Every two years AVL organizes the International Commercial Powertrain Conference, a major event for the on- and off-highway commercial vehicle industries. On May 22-23, 2013, experts will meet in Graz, Austria, to share technology solutions and best practices to meet future market and legislative demands. Dr.-Ing. Marko Dekena, Executive Vice President, Global Business Development, Sales and International Operations Powertrain Systems, recently spoke with Managing Editor Jean Broge about some of the strategic and technical issues likely to be discussed at this year’s event.
What were the drivers behind the 2013 ICPC being dedicated entirely to CO2 reduction?
Advanced technologies have enabled close-to-zero conventional emissions in on- and off-highway applications. Thus, apart from some more refinements of emissions legislation, it is not expected that further major reductions will be required. The challenge of the future will be the reduction of CO2 emissions. Although, commercial vehicles are already a highly efficient vehicle class, it is expected that further improvements of efficiency will be required. Significant efforts will be necessary to develop new technologies providing significant CO2 reduction.
Were there any particular technology trends that seemed to capture expert interest more than others during the development of the ICPC technical sessions?
It can be clearly seen that the requirement to achieve significant improvements in CO2 emissions drives the extension of boundaries for optimization, from individual component and assembly group level to whole systems, powertrain and whole vehicle in its specific application and drive cycle. Future commercial powertrains will include all modern elements: combustion engine, exhaust aftertreatment system, transmission, electric motor, battery and electronic control.
What are you most looking forward to about the 2013 ICPC?
Similar to the previous ICPC, I am looking forward to welcoming a unique range of top industry experts to openly exchange opinions at an event, which is inspiring for all attendees, and potentially initiate new ideas to address CO2 reduction. It is one of the major networking opportunities for the whole commercial vehicle industry.
In terms of the ICPC focus on heavy-duty on-highway vehicles, agricultural tractors, and construction equipment, what are some of their differences and commonalities?
Certainly, the specific vehicle applications and their requirements can be very different. Environmental conditions, typical operating cycles, operator behavior, availability of quality fluids, and many other topics might differ quite significantly and will require specific optimization of technologies. Nevertheless, basic technologies can be carried over from one to the other industry sector. Some might have even been developed to high maturity in one sector, which may provide a good basis of technical knowledge and a developed supplier base. The application of low emissions systems, as these were applied in the on- and off-highway industry in the past, represents a very good example of such synergies.
What will it take for industry to fully embrace hybrids?
The driving force behind the first commercial vehicle hybrids was mainly to gain technological experience. However, now standardization of hybrid powertrain components is under way and production numbers are increasing, which creates a positive business case for a number of applications. Certainly, wider introduction will require even further optimization of hybrid systems to create a significant return of investment for the owner of the vehicle in the future.
What are the most important tools a recent engineering graduate needs upon entering the on- and/or off-highway industries?
They should be familiar with computer-aided methodologies and tools, which help us to address the increasing complexity of the systems we develop. In addition, they need to understand most important system interactions. Certainly, young engineers need to be keen to eliminate today’s limits of technology. Creativity in engineering is more required than ever, to strive for a system optimum. As in all professions, enthusiasm for the task and passion for the industry makes the best contender.
With your crystal ball, if the 2015 ICPC was going to be entirely dedicated to one topic, what would it be?
The next engineering challenge will be the efficient use of resources. Due to market and legislative pressure, the technologies developed in recent years somehow neglected this. It is more and more evident that some key elements, such as rare earth metals for electronic components or noble metal for aftertreatment systems—not to mention fossil fuels—become scarce. The development focus now must include material sourcing and production efficiency much more than before—this is already reflected in some presentations of this year’s ICPC.