gines of less than a litre have be­come com­mon in cars up to VW Golf size, while some Fiat mod­els run on twins. Un­re­al­is­tic These mini-mo­tors sailed through of­fi­cial lab tests con­ducted — un­til now — on rollers at un­re­al­is­ti­cally mod­er­ate tem­per­a­tures and speeds. Car­mak­ers, reg­u­la­tors and green groups knew that re­al­world CO2 and ni­tro­gen ox­ide emis­sions were much higher, but the dis­crep­ancy re­mained un­re­solved.

All that is about to change. Start­ing in 2017, new mod­els will be sub­jected to real­is­tic on-the-road test­ing for NOX, with all cars re­quired to com­ply by 2019. Fuel con­sump­tion and CO2 will fol­low two years later un­der a new global test stan­dard.

In­de­pen­dent test­ing in the wake of Volk­swa­gen’s ex­po­sure in 2015 as a US diesel emis­sions cheat has shed more light on the scale of the prob­lem fac­ing car com­pa­nies.

Their small­est Euro­pean en­gines far ex­ceed le­gal emis­sions lev­els when driven at higher loads than cur­rent tests call for. Heat from the souped-up tur­bos gen­er­ates diesel NOX up to 15 times over the limit; petrol equiv­a­lents lose fuel-ef­fi­ciency and spew fine par­ti­cles and car­bon monox­ide.

In­dus­try an­a­lyst with in­flu­en­tial fore­caster IHS Au­to­mo­tive, Pa­van Potluri said: “They might be do­ing OK in the cur­rent Euro­pean test cy­cle, but in the real world they are not per­form­ing.

“So there’s ac­tu­ally a bit of ‘up­siz­ing’ go­ing on, par­tic­u­larly in diesel.”

In re­treat Car­mak­ers have kept un­der­stand­ably quiet about the scale of the prob­lem or how they plan to ad­dress it, but in­dus­try sources shared de­tails of a re­treat al­ready un­der­way.gm will not re­place its cur­rent 1.2-litre diesel when the en­gines are up­dated on a new ar­chi­tec­ture ar­riv­ing in 2019; the small­est en­gine in the range will be 25-30 per­cent big­ger.

VW is re­plac­ing its 1.4-litre tur­bod­iesel three with a four-cylin­der 1.6 for cars such as the Polo,the sources say, while Re­nault is plan­ning a near-10 per­cent en­large­ment to its 1.6-litre R9M diesel, which re­placed a 1.9-litre model in 2011.

In real-world driv­ing con­di­tions, Re­nault’s 900cc H4BT tur­bopetrol in­jects ex­tra fuel to com­bat over­heat­ing, re­sult­ing in high emis­sions of un­burned hy­dro­car­bons, fine parti- cles and car­bon monox­ide.

Clean­ing that up with ex­haust tech­nol­ogy would be too ex­pen­sive, sources say, so the three-cylin­der will be dropped for a larger suc­ces­sor de­vel­op­ing more torque at lower revs to stay cool.

The turn­around on size is a Euro­pean phe­nom­e­non, co­in­cid­ing with diesel’s sharp de­cline in smaller cars. Larger en­gines preva­lent in North Amer­ica, China and emerg­ing mar­kets still have room to im­prove real emis­sions by shrink­ing.

In­evitable reck­on­ing Fiat, Re­nault and Opel have the worst real NOX emis­sions among the new­est “Euro 6” diesels, ac­cord­ing to test data from sev­eral coun­tries; bro­ker­age Ever­core ISI warned in Septem­ber that they now “face the big­gest bur­den” of com­pli­ance costs.

Thomas We­ber, head of re­search and de­vel­op­ment at Mercedes — which has noth­ing with less than four cylinders — said such reck­on­ings were the in­evitable re­sult of on- the-road test­ing.

“It be­comes ap­par­ent that a small en­gine is not an ad­van­tage,” he said. “That’s why we didn’t jump on the three-cylin­der en­gine trend.”

An­a­lysts pre­dict the tougher tests may kill diesel en­gines smaller than 1.5 litres and petrol en­gines be­low about 1.2, in­creas­ing the chal­lenge of meet­ing CO2 tar­gets and ad­ding ur­gency to the scram­ble for elec­tric cars and hy­brids.

Volk­swa­gen has been far more vo­cal about am­bi­tious plans an­nounced in June to sell two to three mil­lion elec­tric cars an­nu­ally by 2025 — about a quar­ter of its cur­rent ve­hi­cle pro­duc­tion.

Frost & Sul­li­van an­a­lyst Sudeep Kaip­palli pre­dicts a hy­brids surge.

“You can’t down­size be­yond a cer­tain point, so the fo­cus is shift­ing to a com­bi­na­tion of so­lu­tions,” he said. “In fu­ture, down­siz­ing will mean you take a smaller en­gine and add an elec­tric mo­tor to it.”

— Reuters

The writ­ing may be on the wall for small three-cylin­der turbo en­gines.

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