Pipe: Advanced tech

Quick drive of the Passat HyMotion hydrogen fuel cell hybrid

Thu, 2014-11-20 15:13

Volkswagen unveiled the Golf Sportwagen HyMotion hydrogen fuel cell hybrid research vehicle demonstrator yesterday at the Los Angeles Auto Show (earlier post). Volkswagen has also built several research vehicles based on the US version of the Passat using the same hydrogen drivetrain components as fitted in the Golf SportWagen HyMotion.

The fleet of Passat HyMotion vehicles is currently being tested on the streets of California. In addition, Volkswagen brought a pair of the hydrogen Passats to the Los Angeles Auto Show for test drives (and Audi brought a pair of its A7 Sportback h-tron hydrogen fuel cell plug-in hybrids for drives, as well.)

Passat HyMotion in LA. Click to enlarge.

The drivetrain and MQB. The mechanical underpinnings for the Passat and Golf HyMotion cars are based on the Modular Transverse Matrix (MQB) that was developed by Volkswagen and is used throughout the Group. (Earlier post.) The key drive components of the Golf SportWagen HyMotion were developed by Volkswagen Group Research in Germany.

The 100 kW fuel cell system (also applied in the A7) has a system power of 100 kW. The concept car has high-voltage 1.1 kWh lithium-ion battery pack (from the Jetta Hybrid), which stores the kinetic energy recovered from regenerative braking; assists in the starting phase of the fuel cell; and adds a dynamic boost to the maximum acceleration of the Golf SportWagen. The fuel cell and battery power an electric motor adapted from the e-Golf.

Cutaway powertrain animation from Volkswagen shows the elements and the operating flow very clearly. Click to enlarge.

The drive components (motor, two-stage 1-speed transmission) of the HyMotion are in the engine compartment of the car as are the hydrogen fuel cell stack; the cooling system; a tri-port converter that regulates the voltage between the electric motor, the fuel cell and the lithium-ion battery; and the turbo compressor. The latter ensures that oxygen from the surrounding air flows into the fuel cell.

Top: Drivetrain. Middle: Fuel Cell Stack. Bottom: Under the hood of the Passat HyMotion. Click to enlarge.

The power electronics, which convert the direct current (DC) into three-phase alternating current (AC) which is used to drive the motor, are located in the center tunnel. The power electronics also integrate a DC/DC converter, which converts energy from the high-voltage battery to 12 volts to supply the 12-volt electrical system. The high-voltage lithium-ion battery, which has its own cooling circuit, is mounted close to the trunk and rear suspension. The 12-volt battery is also mounted at the rear.

Two of the total of four carbon fiber composite hydrogen tanks are housed under the rear seat and the other two in the luggage compartment floor. The hydrogen is stored in the tanks at a pressure of 700 bar (10,150 psi).

The battery is housed above the rear suspension, and the tanks are mounted in the vehicle floor. With the packaging of the drivetrain elements, the interior offers the same amount of space as in other versions of the model.

Driving the Passat HyMotion. The Passat HyMotion is, well, basically a Passat with its roomy and comfortable cabin. Starting up is a simple matter of pushing the start button.

At start, the fuel cell has not built up enough electrical power to drive the motor by itself. The Li-ion battery steps in and supplies energy to the electric motor instead, allowing the car to move off.

The only indication (aside from the display) that the fuel cell engages is the sound of the blower. Although audible, it is low; turning on the climate control fan to the first level obscures the sound. Looked at another way, the sound of the fuel cell in operation is no more distracting that having the HVAC system running in the cabin.

Top: The Energy Flow display clearly shows the flow from and to the different powertrain elements. Middle: At start, energy will only be flowing from the battery (top, blue) to the motor. Bottom: On recharge, energy will flow from the fuel cell through the tri-port converter to the battery. Clicking on an element opens up a new screen with more detailed operating information. The number at the center is the range remaining. Click to enlarge.

At this point, the Passat is a fully electric car—but with a range of more than 300 miles. It exhibits all the benefits of electric drive: smooth and quick acceleration from a stop, quiet, and zero toxic emissions. In the stop-and-go of LA downtown rush-hour traffic, it was never jerky, and allowed us to dart into gaps with ease then pull quickly away when there was a chance.

The control software for the HyMotion is more akin to that of a combustion-engined hybrid than that of a battery-electric vehicle as it entails more balancing between primary power source (fuel cell or engine) and the secondary (Li-ion battery).

The battery is recharged either through regenerative events or via the hydrogen fuel cell.

Futures. Our quick drive of the Passat HyMotion highlighted the benefits of an all-electric zero emission vehicle (ZEV) drive applied in yet another model type, and the display of the range and tank fill stage together were extremely satisfying (long range, lots of fuel, fast refill). The same could be said, though, for a Passat equipped with very high energy density future batteries (along with a very fast DC charger).

Dr. Neußer (left) and Dr. Hackenberg (right) explaining at the fuel cell technology workshop. Click to enlarge.

As we noted in our write-up of the three Volkswagen Group hydrogen fuel cell prototypes yesterday, the Volkswagen Group isn’t yet calling either hydrogen fuel cell technology or all battery-electric vehicle technology a clear winner. In a workshop on Fuel Cell Technology presented by Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development at Audi and Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer, Member of the Board of Management at Volkswagen responsible for the Development Division, Dr. Hackenberg observed that:

Fuel cell technology is running in competition with long-range battery electric vehicles. We don’t know which technology will be the winner.

Dr. Neußer observed that the Group still expects an inflection point in fuel cell technology and adoption not before the year 2020, but that it was demonstrating with these concepts that the company will be ready to launch when all the other issues surrounding hydrogen adoption (production, refueling) have been addressed.

Volkswagen Group is also investing very heavily in battery development, and as a company is aggressively developing and introducing variants of battery-powered drivetrains (for example, the e-up!, e-Golf and Golf GTE from Volkswagen, with a Passat plug-in hybrid announced; the Cayenne and Panamera E-Hybrids and the 918 Spyder for Porsche; the Audi A3 e-tron, with a plug-in hybrid R8 and a pure electric R8 E-tron in the works, to name a few). Prof. Dr. Martin Winterkorn, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen recently said that he sees “great potential” in solid-state batteries, which possibly could boost EV range to as much as 700 km (435 miles), representing a volumetric energy density of about 1,000 Wh/l. (Earlier post.)

And Dr. Neußer earlier this year projected that the Volkswagen group by 2015-16 will boost battery energy density from the current 25-28 Ah to 36-37 Ah, providing a range of around 300 km (186 miles). Dr. Neußer also said that the company is working on the next step to around 60 Ah, which will be achieved with a “completely new” chemistry, and will come at the beginning of the next decade. This could provide range on the orders of 500-600 km (310-373 miles), he suggested. (Earlier post.)

But, getting back to Dr. Hackenberg’s comment, they don’t know for sure.

With is modular strategy (MQB for transverse application, MLB for longitudinal applications, etc.), Volkswagen is strategically positioning itself to be able to provide whatever advanced low- or zero-emission drivetrain is demanded (or required) in its high-volume vehicles. The MQB-based Golf, for example, could have gasoline engine (TSI), diesel engine (TDI), battery-electric drive (e-Golf), natural gas, plug-in hybrid (GTE) and hydrogen fuel cell (HyMotion) versions produced “bumper-to-bumper” on the assembly line.

