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  1. #1
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    A European Perspecitve - Want 65 mpg?

    As a Brit, working for a German powertrain design consultancy and servicing the US auto industry, i`m intrigued about many things in the American auto industry. It took me 6 years to finally realize that at the end of the day, irrespective of whats right and whats wrong, it simply boils down to money, profits and the continuous manipulation of the market to maximize the former two.

    1. Gas in Europe is currently $9.00 a gal (4.2 liters) equivalent to about $7.50 a gal in the USA (3.8 liters). Imagine that filling your tank here suddenly goes from $60 to $200. But, Europe has 300 million vehicles on the road - same as the USA. Europe also has a strong, vibrant and booming economy. I keep hearing American concerns that a rise in gas prices will kill the economy and hurt the poor. Of course it would if done rapidly over say, a 5 year period. It took Europe 30 years to get to this position, underpinned by the fright of the 1970's oil crisis (which incidentally, made Brazil go fully independant onto their own Bio Fuels and Ethanol), various Euro Federal governments have successively and increasingly taxed fuel at the pump. The direct result: Through public demand, Incredible fuel economy was engineered into cars and vans, virtually no large SUVs or pickups exist, and there is massive state and Federal investment into a public transport infrastructure. Believe me, Europe is far more densely populated than America but our cities and suburbs boast some of the worlds best rapid transit systems......

    2. For US auto makers to put fuel efficient engines into vehicles it requires a lot to happen over here. The big 3 always complain that doing this would force them to have to re-tool engine plants which they can`t afford and it would kill jobs. Good powerful political smoke and mirrors argument. These guys re-tool entire plants on an annual basis every time they produce a new vehicle line. Changing tooling for engines is i assure you, a drop in the ocean compared to changing tooling for a whole new vehicle line.

    3. The fastest way to fuel efficiency is to do two things: improve the efficiency of the combustion process in the cylinder and to tailor that combustion process to better suit the driving habits of the vehicle owner and the local emissions laws. That equals the need for Direct fuel Injection under computer control, off a common rail fuel system. That equals Diesel or Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI) where combustion and each multi-stage injection cycle can be exquisitely controlled to perfectly match driving conditions whilst keeping source-emissions low. Couple all of that to a high efficiency gearbox (an auto is about 89% and a manual-stick about 93% efficient) and a well designed aerodynamic, small sized vehicle and hey presto, you start to equal what European cars have been doing for 10 years now. Some 55% of Euro vehicles are Diesel powered (highly efficient engines) and nearly all vehicles have a stick shift gearbox. We expect to buy small Diesel cars giving us about 65 mpg (US gal) and family cars giving us about 55 mpg (US gal). Where do you get that in the States? Would you like that in the US? Then start to demand it by purchasing the more fuel efficient vehicles with best economy which will in-turn, bend the auto makers into doing something about it on a mass production basis.

    4. Hybrids are always an interesting topic. If you commute to work and back along the freeway at relatively constant speeds, then from a money point of view a hybrid is a waste of your cash. First of all, hybrids have a significant price premium on the dealer lot. Lets assume an $18,000 standard car has a hybrid equivalent at about $21,500. Lets assume with your daily commute in your hybrid, at best you save a few liters of fuel every week. It takes the average American 5 to 8 years to re-coup the additional cost of the hybrid through fuel savings alone (tax incentives are dwindling). Yes, they are an awesome idea but never lose site of the whole principal being one of energy recovery during braking and coasting down hill. In other words, the optimal hybrid drive cycle requires a lot more stopping and starting than that of a conventionally engined vehicle. Hybrids are especially well suited to Taxis, Garbage trucks, Military vehicles, City delivery vehicles and anything else doing a lot of stopping and starting. For the average American commuter, the decision to buy a gasoline hybrid has to be more of an emotional one.

