Honda is challenging you to a race—“you” being every automaker and automotive supplier in the world, and more intimately, each and every engineer working for those companies; the race being one to “greener mobility,” with the ultimate goal of “dramatically reducing” CO2 emissions that contribute to global warming.
Proposed by Masaaki Kato, President of Honda R&D Co., Ltd., and Chairman for the SAE 2009 World Congress, this race “does not pit us against each other as enemies; rather, we are racing with each other toward a common goal. The ultimate winner will not be just the companies we work for, but rather the human race and the planet that sustains us.”
As a keynote speaker at this year’s SAE World Congress in April, Kato revealed host company Honda’s “Racing to Green Mobility” theme for the ’09 show. In the process, he challenged engineers to be honest with each other about the technical challenges they face and to “compete with technology, not words.”
Advanced batteries, he noted, are an example of a critical technology that needs to progress for electric vehicles, hybrids, plug-ins, and fuel-cell vehicles to reach their full potential. The challenges that remain are reducing the size, weight, and cost of batteries while improving their durability, safety, and performance.
“We believe the ultimate solution, however, may be a fuel-cell vehicle, powered by hydrogen from renewable sources like wind and solar power,” he shared. “This would mean a carbon-free energy cycle that begins and ends with water.”
To this end, Honda operates an experimental solar-powered hydrogen station at its Los Angeles R&D Center, using cells independently developed by Honda, noted Kato.
“We can no longer act independently and at a pace of our own choosing. We cannot look at one company or one nation as the starting point,” he said. “So, if this is truly a World Congress, representing a global industry and attended by engineers from around the world, we must address these [environmental] issues from a truly global viewpoint.”
Supporting Honda with its green theme will be Robert Bosch, the Tier 1 Strategic Partner for the ’09 SAE World Congress. In this role, the German company will exhibit in the OEM/Supplier Park on the show floor and will actively participate in the technical programs, including presenting technical papers that focus on clean and efficient technologies, said Lee Manduzzi, Executive Vice President of Automotive Sales, Robert Bosch LLC.
Though the supplier has no set plans yet as to what will be on display in its booth or discussed in its presentations, “there are all different kinds of technologies that I could envision playing a role,” Manduzzi said, advanced fuel injection, battery management, and start/stop systems being just a few of those.
He believes that various solutions and strategies will be called upon to contribute to the overall goal of CO2 reduction and fuel-economy improvement, depending on market segment, region, etc. “I don’t see a silver bullet,” Manduzzi said. “In the longer term, fuel-cell development; the shorter-term implementation of direct injection in gasoline engines with turbocharging and variable valve timing, [for example]; and in the mid term, improvement of battery technology for plug-in hybrids—all will be part of the mosaic that helps us to get where we need to be.”
Collaboration, not only between automaker and supplier but between suppliers as well, is a vital component to bringing enhanced solutions to market. Manduzzi referenced Bosch’s recent joint venture with Mahle to develop exhaust gas turbochargers for gasoline and diesel engines as an example. “We believe there’s expertise we bring from the fuel systems management [side], and there’s expertise that Mahle brings into that equation with their knowledge of engines and materials,” he said. “That’s just one example of how collaboration between suppliers can bring improvement, we hope, to the market to better support our customers.”
The end goal of the green-mobility race is to cut CO2 emissions in half by 2050, Kato said, which will be “very, very difficult” in the face of rapidly growing demand for personal mobility in emerging countries such as China and India. “Incremental improvement in powertrains can not keep up with the rapid growth of automobile use,” he said. “Even as we continue to take small steps to advance existing technology, we need no less than a giant leap.”
The SAE 2009 World Congress will take place April 20-23 at Cobo Center in Detroit.