Electrified drive systems in the MQB. Click to enlarge.

newsclips -- ARB Newsclips for November 19, 2014.

Thu, 2014-11-20 13:44
ARB Newsclips for November 19, 2014.

Shanghai OnStar introduces new telematics services, opens 3rd call center to support demand

Thu, 2014-11-20 09:54

Shanghai OnStar is showing its upcoming 4G LTE service, introducing several new telematics services and announcing the opening of its third call center to support the rising demand for its services. Its new call center in Chongqing, which opened earlier this month, joined its call centers in Shanghai and Xiamen.

OnStar 4G LTE Service. Shanghai GM will begin offering OnStar 4G LTE service in a Cadillac model in 2015. The service will provide improved security as well as reliable high-speed information transmission. The service will support Wi-Fi connectivity for multiple devices with mobile data speeds up to 10 times faster than today’s speeds.

Users will be able to connect to mobile devices while up to 15 meters away from their vehicles.

Security Zone and Vehicle Maintenance Tips Mobile App Services. Shanghai OnStar is introducing two new mobile app services—Security Zone and Vehicle Maintenance Tips—to further improve security and communication among OnStar platforms. Security Zone allows customers to set up a security area around their vehicle via the OnStar mobile app. If their vehicle leaves the area, owners will immediately receive an SMS alert.

Vehicle Maintenance Tips constantly monitors vehicles. A notice will be sent to owners via the mobile app when maintenance is recommended. Customers can then use the app to make an appointment at a nearby dealer for service.

Weather Check and Reservation Services. Two additional services based on cloud computing technology—Weather Check and Reservation—are being introduced by Shanghai OnStar in Guangzhou. The Weather Check service provides customers up-to-date weather information for their current location and destination. The Reservation service allows customers to book hotel and airplane tickets while driving. They can also make appointments with dealers for maintenance.

Toyota to launch enhanced parking support systems; Intelligence Clearance Sonar, Panoramic View Monitor

Thu, 2014-11-20 09:48

Toyota Motor Corporation has enhanced its Intelligence Clearance Sonar (ICS) technology, which helps prevent or mitigate collisions when parking or starting off. In addition, a new viewing mode has been added to Toyota’s Panoramic View Monitor, which helps drivers check their surroundings before setting off. Toyota plans to use these updated systems in models launched in 2015.

Intelligent Clearance Sonar. Toyota’s current ICS function detects obstacles and helps prevent or mitigate collisions caused by rapid acceleration after pedal misapplication. The new ICS includes more sensors and can detect objects further away, contributing to an increase in scanning depth and breadth. In addition, the control logic has been improved to help prevent or mitigate collisions with adjacent vehicles or obstacles even when pedal misapplication is not the cause, such as during low-speed driving in parking lots or when pulling out of parking spaces.

Toyota’s Intelligent Parking Assist system now uses ICS to help prevent or mitigate collisions through automated braking (The driver controls the gear shift, brakes and accelerator.) In addition, a new multi-point turn support function automatically controls steering in tight parking spaces requiring repeated back and forth movements. Another partially-automated function assists departure from parallel parking spaces with little room in front of and behind the vehicle.

Panoramic View Monitor. The Panoramic View Monitor—which currently displays an overhead view of the vehicle on the navigation system screen—has been enhanced with a new See-through View. Pressing a button allows the driver to flip between Moving View, which displays video as if looking down on the vehicle, and See-through View, which gives a driver’s-perspective view of the vehicle’s surroundings as if the vehicle itself were transparent. Compared to Moving View, See-through View displays obstacles larger, making them easier to identify.

These improvements to Toyota’s parking support systems are intended to enhance safety in parking lots, where approximately 30% of accidents resulting in property damage occur, according to the General Insurance Association of Japan based on parking lot accident statistics for the Tohoku region of Japan.

Syrah Resources successfully produces Li-ion battery grade spherical graphite; market numbers

Thu, 2014-11-20 07:00

Australia-based Syrah Resources has successfully produced uncoated battery grade spherical graphite, using natural flake graphite from its Balama Graphite & Vanadium Project in Mozambique. The battery market currently represents approximately 23% of global flake graphite output and is expected to be a rapidly growing sector due to lithium ion (Li-ion) battery demand (Source: Benchmark Minerals).

The key driver of this growth is the expected increase in electric vehicle sales and energy storage applications which uses spherical graphite as the anode in the Li-ion battery.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) 2013 has forecast annual sales of electric vehicles (EVs) of nearly 6 million units by 2020. If these forecasts are accurate, approximately 240,000 tonnes of spherical graphite would be required per year.

Industrial Minerals estimates that it takes 2.5 tonnes of flake graphite on average to make one tonne of spherical graphite. Accordingly, 240,000 tonnes of spherical graphite will equate to 600,000 tonnes of natural graphite demand per annum.

Given that total global flake graphite production in 2013 was approximately 375,000, a 60% increase in supply would be required to satisfy this projected additional demand.

Specifications achieved by Syrah include fixed carbon of 99.96%, d50 of 15.64 microns and a BET surface area of 4.236 m2/g. These specifications are consistent with those of leading Chinese manufacturers and have been confirmed by a Li-ion battery anode producer in China.

Samples will be sent to anode producers for trial coating and electrochemical testing, as well as to all the major Korean and Japanese Li-ion battery producers through Marubeni Corporation. A Preliminary Economic Study based on a 25,000 tpa scenario will commence shortly. Uncoated Li-ion battery grade spherical graphite with these specifications currently sells for US$3,500/t while coated spherical currently sells for US$7000/t to US$10,000/t.

Next-gen Chevy Volt improves charging experience for users

Thu, 2014-11-20 06:00

Chevrolet says it has made the charging system in the next-generation Volt even easier for customers to recharge the battery and to check the charge status. The next-generation Volt debuts in January in Detroit at the North American International Auto Show.

The new and enhanced features include:

  • GPS location-based charging. Owners will now be able to set their charging preferences exclusively for their “home” charging location and the vehicle will automatically adjust to that setting when it is at that location. The car will recognize when it arrives “home” based on GPS data.

    This will allow owners to pre-set their charging level (8 amps or 12 amps on 120V only) and whether they wish to charge immediately, set a departure time for each day of the week, or set a departure time and a utility rate schedule to charge only at off-peak rates. Owners can input their local utility’s rate schedule into their Volt to assure they’re charging using the cheapest electricity rates. They will only have to program the system once and the Volt will return to these settings every time it is at its home location.

  • New, more intuitive charge status indicators. The next-generation Volt makes it easier for owners to confirm their Volt is charging and to gauge charge status. The new status system features a specially designed tone that indicates when charging has begun, with additional tones for delayed charging. It will even indicate if the charge port door was left open after unplugging but before entering the vehicle.

    With a glance through the windshield, an updated charge status indicator light on the on the top of the instrument panel will show the approximate charge level through a series of flashes. In addition, an available illuminated charge port makes it easier to plug in after dark as well as indicate approximate charge level through a series of flashes.

  • Portable cord set enhancements. A new 120V portable cord set includes a cord nearly 25 feet (7.6 meters) long, longer than the current 120V portable cord. It can be locked using a small padlock to deter unauthorized removal during charging. Based directly on customer feedback, a new storage bin for the cord is now located on the left side of the Volt’s rear cargo area, above the load floor, for improved accessibility.