    4. The topic of emissions is an interesting one. In item 3, I talked about source-emissions. That is the control of the combustion process in the cylinder so that parameters like engine torque are optimized against Particulates (PM) and Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx). Nowdays, we are very good at achieving that balanced optimization but we can only do it using a Direct Fuel Injection engine like a Diesel or a GDI where we have excellent control of the 15 to 20 engine and fuel parameters affecting source-emissions. It does mean we can work to reduce the cost-complexity of the expensive "scrubbing" after treatment systems in your exhaust pipe. Much of the expense is because of the precious metals loaded into the catalyst matrixcies in your Diesel Oxidizing catalyst or your deNOx system. We also have the problem of educating car buyers that these exhaust technologies are safe, will become less expensive as production volumes increase, and present minimal disruption to your vehicle ownership. We all go and get our screen wash filled or topped off at our dealer or local oil change place. So, they can do the same with the Urea you have in the urea tank in your future vehicle. Chryslers Ad Blue system to remove NOx out of your exhaust gases (by as much as 99% of it!) is clean, safe, efficient and as easy to handle as coolant or screenwash. Our job is to make the infrastructure of these systems as simple and as cheap as possible for you, the consumer.

    So, a bunch of interesting topics about which I`m really passionate. Please give me feedback about these items.

    Thanks

    Tom Reedy

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  3. #2
    Hello Mr. Reedy,
    It's good to hear from a knowledgeable, passionate person. You seem to be very well versed in the subtle details of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) design. I, too, am passionate about vehicle efficiency and like to think somewhat knowledgeable as well, however, my knowledge lies more on the electrical side than the ICE side.
    I will not disagree with your statements 1. (gasoline taxing and mass transit alternatives), 2. (US auto manufacturers' Modus operandi), and your second 4. (cleaning up the ICE). However, I would like to throw up a few things about 3 and 4.

    3. You seem to take a classic european view that the solutions are for people to drive smaller cars and to put in more efficient diesel engines. I would argue that smaller cars use less fuel but their smaller size makes them less useful and less safe. In overcrowded Europe (where I've spent a lot of time in the past few years), the additional advantages of smaller cars - easier parking also adds to people's preference toward them. In the US, however, space is not so constrained and people spend more time in their cars (driving across the expanses). They appreciate having more room and have enough large parking spots so they don't regret having larger cars.
    I agree with your assessment that many americans have traditionally favored less efficient automatic transmissions over easier-to-use automatics, although I believe this is another place where the US automakers lost sight of their customers back in the '70's since I know a lot of people who prefer manual transmissions and hence, have been forced to buy Japanese or European cars which still offer that option. I will also point out that many in the US would like to get the option of smaller, more efficient cars. Unfortunately, there is a mindset which the business interests in the US have come to understand and exploit. We see this in many sectors. This is that price should be a function of size. If we pay more at a restaurant, we expect to get more food. If we buy a microwave oven, we expect to pay less for a smaller one. If we buy a car, we will pay more for a larger one. Manufacturing and sales channels, however, don't see this. It costs almost as much to make a small meal at a restaurant as a large one and it costs almost as much to make and distribute small cars and microwave ovens as it does large ones. Therefore, the retail industry has learned that they can get much larger profit margins on large stuff than small stuff if all else remains equal. While I don't like this, until the american public realizes that they're losing because of their own greed, this will continue. Sorry for the sociological rant but it does have a huge affect.

