It’s never been easy for suppliers to please every whim and need of the automotive OEMs, but Bosch sure has made great impressions. It was best defined by Peter Marks, the outgoing Chairman, President and CEO of Robert Bosch, LLC, when he noted in his address before a media crowd at its Plymouth, Michigan facility with the key words, “functional excellence.”
Marks especially noted that the MPG and air quality standards that are coming in 2016 and 2025 cannot be met in a vacuum or by a single company; that it is a difficult but industry-wide collaboration. Furthermore, Marks told the media crowd that success will require a “proper mix of technologies;” and that the power of innovation equals a combination of “knowing how, and thinking beyond”
The room for The Power of Innovation media event was well laid out with plenty of microphones before each pair of media personnel, which was represented by the usual, Automotive News, Auto Scene, and of course, Torque News among others, including Government Technology, Chad Vander Veen.
Each Bosch presentation was succinct, factual and well presented by each of the chosen experts from Bosch. Frankly, it was one of the better corporate presentations that this reporter had attended lately. At least I didn’t have to read through calculus formulas like I did at the DEER conference.
One area stood out, though: Bosch, as an automotive supplier, may improve the quality and efficiency of many automotive products, but it does not control the agenda of which engine the industry will choose for its propulsion. All it can do is present its case for its level of efficiency of each tech component, and the OEM has to decide on the choice of propulsion.
That places Bosch in a tough position to make absolute claims of achieving 54.5 MPG on its own, because all of the so-called “clean technologies” that it mentioned were not new by any stretch. Furthermore, Bosch already noted that success required industry collaboration. Regarding the technologies mentioned, note the following:
- gasoline direct injection;
- clean diesels,
- hybrid propulsions,
- stop-start systems,
- electric power steering,
- high-efficiency alternators;
- battery technology.
Also note that the vast majority of these technologies already exist in various autos today.
Of course, as a German and European company at heart, it’s easy to notice that Bosch has a great lean toward clean diesels as the answer to MPG and clean air. Nonetheless, the company noted its work on other compression ignition engine technologies like HCCI, which runs on gasoline.
I mused a bit that a company that literally invented the magneto had nothing to really say about laser ignition, except when I asked the question for comment.
The company also noted, presentation after presentation, that there were gains in each technology segment; a few percentage points here, a little there, etc. And that is precisely what led me to ask some serious questions during Q&A.
Q & A Segment
I first asked about how Bosch viewed all its technology pieces in helping the industry achieve 54.5 MPG by 2025. Fact is, not every component runs at the same time; one is on one vehicle, while its alternate technology is on another. So, the question was, how can we determine how much the collective technologies equate to the efficiency gains toward 54.5 MPG? Do they contribute 25%, 50%, 75% towards the goal? There was no clear answer.
The reason I asked the question was simple: The IC engine itself is merely 30% efficient. So, these small incremental gains may add up, but certainly not enough to raise the IC engine to 50% efficiency or better, unless I missed a slide.
Mr. Marks along with a few other Bosch engineers noted terms like driving cycles; and that technologies will be geared toward the cycle the vehicle is functioning in; and that related well to their Project ACCESS and other programs like the Peugeot 3008 Hybrid that segregates the electrical drive from the diesel drive. In this case (see image), it’s an axle-split hybrid architecture. The electrical drives the rear wheels, while the clean diesel drives the front. In this respect, this particular Bosch example was the clearest.
While it is true that trying to meet all the driving modes with a single technology is next to impossible and often involves serious compromises, which is what we have had these many years, focusing on solutions for each driving cycle is crucial. Understand, though, that splitting an axle drive but not an IC engine is a choice, not a limitation.
That right there forced me to ask the bigger question, the one that I ask all OEMs and suppliers: What is their opinion of what I view as the next evolutionary step of the IC engine, like the split-cycle engine designs of Scuderi and Tour? In this technology, the cold intake-compression are segregated or split from the hot power-exhaust cycles for maximum thermodynamic efficiencies.
Yet, like most other answers that I often receive at tech events, few at Bosch even recognized this new technology was viable; insinuating that diesels and HCCI will likely get us to the 54.5 MPG minimum mandate.
Problem with that answer is this: those technologies, at least clean diesels, are available now. Yet we are nowhere near 54.5 MPG on a single vehicle let alone as a corporate average.
So, my take on the split-cycle engine technology question was that nobody at Bosch really knew, as there seemed to be an eerie silence in the room. Frankly, I didn’t ask the question to embarrass Bosch or me, as I fully expected a technical answer. After all, this is a highly intelligent organization. If they did not know, I was OK with that if they would simply say so.
There was then a reiteration about multi-mode cycles, which I assumed meant an engine has an idle mode, a city driving mode and a highway mode, followed by coasting modes. Frankly that answer helped me undersatnd their position a whole lot more. Truth is, these technologies are not new but have great potential for gains in efficiency; and Bosch is up for the game.
So, that tells me once again the industry as a whole is still not thinking seriously about the very basic issues of engine thermodynamics of which splitting the cycles of the IC engine and its modes, which has the potential to yield far greater efficiencies. Good news is, the gains made by Bosch technologies thus far would still be used even with split-engine tech, except contributing on an engine base from a higher starting level of efficiency.
From the answer which I received, though, I got the impression that Bosch chooses instead to concentrate on various driving modes of a 30% efficient IC engine. For the record, this was similar to the answer I received by Lotus Engineering just last week. I resolved to wait until the next SAE World Congress before I ask that question again.
After many shows and events, I have concluded that each of these technical dog and pony shows seem geared toward answering their own unique questions, not advanced technology questions by an informed media that might have worked in the industry or that has the proclivity toward a bit of research.
Lest anyone think of this as a giant negative, my respect for Bosch stands undiminished, as anyone can see how much they contribute to each of the automotive technologies; and that OEMs count heavily on their expertise. The propulsion selection of which I mentioned lays primarily at the feet of the OEMs like GM, Ford, Toyota, etc.
The advance look at the Bosch navigation, though, was thoroughly impressive with the heads-up driver assistance which showed on the windshield as arrows on the road instead of having to take your eyes off the road to view a graphic on a screen. That was by far better and safer than any navigation technology out there that I had witnessed. I am requesting a graphic or video of that to share.
Sum of the Parts
Whatever propulsion is chosen by an OEM, though, Bosch has multiple offerings in its product stable to maximize efficiency. For example, consider all the small electric motors inside a modern vehicle. Did you know on average there are 35 electric motors per vehicle?
Now, think if every one of those motors had an improvement in efficiency. Then you understand how each component contributes to the whole; which backs up what has been learned at other tech shows like, SAE World Congress, the DEER Conference, The MBS 2011, The Battery Show, the Engine Expo, and The Business of Plugging In show by CAR to name a few.
The public is more acceptable of clean diesel than ever in U.S. history. So, according to Bosch expect more diesels and HCCI in your future. But one thing is also certain according to Bosch, electrification will contribute to the 2025 mandate of 54.5 MPG, but note the word - contribute. The IC engine is not going away, at least not yet.
The best words I heard all evening, though, were the rejection of government subsidies even for diesels which Bosch heavily believes in. In that respect, I almost clapped. Bosch believes in the free market; and their growth and contributions over the past 125 years as a privately-held trust is a testament to their philosophy and abilities.
About the Reporter: After 39 years in the auto industry as a design engineer, Frank Sherosky now trades stocks, futures and writes articles, books and ebooks like, "Perfecting Corporate Character," "Awaken Your Speculator Mind", and "Millennial World Order" via authorfrank.com. He may be contacted here by email: [email protected] and followed in Twitter under @Authorfranks
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