Miami-Dade County orders 29 more hydraulic hybrid refuse trucks featuring Parker’s RunWise System

Thu, 2014-11-20 05:00

Miami-Dade County, Fla., placed its third order for Autocar E3 hybrid refuse trucks that feature Parker’s fuel-saving RunWise Advanced Series Hybrid Drive System. (Earlier post.) The additional purchase of 29 new hybrid trucks brings the total fleet to 64. The hydraulic hybrid technology can reduce fuel consumption by up to 50%.

With more than 1 million miles of operation, the RunWise-equipped refuse trucks capture more than 71% of a vehicle’s otherwise lost braking energy, which can save up to 4,300 gallons of fuel per year, per truck.

Miami-Dade’s repeat orders prove that this technology works and continues to cut costs and reduce emissions for the county. We are encouraged by the positive feedback on RunWise’s environmental and operational results from Miami-Dade, which is among more than 30 other municipalities across the US benefiting from our technology.—Shane Terblanche, general manager, hybrid drive systems at Parker Hannifin

The Autocar E3 equipped with RunWise technology is also available to waste management companies on a rent-to-own basis through Big Truck Rental. With trucks in 30 cities across the US, RunWise is the nation’s leader in hydraulic hybrid technology. The RunWise version of the Autocar refuse trucks operate in Miami-Dade County and several other municipalities around the country, including Orlando, Fla., Sacramento, Calif., Tacoma, Wash, and Houston and Austin, Texas.

Volkswagen Group shows 3 hydrogen fuel cell concepts at LA Show: Audi A7 Sportback h-tron; Golf Sportwagen HyMotion; Passat HyMotion

Thu, 2014-11-20 03:30

Audi A7 Sportback h-tron. Click to enlarge.

Audi and Volkswagen, both members of the Volkswagen Group, unveiled three hydrogen fuel-cell vehicle demonstrators at the Los Angeles Auto Show: the sporty Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro, a plug-in fuel-cell electric hybrid featuring permanent all-wheel drive and the Golf Sportwagen HyMotion, a fuel-cell hybrid, both received a formal introduction in the companies’ press conferences. Further, Volkswagen brought two Passat HyMotion demonstrators for media drives. (The Golf and Passat models have identical hydrogen powertrains and control software.)

All three incorporate a fourth-generation, 100 kW LT PEM (Low Temperature Proton Exchange Membrane) fuel cell stack developed in-house by Volkswagen Group Research at the Volkswagen Technology Center for Electric Traction. (Volkswagen is tapping some expertise from Ballard engineers under a long-term services contract, earlier post.) The Group is already at work on its fifth-generation version, said Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development at Audi, during a fuel cell technology workshop held at the LA show, and may be ready to talk about that technology by the end of next year.

In visual terms, the fuel cell vehicles basically resemble their production counterparts, reflecting the Volkswagen Group’s strategic approach of developing alternative drivetrains so as to increase the powertrain options available to customers within the high-volume model lines. This is the opposite of the approach taken by Toyota with its Mirai fuel cell vehicle (earlier post) and Honda with its new FCV Concept (earlier post).

“Fuel cell technology is running in comepetition with long-range battery electric vehicles. We don’t know which technology will be the winner.”—Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg

The technology developed and chosen for implementation in these demonstrators also reflects the Group’s focus on leveraging the capabilities of its modular toolkit approach (modularen Baukästen). (Earlier post.) Put another way, the fuel cell technology is being developed so as to work as components in the MQB (transverse) kit, the development of which is led by the Volkswagen brand, and the MLB (longitudinal) kit being driven by Audi.

The ultimate goal—one that Volkswagen Group and brand executives consistently emphasize—is to enable “bumper-to-bumper” production of brand models equipped with different drive systems (gasoline, diesel, natural gas, plug-in hybrid, battery-electric and fuel cell) using the same production line. (Earlier post.)

The Group is not—unlike Toyota, Honda and Hyundai—announcing production dates and initial markets for its fuel cell vehicles.

In 2009, we forecast that a breakthrough in hydrogen fuel cells could not be expected before the year 2020. We are still convinced of this. The fuel cell is and will remain an important an important supplement to our electrification strategy. We wanted to show you that we will be ready to launch when all of the issues related to hydrogen infrastructure have been solved.—Dr. Heinz-Jakob Neußer, Member of the Board of Management at Volkswagen responsible for the Development Division

Those issues include not only the availability of refueling stations, but also the ability to produce hydrogen from renewables, Dr. Neußer said in his remarks introducing the Golf Sportwagen HyMotion.

VW Technology Center for Electric Traction Since the 1990s, Volkswagen has been researching the potential of hydrogen fuel cells and transferring this drive technology to production cars. At the end of the past decade Volkswagen decided to build a dedicated Technology Center for Electric Traction near its headquarters in Wolfsburg, to further advance its capabilities in fuel cell development. The Isenbüttel site was chosen for this center and construction of a special research center for electric drivetrains began in 2001. The infrastructure of the technology center includes a dedicated hydrogen fuel station. Volkswagen produces the hydrogen for the pressure tank station from renewable solar-generated electricity. A photovoltaic array was installed at the site for this purpose.

The Fuel Cell Stack

The fuel cell system comprises more than 300 individual cells that together form a stack. The core of each of these individual cells is a polymer membrane, with a platinum-based catalyst on both sides of the membrane.

In a PEM fuel cell, hydrogen is supplied to the anode, where it is broken down into protons and electrons. The protons migrate through the membrane to the cathode, where they react with the oxygen present in air to form water vapor. Meanwhile, outside the stack the electrons supply the electrical power. Depending on load point, the individual cell voltage is 0.6 to 0.8 volts. The entire fuel cell operates in the voltage range of 230 to 360 volts.

The main auxiliary assemblies include a turbocharger that forces the air into the cells; a recirculation fan which returns unused hydrogen to the anode, thus increasing efficiency; and a coolant pump. These components have a high-voltage electric drive and are powered by the fuel cell.

There is a separate cooling circuit for the essential cooling of the fuel cell. A heat exchanger and a thermoelectric, self-regulating auxiliary heating element maintain pleasant temperatures in the cabin. The fuel cell, which operates across a temperature range of 80 degrees Celsius, places higher demands on the vehicle cooling than an equivalent combustion engine but achieves superior efficiency of as high as 60 percent—almost double that of a conventional combustion engine. Its cold-starting performance is guaranteed down to -28 degrees Celsius.

During the fuel cell workshop, Dr. Neußer said the Group is focused on two major areas of focus in the fuel cell stack to get the efficiency as high as possible with the goal of maximizing range. The first is to bring pressure losses as low as possible.

The second, and the key issue, he said, is the membrane technology itself. Volkswagen is working on nanostructuring the platinum coating to achieve as high a surface area as possible while also reducing the thickness.

(In an aside, Dr. Hackenberg noted that the nanostructuring work for the membrane assemblies has synergies on the battery side, where Volkswagen is exploring the use of very thin layer nanostructures very similar to what is being done on the fuel cell side.)

Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro plug-in fuel cell hybrid

Click to enlarge.

The Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro fuel-cell plug-in hybrid demonstrator features the fuel-cell stack in the engine compartment and an 8.8 kWh battery pack and an additional electric motor in the rear. The drive configuration gives the zero-emission Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro 170 kW of available power—a new level of performance in fuel cell cars. There is no mechanical connection between the front and rear axles; as an e quattro, the A7 Sportback h-tron quattro features fully electronic management of torque distribution.

Because the exhaust system only has to handle water vapor, it is made of weight-saving plastic.

The A7 Sportback h-tron quattro is a genuine Audi—at once sporty and efficient. Conceived as an e-quattro, its two electric motors drive all four wheels. The h-tron concept car shows that we have also mastered fuel cell technology. We are in a position to launch the production process as soon as the market and infrastructure are ready. —Prof. Dr. Ulrich Hackenberg, Member of the Board of Management for Technical Development at Audi

In the fuel cell mode, the A7 Sportback h-tron quattro needs only about one kilogram (2.2 lb) of hydrogen to cover 100 kilometers (62.1 mi); the energy content of 1 kg of hydrogen is equivalent to that of 3.7 liters (1.0 US gal) of gasoline. The tanks can store around five kilograms of hydrogen at a pressure of 700 bar—enough to drive more than 500 kilometers (310.7 mi). The range is boosted by up to 50 kilometers (31.1 mi) by a battery with a capacity of 8.8 kilowatt-hours, which is recharged by recuperation or alternatively from a power socket.

Like a car with combustion engine, refueling takes no more than around three minutes. The Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h (62.1 mi) in 7.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 180 km/h (111.8 mph).

Top left. Hydrogen fuel cell system. Top right. High-voltage components. Bottom left. quattro drive. Bottom right. Packaging. Click to enlarge.

The 8.8 kWh Li-ion battery in the h-tron is adopted from the Audi A3 Sportback e-tron plug-in hybrid. (Earlier post.) The pack is located beneath the trunk and has a separate cooling circuit for thermal management.

The high-performance battery can store energy recovered from brake applications and supply powerful full-load boosting, enabling the impressive acceleration. Both the front and rear axles have no mechanical connections for the transmission of power. In the event of slip, the torque for both driven axles can be controlled electronically and adjusted continuously.

On battery power, the Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro covers as much as 50 kilometers (31.1 mi).

The battery operates at a different voltage level than the fuel cell; hence, there is a DC converter (DC/AC) between the two components—this tri-port converter is located behind the stack. Under many operating conditions, it equalizes the voltage, enabling the electric motors to operate at their maximum efficiency of 95 percent.

The power electronics in the front and rear of the vehicle convert the direct current from the fuel cell and battery into alternating current for the electric motors to drive the front and rear axles separately.

The two electric motors, which are cooled by a low-temperature circuit together with the voltage converters, are permanently excited synchronous machines. Each of them (the same motor used in the eGolf, earlier post) has an output of 85 kW, or up to 114 kW if the voltage is temporarily raised. The peak torque is 270 N·m (199 lb-ft) per electric motor.

The electric motors’ housings incorporate planetary gear trains with a single transmission ratio of 7.6:1. A mechanical parking lock and a differential function round off the system.

Switching from automatic transmission mode D to S increases the level of energy recovery when braking, so that the battery is charged up effectively during sporty driving. Brake applications, too, are almost always accomplished fully electrically: The electric motors then act as alternators and convert the car’s kinetic energy into electrical energy that is stored in the battery. The four disk brakes only become involved if more forceful or emergency braking is required.

The four hydrogen tanks of the Audi A7 Sportback h-tron quattro are located beneath the base of the trunk, in front of the rear axle, in the center tunnel. An outer skin made from carbon fiber reinforced polymer (CFRP) encases the inner aluminum shell.

Since 2013 Audi has been operating a pilot plant (earlier post) in which renewable wind power is used to produce hydrogen by electrolysis. At present, this hydrogen is still used in an additional production process to obtain synthetic methane (Audi e-gas). A future move to feed this hydrogen into a hydrogen supply and filling station network would make it available for refueling fuel-cell vehicles.

Golf Sportwagen HyMotion fuel cell hybrid

The Golf Sportwagen HyMotion is a full cell hybrid, that functions very similarly to a gasoline- or diesel-electric hybrid, except that the primary propulsion is electric, powered by the fuel cell.

Click to enlarge.

The hydrogen Golf highlights the potential of the MQB approach. The fuel cell, as noted above, is shared with the hydrogen A7; the 100 kW, 270 N·m (199 lb-ft) electric drive motor comes from the e-Golf, and the 1.1 kWh, 36 kW Li-ion battery pack comes from the Jetta Hybrid.

Volkswagen essentially is showing the Golf SportWagen HyMotion to demonstrate how a hydrogen fuel cell could be implemented in an MQB-based vehicle.

The motor and coaxial two-stage 1-speed transmission are located at the front of the engine compartment; also in the engine compartment are the fuel cell stack; cooling system; tri-port converter and the turbo compressor.

The power electronics are located in the center tunnel area; they convert the direct current (DC) into three-phase alternating current (AC) which is used to drive the motor. The power electronics also integrate a DC/DC converter, which converts energy from the high-voltage battery to 12 volts to supply the 12-volt electrical system.

The high-voltage lithium-ion battery is mounted close to the trunk and rear suspension. The 12-volt battery is also mounted at the rear. Two of the total of four carbonfiber composite hydrogen tanks are housed compactly under the rear seat and the other two in the luggage compartment floor. The hydrogen is stored in the tanks at a pressure of 700 bar. As in all other Volkswagen vehicles, the tank filler neck is located on the right side at the back of the car.

Energy flow display showing battery (blue), fuel cell, triport connector, auxiliaries (NV), fuel tank and motor. Pressing any of the powertrain elements brings up a display with more information. (Screen from the Passat.) Click to enlarge.

The lithium-ion battery is the second powerplant in the vehicle, and it plays an important role in the drive system. In addition to storing the energy recovered during regenerative braking, it is also an important component in all phases during which the chemical reaction needs to be initiated by feeding oxygen and hydrogen to the fuel cell (the latter via the turbo compressor), such as when driving off from a start.

At this point in time, the fuel cell has not built up enough electrical power to drive the motor by itself. In these phases, the lithium-ion battery jumps into action and supplies energy to the electric motor. The high-voltage battery also operates like a turbocharger during fast acceleration and while accelerating to top speed—i.e., boosting to supply overall system power of 100 kW or 134 hp.

The front-wheel-drive Golf SportWagen HyMotion accelerates from 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) in 10.0 seconds; driving range is about 310 miles (500 km).

Honda to provide $13.8M to FirstElement Fuel to support build out of California hydrogen refueling infrastructure

Thu, 2014-11-20 03:01

Seeking to expand California’s public hydrogen refueling station network as a means to support the wider introduction of fuel-cell vehicles, Honda will provide $13.8 million in financial assistance to FirstElement Fuel to build additional hydrogen refueling stations around the state. Additional state grants, combined with the Honda financing, could enable FirstElement to add at least 12 stations to its California hydrogen network.

FirstElement received grants totaling nearly $27 million from the California Energy Commission earlier this year to build a network of 19 stations around the state. The state of California has a plan to invest $200 million into hydrogen station development over the next several years. This financial support from Honda, along with anticipated future grants from the State of California, will allow FirstElement to expand its network of stations by more than 50%, to at least 31 stations.