    4) Hybrids: I don't think that you fully understand how hybrids work. Hybrids gain over pure ICE in several ways that I've described many times:
    a. they scavenge the kinetic energy that is traditionally lost through braking by storing the captured braking energy back in their battery to use when starting up again or climbing hills.
    b. the battery + electric motor is just plain more efficient than an ICE. ICE power trains tend to be around 20% efficient (diesels may push 25%) at best. Electric motors tend to be around 90% efficient and battery charging/discharging is around 90%. Electric drivetrains need no transmission so overall efficiency is around 80%. The main reason the electric drivetrain is so efficient is that it does not get hot. Most of the wasted energy in an ICE is lost through heat and drag required to control heat (radiator drag). The limitation of the electric drivetrain is that batteries only carry about 1/10 as much energy in a given mass (weight) than gasoline. This means that a pure Battery Electric Vehicle (BEV) will only be able to go about 1/2 as far as a comparably heavy gasoline ICE vehicle before rechargin/refueling.
    Besides efficiency, another huge advantage of an electric motor is it's almost unlimited ability to generate torque (which make a car accelerate fast) without loss of efficiency or increasing mass or volume. The only limitations to an electric motor's torque are the amount of current a battery can provide and the ability to keep the motor cool. High current causes high torque and high current also causes the motor to get hot although not nearly as hot as an ICE.
    The hybrid, of course couples both this ICE and BEV drivetrains together. Today's hybrids gain little from the efficiency aspect of the BEV but, rather, take advantage of the fact that small ICE engines get much better gas mileage but suffer from weak torque and, hence unsatisfactory driving experience. Since the BEV drivetrain gets good torque, adding a small electric motor can provide a good driving experience. Hybrids, with larger batteries and stronger electric motors that could drive purely on electric power would move closer to the efficiency offered by a BEV while still taking advantage of the long range offered by a ICE.
    Other advantages can go to hybrids, especially as the heavy workload is offloaded to the electric side are to allow design of ICE that only have to run at constant RPM's and loads so they can be made simpler and more efficient. This, of course is hardly done today with the exception that some hybrids use the Atkinson Cycle ICE to get a bit more efficiency at the loss of some ICE provided torque.
    Your observed price difference between ICE and hybrid is certainly correct, however, as the price of batteries goes down and the complexity of the ICE is permitted to decrease (including, hopefully, eventually, elimination of the expensive transmission) you'll find that the hybrid price (or at least the cost) will get much lower than pure ICE. Today's price difference between hybrid and ICE drivetrain is more a function of market demand and attempts by the industry to recover development costs of the new hybrid technology.
    Personally, I prefer the pure BEV to the hybrid, however, due to politics in the ICE based auto industry, hybrids are a compromise that we'll have to suffer with until someone actually gets BEV's on the road again. Today's battery technology has made the BEV quite viable, however, the intrenched capital that the ICE based auto industry is resistant to the necessary changes. Keep your eyes open as newcomers such as Tesla Motors (www.teslamotors.com), Phoenix Motorcars (www.phoenixmotorcars.com), and ZENN (www.zenncars.com) make revolutionary changes to the automotive landscape over the next few years by introducing full function BEV's that are clearly superior to their hybrid or ICE powered brethren.
    c. A minor savings provided by today's hybrids is that they can shut down the ICE at stoplights.
    I definitely disagree with your assertion that the hybrid is not a benefit for american commuters. The torque from the electric motor allows a smaller ICE so they definitely get better gas mileage than pure ICE (including diesels) vehicles with the same acceleration performance (ability to get onto motorways and up to speed in general). The Prius and HCH are as good for normal commuting and general sedan use as any small diesel. They would, of course be better with more BEV performance or a diesel instead of the gasoline ICE (but still hybrid). Emotion probably does play a role, at least in the early days.

  4. #3
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    An excellent response

    Thankyou for your excellent response. It was a very enjoyable read and helped me to re-set my own thoughts in a couple of areas.

    I certainly agree with you about the much greater energy efficiencies of the electric motor versus the ICE. I sometimes think that the next person to invent a "super battery" could becomes the worlds richest person....we`ll see. Wouldn't it be nice if Microsoft and Google joined forces to put their joint creative talents into this topic....

    I fully agree that Euro vehicles being generally smaller than US cars, is also a function of the narrow twisting roads in Europe. Most routes were derived in Roman and medieval times as the means to get goods to market. The routes followed the contours of the land. There is also no question that the potential for Euro vehicles to expand in size, capacity and weight was severely curbed during the last 30 years by rapidly rising fuel prices too.

    Given the opportunity to own a bigger vehicle to gain additional space, safety, cargo-capacity i`m quite sure many Europeans would have done so. They simply could not afford to. When the HUMMER H2 hit the streets of Europe as a "grey import" in 2003, it was slammed by everyone who saw it as a gas guzzling environmental disaster on 4 wheels. At the same time, two guys from a Car magazine, brought over a Smart Car to the US and drove it from (I believe) South Carolina to San Francisco. On the way they were ridiculed, laughed at and frequently stopped by State troopers to ask if it was a road legal device.

    The things I worry about in the US though, are the apparent complete lack of any exploration or discussion about light-duty Diesel Hybrids, and what appears to me to be the "politicization" of the hybrid subject by the US auto makers. You are of course completely right that their price premium is a function of their low manufacturing volume (large tooling amortization) and the recovery of ER&D costs. Yes, as volumes increase, I`m willing to bet that sales prices will end up somewhere near to parity with ICE vehicles. It would be interesting to see how Toyota now amortize such costs into the Prius....

    One looming issue is the forthcoming change in EPA regulations for OEM's to assess and issue fuel economy figures. At long last, a sensible change in the economy measurement cycle that takes into account a broader drive cycle content in the measurement regime. The talk on the town is that in general, new economy figures for US ICE vehicles will correspondingly drop by as much as 30% and this includes Hybrids, where the new cycle contains a lot more sub-urban and freeway driving. Interesting...

