Innovation that addresses global megatrends

  • 29-Apr-2013 09:45 EDT
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George Constand, Chief Technical & Quality Officer, Dana Holding Corp.

Government regulation and continued high fuel prices have driven a multitude of technologies proposed for the off-highway market, which includes everything from hybrids and alternative fuels to advanced lightweight materials and emissions controls.

Dana strongly believes in the continued development of new technologies—a belief reflected by the $161 million we spent on engineering in 2012. As we develop new technologies, we use analysis of megatrends that allow us to predict market trends and requirements on a global and regional basis and then use these predictions to target our R&D spend.

The five megatrends that we see impacting the global transportation industry are geopolitical shift, changing demographics, sustainability, the evolution of mobility, and advancing technology.

First, geopolitical shift means that we, as a global population, are in the process of returning to a world that has increasing regionalism and regionally specific regulations. A number of technology implications follow this megatrend. For example, new markets and areas of affluence are emerging globally to drive demand for vehicles specifically designed for the needs of each market. And regional regulations mean all forms of transportation must meet a variety of criteria, including emissions and fuel efficiency requirements specific to that area.

The next megatrend we’re watching is changing demographics. Quite simply, the world’s population is aging and moving into cities. Today there are more than 20 megacities in the world—cities with populations greater than 10 million people—and this trend will continue to grow.

These megacities will have a significant impact on mobility and put pressure on resources and infrastructure, including fuel, emissions, and the effects of vehicles on the environment. They will change how we get around, how the vehicles of tomorrow are connected, and how they will be powered. We can already see the challenges facing megacities, as well as the products and technologies that are being developed to address these challenges.

The third megatrend we’re watching is sustainability. As more people move to large urban centers with streets clogged by vehicles, increasing pressure will be put on our planet’s limited natural resources, placing an emphasis on eco-friendly, sustainable systems.

The next megatrend we see impacting technology needs is the evolution of mobility, or the emergence of the smart, connected vehicle. This connectivity will play a key role in easing traffic flow, improving safety, and increasing driver productivity as the global demand for vehicles grows. Between now and the middle of this century, analysts predict that the world's vehicle population will quadruple, going from around 1 billion today to 4 billion by 2050.

Finally, the fifth megatrend that we see having a significant impact in the future is advancing technology. As the needs of consumers and of our customers change, rapid technological advancements are shaping the products of the future.

To help our customers address these megatrends, we are focusing our efforts on introducing products that reduce vehicle weight, increase fuel efficiency, and cut down on harmful emissions. We are also working closely with our customers to reduce the cost of ownership by developing driveline, sealing, and thermal-management solutions that are durable, reliable, and highly cost-effective.

Spicer PowerBoost is the latest example of these efforts. A new line of integrated hydraulic-hybrid powertrain concepts for the off-highway market, the PowerBoost system can be deployed through series or parallel hybrid configurations that fit into existing vehicle designs with minimal adaptation to supplement all types of transmission architectures.

PowerBoost captures kinetic energy otherwise wasted throughout the drivetrain and working hydraulics, and it then uses this recuperated energy to help power the vehicle, which can reduce fuel consumption by 20 to 40% compared to conventional drivetrain concepts, depending on vocational application and duty cycle. It can also reduce total owning and operating costs by increasing productivity, reducing maintenance, and allowing for the use of a downsized engine.

Functional prototypes demonstrating the performance of the system will be available for field testing by OEMs this summer.

The Spicer PowerBoost concept uses an advanced energy-management system to evaluate the levels of power needed in the entire vehicle system, predict operating demands, and determine the most efficient means of operation. Hydrostatic energy is captured in an accumulator from the powertrain during low-power operation of the engine and recuperated from braking and working.

When additional power is required, such as accelerating from a full stop, lifting a load, or driving into the pile, the advanced energy-management system uses the stored energy in the accumulator to provide an additional source of power for improving performance, increasing productivity, and reducing fuel consumption.

The Spicer PowerBoost system can also be configured to minimize idling by shutting off the diesel engine and accessing power captured in the accumulator for vehicle operations that consume low amounts of energy, such as inching, light working conditions, and low travel speeds.

Spicer PowerBoost concepts are ideal for applications with frequent, intense bursts of acceleration, deceleration, lifting, and lowering during cyclic maneuvering that support the recuperation of working and braking energy. Construction equipment, material-handling machines, and on-highway vocational vehicles are the initial targets for this system.

Since the Spicer PowerBoost concept provides the additional power needed for energy-consuming activities such as driving into a pile or lifting a load, it enables machine manufacturers to reduce the engine size for power outputs from 55 to 250 kW (74 to 335 hp) across a wide range of vehicle applications. This can prove especially beneficial for applications that currently require an engine at or slightly above the U.S. EPA’s Tier 4 or Euro 5/6 emissions threshold of 56 kW (75 hp), as the system allows manufacturers to select a smaller engine that does not require exhaust aftertreatment systems that are costly, consume added space, and increase the operating temperature of the powertrain system.

It also helps improve productivity by shortening the length of time to complete a Y cycle, reducing the number of fuel stops, and extending the period for brake maintenance.

The Spicer PowerBoost system is the latest example of the many ways Dana is developing advanced technologies to improve customer value and help our customers address global megatrends with the next generation of vehicles.

Additionally, we are reducing overall vehicle weight with our Spicer Diamond Series driveshafts and Spicer Pro-40 tandem axles for commercial vehicles. We have developed multilayer steel transmission valve body separator plates that improve transmission sealing, efficiency, and durability. Our Spicer AdvanTEK line of fuel-efficient axles are helping our light-vehicle and commercial-vehicle customers meet market needs, new regulations, and the emerging global megatrends.

We continue to expand our line of advanced tire-pressure management systems for line-haul tractors and agricultural equipment that improve fuel efficiency and reduce maintenance costs. And we are supporting a number of cutting-edge power technologies products for vehicular and other applications that will assist fuel cell, battery, and hybrid vehicle manufacturers in making their technologies commercially viable in mass production.

We have also formed strategic relationships to address market needs. Last fall, we announced an agreement with Fallbrook Technologies Inc. to develop, manufacture, and commercialize a high-efficiency continuously variable planetary (CVP) transmission for passenger vehicles and off-highway equipment in the markets we serve. By using CVP technology, we can reduce the complexity of transmissions and other powertrain systems to increase fuel efficiency, reduce emissions, and improve overall vehicle performance.

At Dana, innovation drives everything we do, and our focused, market-driven strategy is fueled by the megatrends that are driving the need for advanced technologies and continuous feedback from our off-highway customers. As vehicle buyers become increasingly selective, innovation and responsiveness to customer needs are critical for OEMs to remain successful now and into the future.

George Constand, Chief Technical & Quality Officer, Dana Holding Corp., wrote this article for SAE Off-Highway Engineering

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