(In May, Toyota Motor Sales (TMS) and its affiliate Toyota Motor Credit Corporation (TMCC) entered into a group of financial agreements with FirstElement Fuel Inc. (FE) to support the long-term operation and maintenance expenses of new hydrogen refueling stations in California. Earlier post.)

FirstElement Fuel is providing a vital piece of what is needed for a successful launch of fuel-cell vehicles. Through this collaboration, FirstElement will enable our customers to experience hydrogen refueling that is as reliable, convenient and consumer-friendly as the vehicles are.—Steven Center, vice president of Honda’s Environmental Business Development Office

FirstElement Fuel is striving to create the first true retail hydrogen refueling network by developing and operating stations in California’s metro areas, as well as in connector and destination locations. The company’s goal is for drivers of fuel-cell vehicles to be able to travel seamlessly throughout the state, just as they are able a conventional gasoline vehicle today. As one of the leaders in the development of fuel cells, Honda has advocated for a robust and comprehensive network of hydrogen refueling stations to serve its customers.

Honda has worked for nearly two decades in the development and deployment of fuel-cell technology through extensive real world testing, including the first government fleet deployment and first retail customer lease programs in the United States. Honda has also made significant technological advancements in fuel cell operation in both hot and sub-freezing temperatures and in meeting safety regulations, since the introduction of its first generation fuel-cell vehicle, the FCX, in 2002. Honda launched its more recent fuel-cell vehicle, the FCX Clarity, in July 2008.

On 17 November 2014, Honda unveiled the FCV Concept in Japan, pointing the way to an all-new Honda fuel-cell vehicles slated for launch first in Japan by March 2016 followed by launches in the US and Europe.

Honda’s next-generation fuel-cell vehicle will feature a fuel-cell powertrain packaged completely in the engine room of the vehicle, allowing for efficiencies in cabin space as well as flexibility in the potential application of fuel-cell technology to multiple vehicle types in the future. The next-generation Honda FCV is anticipated to have a driving range of more than 300 miles.

arbcombo -- Low Carbon Fuel Standard Presentation for November 20, 2014, Workshop

Wed, 2014-11-19 20:41
The California Air Resources Board (ARB) staff has posted the presentation for the Low Carbon Fuel Standard Indirect Land Use Change Values workshop on November 20, 2014.

arbcombo -- Notification to Reschedule the November 2014 Joint Auction #1

Wed, 2014-11-19 14:34
The November 2014 Joint Auction #1 experienced technical difficulties and is now cancelled.

ICCT finds no net gain in fuel efficiency of US domestic airlines operations 2012-2013

Wed, 2014-11-19 11:14

There has been no net gain in the fuel efficiency of US domestic airlines operations from 2012 to 2013, according to a new report released by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) comparing the fuel efficiency—and therefore carbon intensity—of US airlines on domestic operations in 2013.

The report, which is an annual update to an earlier report (earlier post), also investigates changes in fuel efficiency since 2010, both for individual airlines and the industry as a whole.

Dr. Daniel Rutherford and Irene Kwan linked the slowing industry improvement rate in recent years to a lack of new, more-efficient aircraft types, the time lag between new aircraft delivery and penetration into the in-use fleet, and diminishing gains from increasing load factors.

Alaska, Spirit, and Frontier tied as the most fuel-efficient domestic carriers in 2013. Alaska and Spirit have consistently led the performance ranking since ICCT’s original baseline analysis of 2010 data. Frontier jumped ahead of Southwest Airlines due to a large (+10%) one-year improvement.

The ICCT researchers also found that the fuel efficiency gap between the most and least efficient airlines widened slightly to 27% in 2013. Allegiant improved its fuel efficiency in 2013 by adding second-hand Boeing 757-200, A320 and A319 aircraft to its older MD-80s fleet starting in 2011, while American’s fuel efficiency declined by about 1.5% from 2012 to 2013.

Domestic flights in the US account for about 24% of global CO2 emissions from commercial aircraft, and are expected to grow an average of 1% per year over the next 20 years, increasing annual emissions from 116 million metric tons (MMT) in 2014 to about 143 MMT CO2 by 2034.

There continues to be no clear correlation between airline profitability and efficiency, though all 13 major US domestic carriers were profitable in 2013.

ETH Zurich team shows vanadate-borate glasses as inexpensive high-capacity cathodes for Li-ion batteries

Wed, 2014-11-19 10:21

A team from ETH Zurich in Switzerland has demonstrated the use of vanadate-borate glasses (Li2O-B2O3-V2O5, referred to as V2O5-LiBO2) as high-capacity cathode materials for rechargeable Li-ion batteries for the first time. The composite electrodes with reduced graphite oxide (RGO) deliver specific energies around 1,000 Wh/kg and retain high specific capacities in the range of ~ 300 mAh/g for the first 100 cycles.

Vanadium oxide (vanadate)-based materials are attractive cathode alternatives due to the many oxidation state switches of vanadium, resulting in a high theoretical specific capacity. However, irreversible phase transformations and/or vanadium dissolution starting from the first discharge cycle result in significant capacity losses. In their open access paper published in Nature’s Scientific Reports, the ETH Zurich team says that these problems can be circumvented if amorphous or glassy vanadium oxide phases are used.

Irreversible phase transformations and volume work leading to amorphization as well as to loss of low valence state metal ions into the electrolyte accompany most high capacity materials during cycling. To tackle these problems, we have chosen borate-based glasses of V2O5 in order to explore vitreous redox-active systems pursuing the goal of utilizing many oxidation states of vanadium to the highest possible extent and fixing the vanadate group by a network former to enhance cycling stability.—Afyon et al.

Fabrication of the materials is simple and cost-efficient; mixture of 80 wt-% V2O5 and 20 wt-% LiBO2 is melted at 900 °C. Subsequent quenching to room temperature produces the glass material. To fabricate the V2O5 – LiBO2 glass electrode, they manually mixed the active material (70 wt-%), conductive carbon (20 wt-%) and PVDF binders (10 wt-%).

Upon testing, they obtained a first discharge capacity of 327 mAh/g; the cell was charged with a capacity of 308 mAh/g in the subsequent cycle. This finding shows that the huge capacity loss associated with irreversible phase transformation of crystalline V2O5 materials is largely circumvented by the V2O5 – LiBO2 glass, they said.

However, the discharge capacity drastically drops to 125 mAh/g at the 35th cycle, when the rate is increased to 400 mA/g, and recovers to 260 mAh/g at the 45th cycle when the rate is 50 mA/g. The researchers suggested that the limited capacities at high rates are probably caused by poor kinetics of the glassy material.

To improve cycling properties with higher charge/discharge capacities, they fabricated a composite electrode of the V2O5 – LiBO2 glass with reduced graphite oxide (RGO).

They found that the first discharge capacity was raised to ~ 405 mAh/g for the composite electrode. A high capacity of ~ 390 mAh/g was reached in the subsequent charge, showing that the RGO/V2O5 – LiBO2 glass composite also does not suffer from the large irreversible capacity loss associated with the phase transformations. This initial charge capacity was largely preserved in the range of ~ 300 mAh/g within the first 100 cycles.

The capacity delivered at the highest rate (400 mA/g) was more than doubled compared to the amount obtained for the glass electrode without RGO.