    Finally I am worried about what is to me a slight misuse of the word hybrid, in terms of those manufacturers who are about to bring out vehicles with a "normal" sized ICE where the electronic device assist is used for example, for blistering performance. I know that GM, DaimlerChrysler and BMW are jointly working on such a project for their premium vehicles, somewhat in competition to Lexus....Do you have any thoughts on this subject?

    Cheers - Tom

  5. #4
    Tom,

    I, personally, look forward to the day when Tesla Roadster owners drive out to the track and leave Ferraris, Porche's, Vipers, Lamborghini's, etc in the dust, then drive back getting effectively over 130 MPG.
    I don't like what the ICE manufacturers have done with the HAH, HCH, and Lexus, where they put in a huge ICE, then tried to use the electric to try to save the pathetic gas mileage.
    On the other hand, were they to do the right thing, which is to put a small, efficient ICE in with a very powerful (yet extremely efficient) electric motor, they could get incredible performance AND outstanding mileage.
    With the electric drive train, the same parameters that increase torque also increase efficiency. This means you get more torque as you increase the efficiency.
    I've seen some drawings of the Rube-Goldberg contraption that GM, Daimler, and BMW are building. I can't believe the extent to which obsolete engineers will go to promote the antiquated technology they understand. The thing I've seen will be horribly expensive and likely a reliability nightmare, especially when compared with a small, efficient, powerful electric motor.
    I suspect that this new contraption is designed to show that hybrids are a bad idea, not to actually make something that is feasible.

  6. #5
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    I Agree - AAARRRGHHH!!

    I am involved with dual mode hybrid transmission consortium between the three aforementioned companies, to the point where it would be professionally inappropriate for me to make any comment.

    It is also interesting that today and tomorrow i`m attending the CTI Transmission Technology conference at Southfield MI. Not once today has anyone seriously breached the topic of deriving new transmissions for excellence in fuel consumption. Nor has anyone dared to mention the obvious 5 to 10 year trend we face in the price of a barrel of oil. The main concerns seemed to be about reducing manufacturing costs and weight, whilst increasing reliability and performance. I guess whilst fuel is so cheap in the States, no-one in the mainstream will start to think seriously about vehicles and powertrains for economy. The biggest impression i got today was that the automotive transmission business is in a real state of flux in terms of deriving a clear vision and a plan for the future. At one point, a presenter mentioned that Toyota is the only OEM so far to have the balls to go into volume production with what can be construed to be a true light duty hybrid vehicle

    Personally, I can`t wait to see US fuel at $5.00 a gallon.....by which time, i will have happily purchased a VW Jetta Diesel to tide me over until I can get a plug in Diesel Hybrid with a nice battery and a powerful electric motor too. My point is that at $5.00 a gallon, I believe that major market forces will start to come into play to force US Manufacturers to get off their butts and do something....

    Lets see.

    Just an opinion of course!!

    Tom

  7. #6
    Tom,

    I hope that someone with talents such as yours will attack the question about hybrid topology - serial -vs- parallel.
    - It seems to me that one should be able to create a parallel topology (both ICE and EV connected to the drive shaft) but either one can provide 100% of the load if desired.
    - It would also remove the transmission by having the EV side handle all dynamics.
    - It would also allow the ICE to run at constant, most fuel efficient RPMs and load by shedding excess power to the battery or shutting off when the battery is full.
    - It would also only require a single motor/generator instead of both as a serial hybrid does.

    Toyota seems to have come close but their topology won't allow the EV to drive the wheels except at very slow speeds. The serial hybrid topology has the benefit that it doesn't need a transmission and allows the ICE to run at its most optimum, however:
    - There are losses in the ICE path in that it much incur the generation losses although they are small.
    - It requires a seperate motor and generator.

    I would believe that a well designed mechanical linkage in a parallel hybrid could be more efficient than the motor - generator pair of the serial. Unfortunately, I don't have the mechanical genius to be able to conceive such a scheme.

  8. #7
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    Hmm...Hybrid Varieties

    This is a tough topic because it has so many intricately related parameters. The decision upon the hybrid architecture is currently influenced by 20 or so market, component cost and technical infrastructure factors. Each factor could be considered to have an "influence rating", driven by the context of todays hybrid marketplace, public perception, federal politics and the price of gas.

