Downsizing automotive engine and maximising power output with best of class fuel economy while complying to the upcoming BSVI emission norms will be a Game changer for the Indian automotive industry.
As mentioned by Nissan Motors in one of their releases which shows Nissan’s engine pictured with Nismo President, Shoichi Miyatani in his hands looks like witchcraft but all the same a factual reality clearly indicates what automobile makers are gunning for.
From larger perspective, one of the key Automotive Megatrend is downsizing and Lightweighting automobile engines and prime movers, without compromising their performance, fuel economy and emission compliance in any way. Most manufacturers have been working on new design concepts, use of alternate materials and individual engine components to downsize and lightweight the same in order to align the same with the upcoming and many futuristic automobile concepts like connectivity, autonomous driver assistance, semi and fully hybrids, reducing carbon footprint, enhanced safety, comfort and others.
A major thrust to downsizing automobile engines also came from Formula 1 racing in 2014, wherein they reduced the engine size from V8 to V6 and also capped the investment for developing the new engines. However, owing to sporting reasons, there are possibilities of rolling back this decision in future. In any event, the concept is here to stay.
All auto majors present in India are on track to develop their own versions of downsized engines for their entire product range starting from entry level passenger cars and two wheelers to the largest of trucks and buses manufactured by them. Going forward, this will be a game changer for the entire automotive industry in India.
WHAT IS ENGINE DOWNSIZING?
Downsizing an engine has nothing to do with its performance. Simply, it is a method to reduce its weight to the minimum possible and achieve a best-of-breed power-to-weight ratio and make it more efficient. In India, RTO regulations classify automobile internal combustion engines on the basis of their total air displacement volume per cycle in either cubic centimetres (cc) or litres (Lt) and later by the type of fuel used and other automobile specifications. Hence, to begin with, it is most significant to reduce the air displacement of an engine and the work on other aspects to improve its overall performance. It would be appropriate to mention that an engine is one of the heaviest aggregates of an automobile, especially passenger vehicles.
Some of the most commonly applied principles for downsizing an automotive engine are highlighted below, for reference:
- Reducing the number of cylinders of the engine: This concept has cascading effect in reducing the size and therefore the weight of the entire value chain of components like engine block, cylinder head, crankshaft, connecting rods, camshaft, number of pistons, inlet and exhaust valves, valve operating train, fuel system elements and others.
- Reduce engine displacement volume by reducing the size of the bore which again impacts reduction in size and weight of other connected components.
- Increase Mean Effective Pressure inside cylinders by optimising compression ratio, using turbocharged air, increasing the RPM; increasing fuel injection pressure, swirling the air and fuel mixture to achieve more efficient burning of fuel and achieving higher power output.
- Use high efficiency, hydraulic, electronically controlled load sensing, fuel management system to achieve better efficient instead of using only mechanical system.
- Using high performance exhaust gas driven turbocharger to increase the pressure of intake air. In this context it is important to note that the air density inside the cylinder can be increased by approximately 12 per cent but owing to compression, it attains higher temperature defeating the purpose. As such, use of after-cooler and sometimes even a pre-cooler is necessary to overcome the problem. Some may say that extra weight is being added. The answer is yes, but these elements are light and the benefits derive compensate the cost of such additions,
Use of assembled camshafts to reduce weight is now being applied to all modern automotive engines. Some are also exploring the possibilities of using hollow crankshafts to
- Use of alternate and lighter materials to produce heavy items is being favoured by the industry. As such instead of steel or cast iron, one witnesses engine blocks and cylinder heads made of aluminium and such other alternate materials.
- Electronic sensing of Telemetry information and integrating the same with an on board software for efficient engine management is of essence for such engines.
- As regards some auxiliary units required to support engine downsizing and ensuring emission compliance, please refer to the box above.
CHALLENGES IN DOWNSIZING
A set of challenges awaits the industry more so for the auto component suppliers because they are burdened with the onus of supplying a diverse range of components to their respective OEMs, in large quantities to meet the market demand and at the same time, manage their business performance. They can be broadly classified, financial investment, technology adoption, adaptive production management, diverse skill sets and personnel or industrial relations.
DISRUPTIONS BY ELECTRIC VEHICLE REVOLUTION
Some market reports indicate that the expected life span of fossil fuelled prime movers is limited as they expect electric vehicles to take over in a short time and relate the same to experimental developments in advanced countries. Many industry majors like Siemens for instance, are reported to be making rapid progress in developing flash charged heavy transportation vehicles in a matter of seconds or development of smart roads which provide flash charge as the vehicles move on the road. On the other hand, spearheaded by Tesla, Toyota, Mahindra & Mahindra and such companies announcing electric mobility initiatives appears to be serious to the economy and a sense of investing in developing these new generation IC engines. However, in the current context of BS-VI emissions being implemented by 2020 in India, there is no option for the industry but to go ahead whatever is necessary, as of today. On the flip side, for the success of electric mobility, India and the rest of the world have to develop massive infrastructure with new facilities. This is a time consuming proposition and till such time the same is place, the current engines will continue to power the vehicles. There again it may take a couple of decades to happen. Meanwhile, the users can derive the benefits of downsizing.
As published by SIAM, India produced a total of 23.588 million vehicles in all categories, during the period January to December 2015. Further, India is on track in line with AMP 2016-26 jointly released by SIAM, ACMA and Department of Heavy Industries last year. On a closer look, the envisaged projections are mind boggling but very achievable in light of our government’s relentless drive to create a better economy in the country, accelerate infrastructure developments, faster road building, investment-backed rural development and so on. Above all, this year the monsoon looks good and will contribute to rural buying of automobiles in which engine downsizing is expected to play a major role.
AUXILIARY UNITS REQUIRED TO SUPPORT THE PERFORMANCE OF DOWNSIZE CONCEPTS
- High efficiency air, fuel and fluid filtration
- Lightweight fly wheel
- Compact and light weight power regeneration units
- Small but high capacity quick charging and discharging battery
- Vibration damping methods
- Selected catalytic convertor
- Exhaust Gas Recirculation
- Diesel Particulate Filter
- High investments in new technologies
- Large investments in sophisticated production machines
- New technology adoption
- Appropriate software to manage diverse production
- Revamping production processes.
- Sourcing alternate materials
- Continuous skill development
- Consequently higher wages for workforce
- Reducing highly skilled workforce attrition
- Eco-friendly production facilities
- Zero hazardous effluent discharge
- Ensuring zero component recall
- Lack of documented testing and certification standards
- Reduced turnaround time for changes
- End-user acceptance
- Lowering costs
- Maintaining profitability
- Managing growth
- Managing administrative issues
- Better fuel economy
- Lower life cycle costs
- Highly efficient burning of fuel
- Reduced carbon footprint
- Higher power-to-weight ratio
- Better power response
- Reduction in unproductive weight
- Preservation of natural resources
- Accommodate hybrid and emission control units
- Increase in passenger space
- Provides options for better styling of vehicles
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