(Top) the rate capability of the RGO/V2O5 – LiBO2 glass composite within 1.5–4.0 V at 50, 100, 200 and 400 mA/g rates (at room temperature). (Bottom) discharge capacity vs. cycle within 1.5–4.0 V at 50 and 100 mA/g rates. Afyon et al. Click to enlarge.

For practical battery applications, the overall cycling stability may still be improved via better cell and electrode engineering, the exploration of different protective coatings and more stable electrolyte systems. Nevertheless, the results obtained for vanadate – borate glasses are very encouraging and may trigger further studies for similar glass systems that could encompass the practical use of glassy materials as next generation electrode materials for rechargeable Li-ion batteries.—Afyon et al.


  • Semih Afyon, Frank Krumeich, Christian Mensing, Andreas Borgschulte & Reinhard Nesper (2014) “New High Capacity Cathode Materials for Rechargeable Li-ion Batteries: Vanadate-Borate Glasses” Scientific Reports 4, Article number: 7113 doi: 10.1038/srep07113

LiquidPiston unveils 70cc rotary gasoline engine prototype embodying HEHC; power dense, low-vibration

Wed, 2014-11-19 09:31

LiquidPiston X1 engine features three separate combustion chambers creating 3 power strokes per revolution for high power density. Source: LPI. Click to enlarge.

LiquidPiston, Inc. (LPI) the developer of engines based on its High Efficiency Hybrid Cycle (HEHC) (earlier post), has unveiled the alpha prototype of the X Mini—a power-dense, low-vibration, quiet, 70cc spark-ignited, non-Wankel rotary embodiment of the HEHC. Dr. Alexander Shkolnik, President and Co-Founder of LiquidPiston, is presenting the engine in a paper at the SAE International/JSAE 2014 Small Engine TechnologyConference today in Pisa, Italy.

The compact engine with a 4-lb (1.8 kg) core has only two primary moving parts—a rotor (the primary work-producing component) and an eccentric shaft—and fits in a 6.6" x 6.2" x 5.4" box. In prototype testing, the spark-ignited X Mini engine has shown high power density, producing 3.5 horsepower (indicated at 10,000 RPM). When mature, the engine is expected to weigh 3 pounds, produce more than 5 hp at up to 15,000 RPM, and be more than 30% smaller and lighter than comparable four-stroke piston engines.

The X Mini 70cc rotary gasoline engine. Click to enlarge.

HEHC is an improved thermodynamic cycle optimized for fuel efficiency that combines features of four existing cycles: high compression ratio (Diesel); constant volume (isochoric) combustion (Otto); over-expansion to atmospheric pressure (Atkinson); and internal cooling with air or water (Rankine).

The cycle has a theoretical efficiency of 75% using air-standard assumptions and first-law analysis. The rotary engine architecture shows a potential indicated efficiency of 60% and brake efficiency of >50%. As the engine does not have poppet valves and the gas is fully expanded before the exhaust stroke starts, the engine also has potential to be quiet. The cycle elements include:

  • Compression: For maximum efficiency, air is compressed to a high compression ratio, fuel is injected and compression ignited (CI-HEHC). The X Mini utilizes a spark-ignition (SI-HEHC) version of the cycle with a lower compression ratio standard for gasoline engines—and hence somewhat lower efficiency than the CI implementations, Shkolnik said.

  • A dwell near top-dead-center forces combustion to occur at nearly constant-volume conditions.

  • Combustion products are over-expanded using a larger expansion volume than compression volume, as in the Atkinson Cycle. (This is done by changing the locations of intake and exhaust ports asymmetrically which allows for the extraction of more energy during the expansion stroke.)

  • Cycle-skipping power modulation allows high efficiencies at low power settings while simultaneously cooling the engine’s walls internally and providing partial heat recovery.

  • Water may be injected to internally cool the engine. Some of this cooling energy is recuperated, as the water turns to steam, increasing the chamber pressure.

By combining HEHC with a rotary engine architecture, LiquidPiston is creating engines up to ten times lighter, quiet, and two to three times more efficient at part-load than conventional engines. LPI selected a rotary architecture because it offers more flexibility in optimizing each part of the cycle.

LiquidPiston is emphatic that its rotary engines are not Wankels; the X engine has a fundamentally different thermodynamic cycle, architecture and operation. The Wankel is characterized by a low compression ratio, no constant-volume combustion and no over-expansion. By contrast, the LPI X engine is characterized by high compression ratios, constant-volume combustion and over-expansion, the company says.

LiquidPiston earlier introduced the larger X1 (rotary) compression-ignition prototype (1370 cc, 70 hp). With the new X Mini, said Dr. Shkolnik:

What we’ve done is taken everything we’ve learned from the larger engine and, especially due to customer interest, focused on the very small engines. This one is spark-ignited, not compression ignition. It has a lower compression ratio, but it still has the constant-volume combustion. We don’t get the same efficiency as with the true compression ignition version, but we still get a significant efficiency improvement over gasoline engines.—Alexander Shkolnik

In the paper being presented in Pisa, Shkolnik and his team explain that while the reduction in compression ratio (from 18:1 for the X1 to 9:1 for the X Mini) causes a reduction in efficiency compared to CI, the dwell in combustion volume near TDC results in higher peak pressure and efficiency than piston-engines operating with SI. This, the LPI team says, is related to the slower variation of displacement in proximity to TDC than piston engines.

Overexpansion further increases efficiency, similar to Atkinson cycle. The dwell in volume at TDC allows the engine to more closely achieve true constant-volume combustion (isochoric head addition), compared to a piston implementation of the Otto cycle.

Also in the Pisa paper, LPI notes that while the X1 has demonstrated 33% indicated efficiency at medium load at 1800rpm, diesel fueled, the early X Mini prototype is capable, at this stage of its development, of providing 10% indicated efficiency.

Those initial results indicate that the target HEHC efficiency of 60% is not yet achieved, but they support the feasibility of development of this engine architecture and the potential for rapid improvement. Future work and publications will focus on demonstrating efficiency and power density benefits, including running the engines at full load and in continuous (steady-state) operation over a wide range of engine speeds. —Shkolnik et al.

The X Mini is meant to be a low-cost engine, really targeted especially towards the outdoor power equipment market, and especially in the hand held aren, Shkolnik said.

49cc Honda Metropolitan moped engine (left) and 70cc LPI X Mini (right). Click to enlarge.

We’ve studied 60 rotary engine embodiments and patented dozens of rotary and pistons engines. This [X engine rotary] is by far the simplest strategy that there is. We really converged on this design and demonstrated that it’s it looks like this is the one for us.

What we would like to do is to get it into production as quickly as possible. That’s why we’re speaking with so many customers behind the scenes. We really designed based on what we’ve heard, and we’re doing it in markets that don’t take a decade to get into production. After we get the X Mini into the market, we can go back to higher efficiency diesel engines.—Alexander Shkolnik

The X Mini will enable many small engine applications to be smaller, lighter, and quieter, including handheld power equipment, lawn and garden equipment, portable generators, mopeds, unmanned aerial vehicles, robotics, range extenders for electric vehicles, and auxiliary power units for boats, aviation and other vehicles.

