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Tomorrow, today ist already yesterday

About commercial vehicles and propulsion systems of the future

Commercial vehicles are a major part of our lives. What will the future of commercial vehicles look like and which direction will technical developments take in coming years? These and many other questions are raised at the Hanover Truck Show 2014 – and at KSPG.

The need for commercial vehicle propulsion will continue to grow and such systems must be efficient, dependable, and powerful—more than ever before. The greater need for mobility plays a major role not only for us as private individuals but above all as far as commercial vehicles are concerned. Compounding the situation are the tighter emission standards and the demand for CO2 reduction. Over the past decade alone, heavy-duty engines have improved to such a degree that particle emissions have been lowered by 98 and NOx by 95 percent. During the same period, average fuel consumption has shrunk by around three percent.

Reliability and longevity of the parts are getting increasingly important.

The requirements nowadays have changed from what they were twenty years ago. The greatest challenge of the future will be to create a balance between maximum performance and the conservation of resources. Improvements to commercial vehicle engines are likely more closely than hitherto to concentrate on three essential issues: reducing operating costs (especially fuel consumption), enhancing reliability, and finally, refined and more robust emission technologies. It’s not only that the limits worldwide are being harmonized. Further reductions in allowable emissions and a tightening of present norms are foreseeable. Emerging nations such as Brazil, Mexico and India where over the coming years KSPG will want to further expand its presence, are becoming more and more important.

In China, for example, over the past decade the number of trucks has more than doubled. So here there continues to be a vast need for effective drive solutions. An ever-increasing role is being played by the dependability and longevity of the products. Engines have to work for years on end and often under hostile conditions. We can expect that by the year 2020 the politicians in the BRIC nations will have likewise adopted Euro 6 emission limits and therefore here, too, efficient systems will be in demand. Even now the industry is confronted by very strict emission standards. Those in the USA, Japan and throughout the EU have tightened very sharply in the most recent stages for both on- and off-road vehicles. Even though today’s engines are able to comply with existing limits such conformity does presuppose quite some engineering expertise. Of prime importance in this respect are certain effective measures adopted within the engine such as exhaust-gas recirculation and a smooth interplay with supercharging and the exhaust-gas aftertreatment processes.

Less is indeed more - reduction as trendsetter

Right now the most conspicuous trend in the industry is a reduction in emissions and fuel consumption. The targets are accordingly ambitious: by 2020, manufacturers aim to cut the fuel consumption of the overall vehicle by 15 percent. The technologies facilitating this undertaking will readily enrapture engine-lovers. It’s often the small, barely discernible parts that play such a prime role in propulsion efficiency. One important aspect is a lowering of friction; a high-performance piston design using aluminum or steel helps optimize the combustion process and allows both optimum cooling of the highly stressed piston crown as well as an ultralow compression height. This, in turn, optimizes the combustion process and leads to efficient use of fuel. Moreover, in the endeavor to cut back on weight, completely new materials are being employed. The savings achieved with the aid of these low-key yet innovative helpers all add up and are by no means the end of the story. Work is continuously going on with a view to further improving surface technology as well as on new alloys in order to again cut back friction losses. Coming into play are state-of-the-art nanotechnologies and materials tailored to this end. In this way it is possible to develop quite individual solutions for each requirement. Among the important subjects, especially since Euro 6, has been exhaust-gas recirculation.

The challenge to all engine-related measures is that the engine reliability is sustained

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Particularly on diesel engines, exhaust-gas recirculation valves and EGR cooling systems are essential elements of emission reduction and without them emission norms would not be fulfillable. EGR systems and valves lower combustion peak temperature which, in turn, prevents the development of nitrogen oxides. The general challenge posed by measures adopted within the engine is that the latter should still run reliably and be able to withstand all stress and strain. To ensure this and arrive at an even better result regarding emissions and consumption there is a whole toolkit of technologies including on-demand auxiliary equipment like controllable oil or water pumps. Take the oil pump, the heart of a vehicle’s oil circulation system. The trick is that a variable-flow oil pump is able to deliver at all times exactly the volume of oil that is then needed. So, not only do we make sure that oil pressure is right under all operating conditions, we also manage to save fuel in the process. Water pumps, too, can work on the same principle of on-demand supply. And there’s more to it. A major trend starting to take center stage is hybridization. This technology has already caused something like a minor revolution. In the car segment we now have in the shape of the range extender a forward-pointing system that multiplies multifold the until now very limited mileage range of electric vehicles.

Source: "Heartbeat" - The magazine of the KSPG Group, Issue 02/2014

  • Rheinmetall Automotive AG

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