    Lets consider this array of factors to have a topology rather like a map of the land, with contours connecting the factors. There is no question that this topology is heavily affected by the price of gas. As gas prices climb, the topology will change and so the relative weighting of the factors will change. That means Hybrids will change in the future too.

    In my opinion, the biggest factors are battery capacity (& cost), manufacturing complexity (& cost) and technical ER&D complexity (& cost). I`ll also bet that most public have no real idea how a Hybrid works and so the OEMs have to consider how to build in sufficient controls and functionality intelligence to make the hybrid system "invisible" to the driver.

    Have to run now but it will be interesting to discuss specifics about relative architectures soon.

    Tom

  9. #8
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    Hi Tom, I stumbled on your

    Hi Tom,

    I stumbled on your comments here and read them all with great interest. As a European in the US for the last couple of years I share your thoughts and concerns exactly. I have driven across the country 5 times in that period, and I'm currently based in LA, where the car is king.

    Without re-treading your ground, I agree that US consumers have a different perception about what they want from a car, and are a lot more selfish about driving unneccessarily dumb cars. But gas prices have kept them in comfort for years, and political forces and lobbying have kept the pressure off manufacturers to do anything sensible. We should all be driving much more fuel efficient cars than even exist in this country. People still seem to be in a bubble and don't realise the reality - people look at me like I'm dumb when I tell them you wouldn't buy a car in Europe unless it could do 35-45 mpg!

    However what I wanted to ask you was - your piece was written a year back and we've seen the "crisis" really develop here in the last few months as gas pices have risen. I personally agree with you when you said you can't wait till gas prices are $5 to see if people really start changing their behaviour, and remarkably this now seems to be happening. But, there are far too many whines about "high gas prices" and not enough biuy-in to becoming more efficient.
    Do you think this crisis, and the fact that Detroit is almost bust, help to change selfish US mindsets?

    Just wondered, I sincerely hope so. FYI, last time I crossed from Florida to LA I rented a Jeep Commander and got 17 mpg over 2,750 miles. Is that crazy or what?!

    Gordon

  10. #9
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    I agree that Americans are

    I agree that Americans are slower to react to the rise in gas prices, and take pride on owning big cars. But I live in San Francisco, California, and although we have freeways (highways), where the speed limits are 55 and 65 Miles per Hour, we also have lots of small streets where a smaller vehicle is better. Here at least, there are lots of small Asian and European models. Unfortunately, the US car companies don't have many options for us. The Ford Focus offered here is dated, and the offerings by GM and Chrysler are laughable. So, we rely upon Hondas, Toyotas, VWs, Hyundais, Nissans, etc.

    Many of the world's best small cars are not sold here. The Toyota Yaris and Honda Fit are about it. These are reliable, safe and very economical. Even the larger US Corolla is rated at 32 MPG overall, and is offered under $17,000 US. But 45 MPG? Without a hybrid package? No way for now.

    I can't wait until the 2010 Toyota Prius makes a debut, since it will have the best MPG offered in the US (possibly 55 City, 49 Highway), but have better driving dynamics than the current model. I rented the current Prius and found it a good car. No problems on the highway or in town. Pretty good acceleration (torque is good because of the electric motors), and this is from an owner of a VW Passat V6. Actually, quite lovely for a car that cost me $8.00 in fuel for 2 days!

    If I could buy a VW Lupo, or a Peugeot 206 I would, but they are not offered here.

    Hybrids need to grow and evolve, and the internal combustion engine needs to go. Plug me in, but still let me tool around in style!

    Keep up the good work!

  11. #10
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    I saw where Ford is

    I saw where Ford is introducing an efficient Diesel into the Euro market that gets 65 MPG, but they won't distribute here in the US because of profit concerns - they don't think the public will buy diesels! Geeez. And they want the Feds to bail them out of their financial bind?
    Give me a break.

    I still maintain the best all around technology is the Water Hybrid. Anyone can build and install them on ANY car. They're cheap to build, and only need maintenance about every 3 months or so, just like changing your oil.

    A good one can be built from local parts for less than a hundred dollars. Average mileage increases are ranging in the 30%-50% range using very little water. This is NOT steam injection, or even water droplets, but an on demand hydrogen generator.

    If you build it- you will see. They work well.

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