In addition to improving existing engine applications, the X Mini may enable entirely new applications not possible with current engine technology, LPI suggests. In early 2015, LiquidPiston will host an open call for ideas regarding these new applications. The company will award a cash prize for the most innovative submission.


  • Shkolnik, A., Littera, D., Nickerson, M., Shkolnik, N. et al. (2014) “Development of a Small Rotary SI/CI Combustion Engine,” SAE Technical Paper 2014-32-0104 doi: 10.4271/2014-32-0104

2016 Ford Explorer SUV replaces 2.0L EcoBoost with new 2.3L EcoBoost unit; more power and torque, same fuel economy expected

Wed, 2014-11-19 08:00

The new 2016 Ford Explorer SUV is making its global debut today at Los Angeles Auto Show with a new available 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine that delivers more horsepower and torque than the 2.0L EcoBoost four-cylinder it replaces, with no compromise in fuel economy anticipated.

New 2.3-liter EcoBoost delivers more power and torque than the outgoing 2.0L EcoBoost but with expected same fuel consumption. Click to enlarge.

The 2.3-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder engine will deliver at least 270 hp (201 kW) and at least 300 lb-ft (407 N·m) of torque. The 2.3-liter EcoBoost replaces the 2.0-liter EcoBoost four-cylinder available for the current model.

The new powerplant, available on the base, XLT and Limited series, is expected to give customers 12.5% more horsepower and 11% more torque over the current 2.0-liter EcoBoost engine. It improves highway passing times 10% at speeds between 55 mph and 75 mph (89 and 121 km/h).

While EPA results are not yet certified, Ford anticipates no sacrifice in overall fuel efficiency.

The 2.3-liter EcoBoost employs an active oil control system to optimize pressure when less fluid is needed. An active wastegate controls boost more precisely during light load operation to help save fuel. A higher compression ratio results in more efficient fuel combustion.

Ford Explorer is built in North America at Chicago Assembly Plant, as well as in Venezuela and now, Russia. It is sold in more than 100 markets across the globe. Ford expects to export 56,000 Explorers from the United States this year alone. More than 7 million Explorers have been sold in the United States since its launch in 1991, which makes it America’s best-selling SUV for 25 years.

LLNL researchers develop efficient method to measure residual stress in metal 3D-printed parts

Wed, 2014-11-19 07:00

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) researchers have developed an efficient method to measure residual stress in metal parts produced by powder-bed fusion additive manufacturing. This 3D printing process produces metal parts layer by layer using a high-energy laser beam to fuse metal powder particles. When each layer is complete, the build platform moves downward by the thickness of one layer, and a new powder layer is spread on the previous layer.

While this process is able to produce quality parts and components, residual stress is a major problem during the fabrication process. Large temperature changes near the last melt spot—rapid heating and cooling—and the repetition of this process result in localized expansion and contraction, factors that cause residual stress.

Aside from their potential impact on mechanical performance and structural integrity, residual stress may cause distortions during processing resulting in a loss of net shape, detachment from support structures and, potentially, the failure of additively manufactured (AM) parts and components.

An LLNL research team, led by engineer Amanda Wu, has developed an accurate residual stress measurement method that combines traditional stress-relieving methods (destructive analysis) with modern technology: digital image correlation (DIC). This process is able to provide fast and accurate measurements of surface-level residual stresses in AM parts. A paper describing their method is published in the journal Metallurgical and Materials Transactions A.

The team used DIC to produce a set of quantified residual stress data for AM, exploring laser parameters. DIC is a cost-effective, image analysis method in which a dual camera setup is used to photograph an AM part once before it’s removed from the build plate for analysis and once after. The part is imaged, removed and then re-imaged to measure the external residual stress.

In a part with no residual stresses, the two sections should fit together perfectly and no surface distortion will occur. In AM parts, residual stresses cause the parts to distort close to the cut interface. The deformation is measured by digitally comparing images of the parts or components before and after removal. A black and white speckle pattern is applied to the AM parts so that the images can be fed into a software program that produces digital illustrations of high to low distortion areas on the part’s surface.

In order to validate their results from DIC, the team collaborated with Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) to perform residual stress tests using a method known as neutron diffraction (ND). This technique, performed by LANL researcher Donald Brown, measures residual stresses deep within a material by detecting the diffraction of an incident neutron beam. The diffracted beam of neutrons enables the detection of changes in atomic lattice spacing due to stress.

Although it’s highly accurate, ND is rarely used to measure residual stress because there are only three federal research labs in the US—LANL being one of them—that have the high-energy neutron source required for this analysis.

The LLNL team’s DIC results were validated by the ND experiments, showing that DIC is a reliable way to measure residual stress in powder-bed fusion AM parts.

Their findings were the first to provide quantitative data showing internal residual stress distributions in AM parts as a function of laser power and speed. The team demonstrated that reducing the laser scan vector length instead of using a continuous laser scan regulates temperature changes during processing to reduce residual stress. Furthermore, the results show that rotating the laser scan vector relative to the AM part’s largest dimension also helps reduce residual stress. The team’s results confirm qualitative data from other researchers that reached the same conclusion.

By using DIC, the team was able to produce reliable quantitative data that will enable AM researchers to optimally calibrate process parameters to reduce residual stress during fabrication. Laser settings (power and speed) and scanning parameters (pattern, orientation angle and overlaps) can be adjusted to produce more reliable parts. Furthermore, DIC allowed the Lawrence Livermore team to evaluate the coupled effects of laser power and speed, and to observe a potentially beneficial effect of subsurface layer heating on residual stress development.

LLNL’s findings eventually will be used to help qualify properties of metal parts built using the powder-bed fusion AM process. The team’s research helps build on other qualification processes designed at LLNL to improve quality and performance of 3D printed parts and components.

Wu and her colleagues are part of LLNL’s Accelerated Certification of Additively Manufactured Metals (ACAMM) Strategic Initiative. The other members of the Lawrence Livermore team include Wayne King, Gilbert Gallegos and Mukul Kumar.


  • Amanda S. Wu, Donald W. Brown, Mukul Kumar, Gilbert F. Gallegos, Wayne E. King (2014) “An Experimental Investigation into Additive Manufacturing-Induced Residual Stresses in 316L Stainless Steel,” Metallurgical and Materials Transactions A Volume 45, Issue 13, pp 6260-6270 doi: 10.1007/s11661-014-2549-x

Audi’s new design prologue show car includes 48V subsystem; mild hybrid capabilities; soon to be in production cars

Wed, 2014-11-19 06:00

At the Los Angeles Auto Show this week, Marc Lichte, Head of Design, is presenting the Audi prologue concept car. Lichte is giving the Audi brand a new styling direction in the large coupe. Among the many advanced technology features of this “foretaste of the future of Audi” is a new 48‑volt subsystem of the vehicle electrical system—this is a technology that will soon be introduced to production cars at Audi. (Earlier post.)

The 48‑volt system is supplied by a powerful belt starter generator, which turns the powertrain into a mild hybrid and has an energy recovery output of up to 12 kW during braking. An eight‑speed tiptronic directs engine power to the quattro permanent all-wheel drive, which works closely with torque vectoring.

The prologue is powered by a biturbo V8 4.0 TFSI producing 445 kW (605 hp) and 700 N·m (516.3 lb‑ft) of torque; in overboost mode, which the driver can call up for around 15 seconds, a boosted torque of 750 N·m (553.2 lb‑ft) is available. The V8 accelerates the two‑door coupe, which has an unladen weight of 1,980 kilograms (4,365 lbs) from 0 to 100 km/h (62.1 mph) in 3.7 seconds.

