Several weeks ago, I participated in AVL’s SAE World Congress Technology Leadership Panel. The topic: advanced propulsion. The focus: what are the new and innovative “game-changing” technologies?
As an industry, we’re facing daunting challenges, including CAFE 2025 and Tier 3/LEV III emissions standards. After decades of significant development and investment, there have been dramatic improvements in vehicle emissions, performance, safety, durability, quality and reliability. Now we must deliver year-over-year fleet-wide fuel efficiency improvements through 2025 without sacrificing what we’ve already accomplished and while keeping our products affordable. As such, game changers are required.
So, what’s the solution? Every OEM has a plan and these plans are prioritized by benefits relative to costs, that is, fuel economy improvement relative to added product cost. For example, the National Research Council published a plan for gasoline engines. This plan was authored by leaders in the industry and, naturally, it starts with the proverbial “low-hanging fruit”, inexpensive technologies that yield significant efficiency benefits, and then moves on to other, more costly technologies.
You’ll note a few things about the above chart:
- There isn’t much low-hanging fruit. . .to get any improvement incurs added cost.
- At the end of this roadmap, technologies add a lot of cost and deliver very little benefit.
- As an industry, we’ve done most everything on this chart.
- When we’ve done it all, we still haven’t reached the goal. . .54.5 MPG is a tall task.
Of course, there are vehicle technologies that aren’t highlighted here. These include simple grille shutters and lower rolling resistance tires to costly HEVs, PHEVs, CNG fueled engines and fuel cell powered electric vehicles. These technologies work, but the costs are stubbornly and unaffordably high.
At Achates Power, we believe that to change the game, we need to deliver a powertrain that provides substantial efficiency benefits without increasing cost nor decreasing function. And, that’s exactly what we set out to do in 2004. We started with a proven engine—the opposed-piston, two-stroke engine. This engine needed to be modernized and enhanced in order to meet today’s emissions and customer requirements. So that’s what we’ve done.
We’ve demonstrated a 22% cycle-average advantage (21% at equivalent engine-out NOx) and 15% best-point advantage versus state-of-the-art, medium-duty and heavy-duty diesel engines. Furthermore, we’re approaching and will exceed 50% brake thermal efficiency without exotic and expensive technologies, such as waste heat recovery. We’ve also found that the fundamental architectural advantages of our engine can be applied to light-duty engines including those for HEVs and PHEVs (the focus of a future blog post), despite the fact that these applications come with a more challenging and unique set of requirements.
Substantial efficiency gains with no increase in cost and no decrease in function. That’s what a game-changing technology is and what the Achates Power engine delivers.
Thanks for this post. Question – how is one supposed to read the graph that is attached in lieu of the different technologies shown in the box? Will 8 speed transmissions create a higher % fuel economy benefit than say CVT’s? Thanks.
Thank you for your interest. The graph in question highlights the propulsion-specific technologies recommended in the National Research Council plan. And, the information contained in the box corresponds to the plot points on the graph, although not all plot points are represented.
Those technologies featured are sorted by their cost effectiveness as it compares to the fuel economy improvement they deliver—from most cost effective (lower viscosity engine oil) to least (eight-speed transmissions). The graph line then depicts the cumulative fuel economy improvement for each technology as it relates to the technologies’ cumulative retail price.
What’s important to note is that—while this is just one proposed plan for improving fuel efficiency—it’s expensive and it doesn’t get us over the finish line to 54.5 MPG. . .in fact, we’re still a long way off. Even more troubling is that most of these technologies are already in production.
That’s why a game-changing technology, like the Achates Power opposed-piston engine, is needed to ensure that we meet current and future regulatory requirements while lowering costs.