Delphi is placing its bets on 48-volt technology being promoted as a cost-effective way to incrementally save fuel.
Its advantage is as a dual-voltage system with a 48-volt architecture to work alongside a 12-volt system, and is being termed a “mild hybrid” system although by traditional definition this is an overstatement for what is at best has been called a “micro hybrid” system.
Delphi says its system uses a 48-volt battery to achieve up to 15-percent better fuel economy, and 25-percent better low-end torque on gasoline and diesel vehicles. The engineering and costs to the manufacturer are significantly lower than other hybridization methods, and thus appealing to stay ahead of tightening global fuel economy regulations.
“This is not only a significant step forward with reinventing the electrical architecture for dual voltage capability, it is also a triumph of software,” said Jeff Owens, Delphi’s chief technology officer. “This intelligent approach to vehicle power, wiring and data management will not only improve fuel efficiency, but will also enable a world-class driving experience while providing additional power for active safety systems and increased connectivity in the car.”
Delphi Automotive PLC said that it’s working with two automakers to put its 48-volt system into production within 18 months. The Gillingham, U.K.-based supplier didn’t name its partners, but one of them could be Honda. Delphi on Wednesday demonstrated the technology on a 1.6-liter diesel Honda Civic. Whoever the partner automakers may be, the 48-volt hybrids would cost them about $1,000 to $2,000 for each vehicle.
‘Mild or Really ‘Micro’ Hybrid?
Automotive electrification advocates who favor plug-in hybridization, battery electrification, and at least full hybridization as a better way might take umbrage however over Delphi’s press release terming the 48-volt system as “mild hybrid.”
The system does not call for an electric motor to augment propulsion by the internal combustion engine (ICE). It is not therefore within the class of vehicles usually called “mild hybrids” such as the Honda IMA system or GM eAssist system.
Readers may see reports of “mild hybrid” being passed along, but this system is more akin to what has been called “micro hybrid.” Its function is to spare the ICE from parasitic drag and in concept is not unlike Mazda’s i-Eloop, and what other auto suppliers have been promoting the past several years.
Micro hybrids are essentially the least amount of electrification a vehicle can use and still be called a “hybrid.” Others have resisted even calling micro hybrids “hybrids” at all, as they are not a hybridization of two propulsion sources.
Better solutions, say advocates, are full hybrids, PHEVs or EVs, which can run on their batteries alone for a limited range or completely. These solutions stand to save much more fuel if not avoid its use altogether, but of course they do involve greater expense to develop and manufacture.
To meet global emission and mpg regs this decade and next, automakers are looking at numerous solutions. According to the University of Michigan’s department of Sustainable Worldwide Transportation, the average window sticker for new car fuel economy in the U.S. has increase by 5.2 mpg since October 2007.
Delphi says that 48-volt hybrids could play a significant role in reducing global oil consumption. The supplier company has recently introduced other technologies, including an advanced cylinder deactivation system that also could help raise automakers’ fuel economy averages.