KSPG steps on the gas to cut fuel consumption
CO2-Limits in the EU: On the “Road to 95”
In spring 2014, an important environmental policy was established in the European Union. Following months of wrangling, EU Member States, the EU Commission and the European Parliament have settled on a compromise over the introduction of stricter CO2 limits for new vehicles. From 2021, all newly registered passenger cars in Europe must emit an average of no more than 95 g of CO2 per driven kilometer. By 2020, 95% of new cars must comply with this requirement.
Meeting this ambitious target will require a massive joint effort on the part of automotive manufacturers and suppliers between now and 2020. “KSPG is already ideally positioned to meet this challenge. For KSPG, these environmental protection requirements introduced by the EU are a business opportunity, not a problem,” explains Horst Binnig, CEO of KSPG.
So how is KSPG intending to achieve this 95 g target? The key lies in optimizing various “levers” in the engine. Take the exhaust gas recirculation system, for example. Originally developed in the 1970s to combat emissions of nitrogen oxides from diesel engines, it is now increasingly being used in gasoline-engine vehicles too. If a proportion of the exhaust gas is sent not to the exhaust pipe but instead back to the combustion chamber having been cooled, the high heat-absorbing capacity of the exhaust gas reduces the peak temperatures that occur during combustion. This is related to the lower oxygen content of the exhaust gas. Since nitrogen oxides form particularly at high temperatures, they can be significantly reduced by recirculating the exhaust gas.
Further optimization potential lies directly in the cutting of fuel consumption, for example through the use of variable oil and water pumps from KSPG. Unlike other common auxiliary units, the variable pumps do not operate continuously but only when they are needed. This
effect alone can cut consumption by more than 4%. However, the effectiveness with which an engine can convert the energy stored in the fuel depends on three key factors: How effective is the combustion process? How great are the mechanical losses, for example through friction? And last but not least, how heavy are the units that need to be installed in the vehicle?
Let’s start with the weight of the drive, focusing on the heaviest component: the cylinder block. The cylinder block is designed to withstand high temperatures and pressures for the entire lifetime of a vehicle. This means that it has to be extremely robust in design. Nevertheless, thanks to state-of-the-art materials technology, KSPG has replaced gray cast iron with lighter aluminum alloys in high-performance engines too. The pistons work away inside the cylinder block, acting as the sole link between the combustion process and the mechanical propulsion of the vehicle. For many years, they have been manufactured from aluminum, not least because of the cost. But aluminum, which is currently the standard material from which cylinder blocks are made, is now facing com-petition when it comes to the pistons. In 2013, KSPG prepared the way for the mass production of steel pistons for passenger cars. They are more compact, which even makes them lighter than aluminum pistons. The high strength of steel means that the piston height can be reduced. This reduces the size of the contact area between the piston and cylinder wall, which in turn leads to less friction and a tangible reduction in fuel consumption. The use of steel pistons can ultimately help to cut consumption by up to 4%.
However, if you want to significantly enhance the efficiency of engines, you also have to look at the combustion process itself. A key role is played here by the gas exchange, a term used by engineers to describe the process of getting fresh air to enter, and exhaust gas to exit, the combustion chamber. It’s all about timing. The cleanliness and efficiency of the combustion process depends on how much air is in the engine, and when. The problem here is that, depending on the speed and position of the gas pedal, the optimum timing may differ. Inlet valves that can be opened and closed as needed, and whose stroke can also be varied, would therefore be ideal. A solution to this problem comes in the form of UniValve, a new, fully variable valve train system from KSPG that enables the continuously variable adjustment of the valve opening times and valve strokes. UniValve is currently undergoing rigorous testing on KSPG’s engine test benches. It is expected to cut the fuel consumption of even the very latest direct-injection gasoline engines by up to 9%. So that diesel engines and natural gas applications can also benefit from variable valve control, the supplier is currently developing the valve control system FlexValve.
But what will happen if, in the runup to 2020, more and more cars are equipped with electric motors? “Looking at the long term, all-electric vehicles are set to remain a niche product,” asserts Horst Binnig, CEO of KSPG. “In contrast, the global market for clean and efficient combustion engines is growing all the time.” But KSPG is also looking to make its own contribution to the step-by-step electrification of vehicle fleets. The supplier recently showcased a highly promising solution in the form of a prototype range extender, a type of emergency power supply that helps to keep electric vehicles moving when the battery power starts to dwindle. As can be seen, KSPG is certainly stepping on the gas in all sorts of different areas in order to meet the EU’s climate protection goals on time.