The green machines

  • 06-Aug-2008 01:07 EDT
Wim van Acker.jpg

Wim van Acker, Managing Partner with Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, talked about the world's depleting fossil fuel reserves as the opening speaker of "The Impact of Energy and the Environment on Future Powertrains" session at World Congress. "We have to act urgently," van Acker implored.

In fewer than four decades, the world's oil reserves could be depleted and that dismal forecast gives reason to sound the alarm.

"Fossil fuel reserves are running out," Wim van Acker, Managing Partner with Roland Berger Strategy Consultants, said during "The Impact of Energy and the Environment on Future Powertrains" session in Cobo Center's Riverview Ballroom at SAE World Congress.

Vehicle emissions, greenhouse gases, waste water, solid wastes, and air pollutants are the end results of the vehicle life cycle. It is a process that includes producing the materials needed to manufacture cars so that consumers can drive, maintain, and eventually dispose of those automobiles. "We look at all of those components and try to understand if we end up with a positive," said Justin Ward, Assistant Manager of Advanced Technology Vehicles at the Toyota Technical Center in Gardena, CA.

Toyota sells six hybrid vehicles (Toyota Highlander, Prius, and Camry and Lexus RX 400h, LS600hL, and GS450h) in the U.S. The automaker is also working to develop plug-in and fuel-cell hybrid vehicles. According to Ward, the ultimate ecocar balances the environment and the technologies available at the time. "The pathway to that ultimate ecocar is through hybrid technology, and hybrid technology is beneficial to all types of powertrains," said Ward.

R&D work at BorgWarner, a supplier of components and systems for vehicle powertrains, has been "green" focused for years. "This is not a subject that is a few years old for us. This is a subject that is decades old for us," said Roger Wood, President of BorgWarner Turbo & Emissions Systems. Most of the company's R&D dollars, according to Wood, are devoted to developing technologies that can improve fuel economy or reduce vehicle emissions. "Being green is one opportunity that BorgWarner uses as a competitive advantage," said Wood.

Around the globe, General Motors Powertrain has 28 engine plants and 19 transmission plants. On a daily basis, 37,000 engines and 33,000 transmissions are produced. On the evolving technological front, new transmissions might be part of the daily output sometime in the future. "We haven't made any specific targets for production yet," Daniel Hancock, Vice President of Global Engineering for GM Powertrain, said about eight-speed-automatic and dry-clutch transmissions. Both transmissions are suitable for passenger vehicle applications and are in the advanced development stage, according to Hancock.

Gregory Deveson, Magna Powertrain's President of North and South America operations, said the supplier is developing a Dual H Transmission (DHT) that could be on the market in 2011-2012. The DHT essentially replaces the two-clutch mechanisms in a dual-clutch transmission with two hydraulic pumps.

"The hydraulic pumps are by design more efficient," said Deveson. "There is less parasitic loss because friction material has a tendency to have a high parasitic loss. These dual hydraulic pumps improve that. They also have a quicker shift reaction, so to the consumer there will be better shift performance. We anticipate—although it needs to be further and better quantified—a roughly 5 percent improvement in fuel economy over an equivalent dual-clutch transmission."

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