Electronics downsized for small engines

  • 21-Sep-2009 03:49 EDT

Electronic controls units are now small enough to fit onto scooters that must meet tighter emissions requirements. (Freescale Semiconductor)

Legislators around the globe are taking aim at the small engines used in scooters, lawn equipment, and other small products. Freescale Semiconductor is responding with an analog part that reduces the size of control units so they can be added to small engines more easily.

Freescale’s move comes as regulators take aim at small two- and four-stroke engines, which have gone largely unregulated as automotive engines have dramatically reduced their emissions. As autos have gotten cleaner, there is more reason for regulators to focus on smaller engines.

Gasoline mowers represent 5% of U.S. air pollution, according to Kevin Anderson, Freescale’s Product Manager for Analog Automotive Products. The U.S. EPA is requiring small spark-ignition engine manufacturers to reduce hydrocarbon emissions by about 35% by 2012.

When the EPA regulations are fully implemented in 2015, harmful emissions from small gasoline engines will be 95% below 1997 levels. The National Association of Clean Air Agencies said the reduction will be the equivalent of removing one out of every five cars and trucks from the road.

Freescale’s chip is also being targeted at the huge market for scooters, which are particularly popular in emerging countries such as China, Brazil, and India. Though these engines are small, a three-wheel taxi with a two-stroke engine can produce emissions equivalent to about 50 modern automobiles. Regulators throughout Asia and Europe are focusing on reducing emissions from these small vehicles.

Size is a huge factor on space-constrained products such as scooters, where electronic control units need to be around a sixth the size of a typical automotive board. The analog circuitry plays a key role in reducing size.

“This chip replaces three or four parts,” Anderson said. “We coupled a voltage regulator, fuel injector driver, and ignition pre-driver, as well as a relay and lamp driver, watchdog timer and reset generator in the chip."

The device, the MCZ33812, replaces about 12 components, he added. It can be paired with a Freescale S12 microcontroller to handle all functions of an electronic controller. Freescale is also providing a reference design that will help engine designers migrate from mechanical carbureted systems to more efficient electronic control and electronic fuel injection.

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