Off-highway engines: Challenges and competitive innovations for sustainable, long-term growth

  • 08-Apr-2014 03:11 EDT
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Gian Maria Olivetti, Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, Federal-Mogul Powertrain

The off-highway market is a highly complex environment. The large range of engine applications and requirements, combined with successive rounds of stringent emissions regulations, have resulted in the introduction of more sophisticated engine and aftertreatment technologies.

With the upcoming adoption of EU Stage IV and U.S. Tier 4 Final regulations, the cost to ensure compliance is rising significantly. The additional application and packaging constraints for off-highway applications in construction, agriculture, and several other market segments also now vary so widely that the need for aftertreatment technology has resulted in a significant increase in the number of low-volume powertrain variations, further impacting cost.

At the same time, engine manufacturers are being challenged to increase performance and power density while reducing fuel consumption and improving transient response, which is critical for most applications. The technologies being applied to today’s off-highway engines (i.e., higher injection pressure, advanced turbocharging, EGR, and SCR) are now more similar in scope and complexity to the on-highway industry, which faces similar challenges in terms of thermal and mechanical loads with demanding endurance targets.

The adoption of this advanced engine content and complex aftertreatment technologies represents a real revolution we are experiencing in the off-highway market: not in the future, but today, in a short period of time, with significant cost implications, as previously mentioned. So how will this scenario evolve in the next 20 years?

After today’s emissions-driven revolution, we anticipate the off-highway engine market of the future to be more evolutionary in nature, with a focus on optimizing the cost of emissions control technologies and a greater emphasis placed on powertrain efficiency (fuel economy improvements).

With electrification not playing a significant role in the short-term, the internal-combustion engine will remain—at least for the next two decades—the primary source of power for the off-highway market. It will therefore be critical to develop engines capable of calibration for low base engine emissions, which enables cost-optimized aftertreatment. At the same time, engines must also be capable of providing improved fuel consumption.

This need for improved fuel efficiency will drive the use of thermal management strategies with reduced oil and water cooling flow, as well as the adoption of waste energy recovery solutions. More importantly, engines must have systems and/or components that enable reduced friction loss, while ensuring outstanding durability against higher operating temperatures and loads. These components must be robust enough to withstand combustion calibration variations, since flexibility for use in different applications is key, enabling a variety of different engine mappings. Finally, these components must be able to tolerate varying levels of fuel quality, which is generally improving but still presents significant variations across regions and applications.

For a leading powertrain supplier like Federal-Mogul, providing high-value solutions to base engine components challenges through innovative and robust technologies is our mission. We collaborate closely with our customers to meet performance and durability requirements at the most optimal cost.

In the area of power cylinder technology, which represents the core of the engine and where durability is most needed, it is important to have a portfolio of solutions that can operate at very high temperatures and load. Take the engine piston, for example. To address strength and thermomechanical fatigue resistance, particularly in the combustion bowl, we can offer our advanced Monosteel steel pistons, which feature design elements that reduce friction for improved fuel economy and lower emissions. The company has also developed a high-strength aluminum piston featuring its Durabowl technology, a local combustion bowl reinforcement that can significantly improve durability without compromising weight and performance. Each of these technologies can be tuned according to engine size, ratings, and applications.

Federal-Mogul’s competencies in advanced materials and coatings have resulted in competitive solutions for piston rings. These components face an increasing challenge due to higher temperatures and cylinder pressure but also reduced lubrication because of lower oil viscosity grades being utilized for better fuel economy and smoother bore honing. Federal-Mogul is a market leader in heavy-duty and industrial piston rings, including large bore engines, and continues to develop new ring designs and materials to address future challenges. We recently introduced our DuroGlide ring coating, which provides unique wear and scuffing resistance, particularly in critical lubrication conditions. The DuroGlide coating also reduces surface friction, resulting in improved fuel economy and CO2 reduction.

In the face of CO2 emissions and the growing concerns of fuel availability, a greater emphasis is now being placed on alternative fuels for off-highway applications. While biofuel is gaining space in the agricultural off-highway segment, the most significant development overall is in compressed natural gas (CNG). CNG is a growing concept for stationary applications, particularly for high power where fuel is a significant portion of the operating cost. CNG is also highly competitive. CNG off-highway is a market segment where engine manufacturers are moving quickly and technology content on engines is increasing due to higher specific power and efficiency requirements. Federal-Mogul is active in this segment, with innovative industrial spark plug solutions that ensure high ignitability for efficient combustion strategies and durability.

The off-highway industry continues to be challenged with achieving future emissions regulations while maintaining low fuel consumption and CO2. The present revolution based on aftertreatment adoption and increased technology content on engines has significant impact on cost and complexity. Future evolution for sustainable growth must focus on cost optimization and further improvement of fuel economy and CO2. As a leading supplier of base engine component technology, Federal-Mogul’s strategy is to continue to develop innovative solutions with a focus on value for cost, and to provide to its customers the right technology to support the engine’s continuing evolution.

Gian Maria Olivetti, Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, Federal-Mogul Powertrain, wrote this article for SAE Off-Highway Engineering

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