Despite that performance, the show car’s combined fuel consumption is still only 8.6 liters per 100 kilometers (27.4 US mpg), which equates to CO2 emissions of 199 grams per kilometer (320.3 g/mile). One contributor to this high efficiency is the 48‑volt subsystem.

Dynamic all‑wheel steering, in which the rear wheels can turn up to five degrees, makes the large couple extremely responsive and stable while driving.

Head-on car crash survival rates increase with being younger, male and driving a big vehicle

Wed, 2014-11-19 05:01

A study by a doctoral student in epidemiology at the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis showed that vehicle inequities have a significant impact on survivability in head-on collisions. Motor vehicle crashes are the most common cause of unintentional life lost around the world, with about 30,000 deaths occurring annually in the US due to motor-vehicle crashes.

Uzay Kirbiyik conducted a study of risk factors associated with drivers’ survival in head-on vehicle collisions by examining Fatality Analysis Reporting System database records in 1,108 crashes.

The results showed that the driver’s chance of survival was increased by driving a vehicle with a higher mass, driving a newer vehicle, being younger, being a male, using a seatbelt and having the airbag deployed in the crash.

Kirbiyik said his study found that more women die in head-on collisions, but deferred to medical trauma experts to explain why.

The study concludes that “vehicle inequity”, which includes differences like height and rigidity as well as weight, was a major cause of drivers’ fatalities. According to Kirbiyik, if you are in an automobile, given that other variables are equal, you are 17 times more likely to die compared to a driver of a light truck. This ratio is about nine times for a collision with an SUV.

According to the study, there were more young people between the ages of 15 and 24 involved in head-on collisions than any other age group. That age group accounts for 21% of the collisions, and the rate of death among that age group is 39%, the lowest among all age groups.

An intervention that reduces the involvement of younger drivers will likely help reduce the death rate of other age groups. This shouldn't be a surprise, but it is not an easy task to do.—Uzay Kirbiyik

Kirbiyik presented his study, “Factors affecting survival in head-on vehicle collisions” on 17 Nov. at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association in New Orleans.

EALABC paper outlines approach to 48V hybrid systems with advanced lead-carbon batteries

Wed, 2014-11-19 05:00

The European Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium (EALABC) is delivering a paper this week outlining the consortium’s approach to 48V hybridization at the 2nd International Conference on Advanced Automotive 48V Power Supply Systems in Düsseldorf. The EALABC focus is on the environmental and cost benefits of current and future advanced lead-carbon batteries for 48V hybrid vehicles.

The state-of-charge (SoC) of current lead-carbon batteries is typically maintained at between 30 and 50%, with the voltage and amperage meeting VDA requirements by not exceeding 54V at 150A when recovering joules of energy from vehicle deceleration (kinetic energy recovery) and exhaust gas energy recuperation (thermal energy recovery), also dropping not less than 38V at 180A when discharging energy for engine starting and torque assist. Advanced lead-carbon batteries for vehicles currently under development will be capable of operating in the 30 to 70% SoC range at 12.5kW.

Additionally, says Allan Cooper, European projects coordinator for ALABC, as with conventional starter-motor batteries, advanced lead-carbon batteries can be charged at minus 30 °C (-22°F), which is not possible with lithium-ion batteries.

Significant emissions reduction and major improvements in fuel efficiency can be achieved with advanced lead-carbon batteries using materials that can be fully recycled into new batteries. This electrochemical breakthrough provides the most cost effective solution for 48V hybrids, which have a unique requirement for a battery demanding a high rate partial state-of-charge (HRPSoC) capability.—Allan Cooper

Augmenting its existing LC Super Hybrid program (earlier post), which deploys a downsized gasoline-electric powertrain, ALABC is working on advanced diesel-electric applications in development programs being undertaken with car makers including Ford and Kia.

Developed by Kia’s European R&D centre, its ‘future technology’ diesel hybrid system employs a 48 volt lead-carbon battery, which powers a small electric motor to increase the engine’s output and cut exhaust emissions. Kia’s mild hybrid system will enable a car to be driven in an electric-only mode at low speeds and when cruising, while the battery is recharged under deceleration at all speeds. The Valeo electric supercharger was developed in the UK by Controlled Power Technologies. Click to enlarge.

Other industry partners comprise AVL Schrick, Controlled Power Technologies, East Penn, Exide, Faurecia, Furukawa, InnovateUK (previously known as the UK Technology Strategy Board), Mubea, Provector, Ricardo, University of Nottingham, US Department of Energy, and Valeo.

The Consortium’s global initiative is supported by test and validation programmes carried out at high and low altitudes in Arizona, and at Millbrook proving ground in the UK.

Future battery developments will most likely combine advanced lead-carbon electrochemistry with other types of battery design, for example bi-polar technology, which will reduce the lead content by as much as 40 percent, substantially reducing the size of a 1 kWh battery required for mild electrification of the powertrain. Meanwhile, advanced lead-carbon batteries, with their high levels of carbon in the negative active mass, already represent an exciting development that is truly state of the art, resulting in much improved battery performance ideally suited to 48V hybrids.—Allan Cooper

The additional functionality of a 48V hybrid vehicle fitted with a Belt Integrated Starter Generator (BISG), compared with simple 12V stop-start systems, characteristically includes torque assist as well as kinetic energy recovery. This is achieved effectively using electronically controlled switched-reluctance motor-generators, which avoid the need for rare earth permanent magnets.

These compact electrical machines can be rated up to 12.5 kW in a package little larger than a conventional alternator. Connected to the powertrain belt system, they avoid the cost and complexity of directly driving the road wheels.

ALABC has employed commercially available Exide Orbital batteries as well as Furukawa and East Penn UltraBattery packs in its technology development programs. The Exide Orbital absorbent glass mat battery is of spiral wound construction enhanced with added carbon in the negative plate.

The UltraBattery is a hybrid energy storage device invented by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). (Earlier post.) It combines ultra-capacitor technology with lead-carbon electrochemistry in a single cell with a common electrolyte. The result is an economical, fast-charging and discharging battery with high power and a long life, and can be made using existing manufacturing facilities. The technology has been licensed to East Penn, which is working on 14V modules as a building block for nominal 42V batteries required for 48V hybrid vehicles.

With further development of 48V powertrain technology, we anticipate being able to reduce CO2 emissions by as much as 30 percent compared with today’s baseline. Moreover, the low additional cost of €50-60 [$63-75] for each 1 percent of CO2 reduction achieved is as little as one-tenth the premium of high voltage (200-400V) hybrids and pure battery electric vehicles—which presently are deemed unaffordable by the average motorist.—Allan Cooper

The European Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium (EALABC) is the London-based arm of its parent Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium (ALABC) international research and development organisation based in North Carolina. Formed in 1992, the ALABC is dedicated to enhancing the capabilities and competitiveness of the advanced lead-carbon battery in various energy storage markets. These markets include telecommunications, remote area power supply (RAPS), 12V micro-hybrid stop-start systems, 48V mild hybrids with their torque assist and regeneration energy capabilities, as well as full hybrid vehicle applications.