Powertrain outlook for Europe

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  • Image: Euro 6 Cummins ISL G.jpg
  • Image: Cummins CorePlus Motor Generator.jpg
Image: Neil Pattison.jpg

The technology is proven, but Euro 6 presents a "major integration effort" for Cummins and its customers, says Neil Pattison.

At the recent IAA Commercial Vehicles Show in Hanover, Germany, Cummins executives discussed the company’s portfolio of technologies developed initially to satisfy U.S. EPA 2010 regulations but stand ready to help European customers to meet Euro 6 emissions standards, which take effect in 2013. The engine supplier’s natural gas engines and upcoming hybrid technology also are primed for use not just in the U.S. but across the pond as well. Neil Pattison, Director of On-Highway Engine Business for EMEA (Europe, the Middle East, and Africa) & CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States), based in Darlington, U.K., spoke with Assistant Editor Ryan Gehm about such issues at the IAA Show.

Cummins already offers a portfolio of technologies to meet strict emissions standards. What needs to be done for Euro 6?

Euro 6 is a major integration effort with our customers; we need to work together to package it. From a Cummins perspective, we had Euro 5 which was an SCR-only solution [selective catalytic reduction]; for Euro 6 we have added cooled EGR [exhaust gas recirculation] to the engine and a diesel particulate filter [DPF] to the SCR system. The package includes a physically larger engine because you’ve got the EGR cooler and a variable geometry turbo. The aftertreatment system is larger because you’ve got the addition of a DPF. If you compare a Euro 5 vehicle to a Euro 6 vehicle, you’ll see generally the Euro 6 vehicle has a redesigned frontal area to improve airflow for the larger radiator, because there are greater cooling requirements.

Cummins has an 8.9-L Euro 6 ISL G engine on display at IAA. Where does natural gas stand in Europe?

The U.S. is more advanced in terms of gas infrastructure development than Europe. Europe has the ‘blue corridor’ strategy [LNG refueling infrastructure for long-haul operations], but it is not widely implemented. Currently it is limited to buses or municipality refuse trucks where a local infrastructure is in place. We can certainly see a growth in this area as natural gas is considered as a favorable low-carbon solution.

Cummins also confirmed in Hanover the development of a 90-kW CorePlus Motor Generator for hybrid commercial vehicles. What’s the outlook for hybridization in Europe?

The uptake of hybrids has been based mainly on government initiatives. If you look at the U.K., for example, there is The Green Bus Fund to promote hybrid use. Hybrid is still not at a point where it has a robust payback that makes it a viable commercial offering without some level of incentive or legislation that drives the approach. If you compare a standard diesel product against a hybrid product, the hybrid is more expensive with the payback being longer. It doesn’t pay the delta off in an acceptable period of time based on current industry practice. You have issues like the battery technology, which is probably good for five to seven years. When you come to replace it, it is currently a significant cost. Therefore, you would need to get your payback within this period, and then another payback for the next period as you change the battery pack and other components. We see the future of hybrid depending on how the technology moves on to improve the cost benefit and make it more appealing. Lower initial cost will mean the payback is shorter, when combined with better fuel efficiency perhaps.

Is that the next step beyond Euro 6, concentrating more on hybrid technology?

We will use hybrid or different technologies as we seek to meet and improve our fuel efficiency. It becomes a point of the cost of the technology against the benefits it delivers, and at what point does the technology become persuasive enough that it becomes the standard. So for example, if you go back many years on diesel engines, turbocharging made sense because it delivered cost and performance benefits. Smaller engines could then do the job previously done by larger engines. The technology has moved forward, adapting to emissions and market requirements. If you look at the passenger-car industry, stop-start is now very common. It’s really at what level the cost benefit lies, to whether it becomes a mass-market technology. For example, it could be that you see a technology jump where hybrids get passed by pure electric vehicles because there’s such a leap in battery or energy storage technology that allows higher energy density and faster charging.

Is pure electric an area Cummins is pursuing?

Our Cummins Generator Technologies business makes alternators and electric generating machines, so we’re well placed to understand the requirements of commercial drives. I wouldn’t say that the move to full electric vehicles is any time soon, but it may be in steps with certain parts of the vehicle using electric power. There is substantial research across the industry through manufacturers and universities that looks positive, but whether it is viable commercially is another matter. It’s the same with fuel cells and those types of technologies. The concepts will take some time before they can be production ready on a large scale. So, from a commercial-vehicle perspective, we’ll have the internal-combustion engine in place for several years to come. Our focus currently is how do we make our diesel and gas engines as efficient as we possibly can? How do we utilize all the energy so you don’t waste heat or waste electric energy or waste kinetic energy; how do you harness this with a cost-effective system to deliver the best fuel efficiency and the corresponding CO2 reduction?

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