José Avila, Continental’s Executive Board Member and Head of Powertrain Division, is very clear about the role of the ICE (internal-combustion engine) in the foreseeable future: “95% of all vehicles manufactured over the next 10 years will still have a combustion engine. The transition from fossil fuel to electric energy will not be abrupt but continuous.”
Avila underlines that he is not diluting the importance of electric technology; he sees electric and ICE powertrains being developed in tandem. “The combustion engine needs to be further optimized to fulfill its task without overly impacting climate and environment. To make the combustion engine fit for the oncoming transition period requires the help of electrification."
Sensors and actuators play a major part in ensuring ICE efficiency. Continental is now developing a new example of the former, described by the company as a fuel-quality sensor capable to ensure the best possible engine efficiency.
Investment in sensor technology is a global decision. Avila’s words came as Continental was putting the finishing touches to its new technical center 120 km (75 mi) west of São Paulo, Brazil. “Brazil plays a central part in our global strategy,” he said.
The center is described as having “cutting-edge” sensor and actuator technology, a chemical laboratory, and climatic chambers. Development there includes a cold-start system for flex-fuel engines. All the company’s test centers apply the same standards with regard to test equipment, test measurement capability, centralized processes, and automation to provide comparable results worldwide.
Continental is also paying close attention to engine controls, and the news about its sensor work follows introduction of its Engine Management System 3 (EMS3). This is described as a platform for new generation engine and drive controls as well as for hybrid applications, able to look after fuel injection and ignition functions but also coordinate EV motors while monitoring their battery charge state.
The system incorporates predictive-based energy management, a software-based module that reads driving style and uses topographical data and GPS information to establish a 3D profile of the route being driven, identifying route sectors in which energy can be recuperated.
“It determines with what load and where the combustion engine would work more efficiently alone, or where the electric motor would perform better,” said Avila. “With our new engine management platform, we coordinate power but also direct the flow of energy along the drivetrain.” The new system has an open architecture based on AUTOSAR standards.
As for future ICE developments, at a recent technology workshop in Regensburg, Germany, emphasis was placed on the company’s focus on next-generation gasoline injector systems that will reach pressures above the current limit of 200 bar (2900 psi).
Diesel engine operating pressures are also set to rise. The next stage of control devices, high-pressure pumps, and injectors for diesels is progressing, with pressures of 2000-2200 bar (29-32 ksi) entering volume production “in the next few years.” Research work is now also under way into the efficacy and practicality of 2500-bar (36.5-ksi) injection systems for passenger cars.