Powertrain Diversification

The International Commercial Powertrain Conference by AVL List in Graz, Austria,  celebrated last week its 10th anniversary. Given the conference is bi-annual, it means it has been on stage for 18 years.

In the course of the past 18 years, the topics the agenda focuses on have surely changed. For its first edition in 2001, the European Union had just introduced Euro 3 emissions standard for heavy-duty diesel engines (trucks and buses); EU Stage 3a for non-road diesel engines was still a while ahead.

Nowadays, the presentations have shifted more to technologies used in ‘alternative’ powertrains, such as hybrids, full-electric, fuel-cells. But space was devoted also to innovative internal combustion engine solutions and exhaust aftertreatment systems.

The opening session of the conference was titled: On-Road and Off-Road Industry In Turmoil? The panellists all seemed to agree that the mobility industry needs to move towards a sustainable future and the solution in terms of technology is rather a wide range of solutions. And that is really nothing new as far as the general approach is concerned.

Among the more technical-oriented presentations, it is worth mentioning Stefano Golini at FPT Industrial in Turin, Italy, who presented a project for a natural-gas-powered engine for heavy-duty trucks that is part of the HDGAS project – funded by the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. The FPT’s spark-ignited gas engine in an Iveco truck demonstrated the capability to reach 800-km range, a 10% fuel efficiency increase and 10% higher performance in comparison with current engines. More details can be found at www.hdgas.eu

FPT Industrial is a long-standing champion of natural gas for the traction of commercial vehicles and has already a few engines in its portfolio up to the top of the range Cursor 13. The concept, according to the company, is especially interesting for biomethane – or natural gas coming from renewable sources – which is totally CO2-neutral and can be produced from non-food sources.

Another interesting presentation came from ZF Friedrichshafen: Gerhard Stempfer talked about the impact of e-mobility on the supply chain, a topic which is often a bit forgotten. A giant like ZF will invest €12 billion in autonomous driving and e-mobility in the next five years but the paradigm shift interests a mass of smaller manufacturers and Tier 2 suppliers for whom such investments are out of league.

As part of the strategy for e-mobility, ZF launched its e-Mobility Power House, totally dedicated to commercial vehicles and off-highway applications.

For what alternative powertrains are concerned, William Resende of AVL List, presented some of the advantages of fuel cells in heavy-duty truck applications compared to conventional diesel or battery-electric solutions.

For one, there is refueling time. Although diesel is still by far the most efficient at the fuel station, standard hydrogen filling can deliver approximately 100 km autonomy per minute of refueling. With the existing technology, electric refueling even at 1 MW delivers only 7 or 8 km per minute.

According to Resende, powertrain weight is another interesting criteria, where today the average diesel powertrain weighs approximately 3400 kg, fuel cells come in a decent second place with about 3000 kg. Electric-battery powertrains stand at 8500 kg with today’s available technology.

In terms of total cost of ownership (TCO), AVL estimates that a fuel cell vehicle will be 7% more expensive than diesel. Electric vehicles much higher, at 38%. It must be noted that Resende commented that fuel cells could have a cheaper TCO than diesel with an optimum hydrogen fuel cost at €4/kg.

There are a few challenges with fuel cell optimization: cost, cooling system, packaging and durability. AVL is addressing all of them with a clear technology map and the company expects to be able to test by the end of 2019 a 400-kW fuel-cell powertrain for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

For more info see: www.avl.com/icpc-international-commercial-powertrain-conference, and follow the next issues of DPi for more insight on some of the presentations.

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