Cost-effective tech is key to meeting 2016 CAFE

  • 13-Apr-2010 03:55 EDT

Chrysler Powertrain chief Paolo Ferrero said his company is moving cautiously on vehicle electrification until costs can be reduced.

No one is saying it will be easy, but top powertrain executives are expressing greater confidence that their companies will meet the U.S. light-duty vehicle fuel-economy and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions regulations to be phased in from 2012 to 2016.

“The new CO2 emissions targets require innovative new future powertrain solutions, as well as technologies applied across the vehicle such as lightweighting and improved aerodynamics,” asserted Erwin Haas, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer of Magna Powertrain.

Hass moderated the April 13 panel discussion, “Near-Term Powertrain Solutions—Before 2016,” at the SAE 2010 World Congress in Detroit. He noted in his introduction that the U.S. EPA and NHTSA have mandated an extremely aggressive timetable for implementing the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) rules. The average fleet-averaged GHG emissions must be 250 g/mi, which correlates to 35.5 mpg.

Haas stressed that although the industry has the technologies to meet the 2016 laws, implementing them at a reasonable price is perhaps the greatest challenge.

“There is a great need for modular concepts to reduce one-time costs,” he explained, adding that standardized components will help support cost-reduction efforts.

The panel discussion included Barb Samardzich, Ford Vice President of Powertrain Engineering; Paolo Ferrero, Chrysler Group Senior Vice President of Powertrain; Toshihiro Mibe, General Manager of Honda R&D involved with Gasoline and Diesel Engines; Tim White, Senior Engineering Manager at the Hyundai-Kia U.S. Technical Center; and Jason Forcier, Vice President of Automotive Solutions at advanced battery supplier A123 Systems.

“In our world, 2016 is like next month,” quipped Ford’s Samardzich about the fast-approaching targets. Her presentation detailed Ford’s global implementation strategy for EcoBoost (downsized, direct-injected, turbocharged gasoline engines) in combination with aggressive vehicle mass reduction (250-750 lb; 113-340 kg); mass application of six-speed planetary and dry dual-clutch transmissions; and increasing vehicle electrification via hybrids and battery-electric vehicles.

Samardzich predicted that by 2020, 25% of vehicle propulsion systems in the U.S. will feature some form of electrification, with the same percentage in Europe and approximately 20% in China.

Chrysler’s Ferrero outlined the fuel-efficiency synergies being shared by Chrysler Group and Fiat. These include wide-ratio-spread six-speed transmissions and the Multiair variable-valve timing systems introduced in Fiat’s FIRE engine family and in development for various Chrysler engines.

Ferrero told the SAE audience that his company is approaching vehicle electrification with caution. First programs include a PHEV (plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle) version of the Two-Mode Ram pickup, and a Fiat 500 BEV (battery-electric vehicle), due late next year. “We will expand these systems once the technology becomes cost-effective for the final customers. We don’t really see it in the near future.”

Chrysler and Fiat also will use various “low-hanging fruit” technologies, including low-friction drive axles (worth a 2-4% fuel-efficiency boost, Ferrero said) and stop-start systems due for first application on the Jeep Wrangler this year.

The presentation by A123's Forcier changed the panel’s dialogue somewhat, as it was focused on the oncoming lithium-ion battery revolution. Battery cost clearly is the challenge for electrified vehicles, he asserted. Current cost metrics are approximately $1000/kW·h, which equates to roughly $10,000 per battery pack in a typical EV.

By 2016, Forcier predicted, design changes and production scale will help bring battery costs down to approximately $350 kW·h, or about $6000 per pack, with greater depth of discharge and power density.

“The pace of innovation in battery technology is moving swiftly,” he said, reminding the audience that the number of patents granted has doubled in the past five years.

Although Honda is a pioneer in modern-era vehicle electrification, the company believes the ICE will continue to dominate personal mobility for the foreseeable future, said Mibe. His company is focusing developments on Atkinson-cycle engines using cooled EGR, and homogeneous-charge compression ignition (HCCI) combustion R&D.

“Higher compression ratios also are useful, and so we need to increase our study of knock and control for higher-octane fuels,” said Mibe, noting that his team is working to expand the brake specific fuel consumption map in its developments.

But Honda is investing heavily in the electrified-vehicle space, with a major cost-reduction focus for its hybrid propulsion systems. According to Mibe, the automaker is developing extended-range electric vehicles in which the ICE operates in steady-state mode as a generator.

Hyundai-Kia’s White noted that even given his company’s enviable fleet fuel efficiency—Hyundai’s current fleet average is 30.1 mpg and Kia’s is 28.0 mpg—“it will take two product cycles to implement our technologies to get to 2016.”

Hyundai engineers are working on all technology fronts, White said. In the short-term pipeline are the company’s homegrown hybrid drivetrain that will debut on the 2011 Sonata; an eight-speed transmission; stop-start systems; and various low-mass/low-drag techniques.

Longer term, H-K is banking on stratified-charge GDI, controlled auto ignition/HCCI combustion, and PHEVs and BEVs.

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