Watch for Changing Powertrain Technology to Meet Fuel Economy Regs

March 2013, - WebXclusive

by Deborah Lockridge, Editor-in-Chief - Also by this author

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Kaufman cited the SuperTruck, a project being done with the Department of Energy by Peterbilt, Cummins, Eaton and other partners, talking about powertrain technologies coming down the road.
Kaufman cited the SuperTruck, a project being done with the Department of Energy by Peterbilt, Cummins, Eaton and other partners, talking about powertrain technologies coming down the road.
What type of engine systems and parts will you be dealing with in the future? From electric-drive turbos to waste heat regeneration, Derek Kaufman, president of C3 Network, examined powertrain trends during Heavy Duty Aftermarket Week earlier this year.

New fuel economy requirements designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions between 2014 and 2018 are driving technologies such as:

  • idle shut down
  • top speed limiting
  • enhanced EGR oxygen sensor
  • variable speed fans
  • electric driven turbos
  • clutched air compressors
  • air injection boost
  • downspeeding
  • high performance DPFs
  • waste heat collection
  • electrification

Kaufman spoke more at length about several of these up-and-coming technologies:

Electric drive turbos: "What they want is the elimination of turbo lag and that low engine speed boost, and electric motors are perfect for that," he said.

"What you need to electric drive a turbo as opposed to exhaust driven is a 100,000 rpm motor, and they're out there. A number of companies are working hard now to introduce electric drive turbos for the medium and heavy truck market. This is something you can add to an existing engine," meaning aftermarket retrofit opportunities.

New gasoline injection technology: Kaufman also noted that some medium duty trucks are moving back to gasoline because diesel costs more. Delphi, he said, is working on complete direct injection of gasoline engines that are not spark ignited, but very high pressure. "They have it running in the lab now. This could have applications in natural gas as well. It could really change the type of engines we see. I think it's three to five years out."

High-performance diesel particulate filters: DPFs were a necessity to meet EPA 2010 emissions regulations for heavy truck engines. "They work well but have drawbacks," Kaufman said. "That 12-liter diesel engine typically idles at 0.8 gallons per hour, but fleets say idle consumption has gone up to 1 to 1.2 gallons; DPF filters like idling even less than the engines. You plug the filter up, it wants fuel to burn off those particulates."

"What people are looking for is high-performance DPF filters. I think you'll see next generation filters with new Corning inserts. I also believe you'll see something that allows you to convert an existing truck to SCR in the next year's time or so."

'The Holy Grail'

Waste heat collection: "Here's the holy grail," Kaufman said. "Two-thirds of the energy consumed in a powertrain is lost as heat. What we're looking for is a way to handle any belt-driven components on an engine without driving it with belt. You could drive steering and water pumps, air compressors and alternator, electrically. If we could create that electricity with the heat coming off the engine, even better."

Kaufman cited Gold Ring Power, Oakland, as a company that's having some success with waste head collection using a micro turbine they think will let them get in the efficiency range needed.

"So it's coming around the corner. I think the ultimate answer is going to be in material science – materials that will allow us to get much more efficient output."

For example, he cites research into something called the ZT factor. The higher a material’s ZT, the more efficient it is at converting heat to electricity.

Researchers at Northwestern University have developed a thermoelectric material they claim is the best in the world at converting waste heat into electricity.

"That could be a breakthrough in this area," Kaufman said.

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