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Bringing Diesel Savoir-Faire to the U.S., See How at SAE 2007


Diesel's back in the United States market as a viable alternative for drivers, since shed of its image of the noisy, soot-coughing car of days past, thanks to turbocharged engines that increase performance and help curb harmful emissions outputs and the availability of ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel. Waves of emissions regulations in recent years have triggered a worldwide continuum of emissions control solutions and components targeting particulate matter, the soot-causer, and NOx, the notorious nitrous oxide. But other areas of diesel technology have improved, such as anti-vibration solutions, engine fluid-transfer components, powertrain electrical components, and systems for testing compliance, for overall boosted performance, reliability, and vehicle life.

Modern diesel engines are now turbocharged, which not only provides excellent thermodynamic efficiency and a very high specific torque output, but also ups the driveability and reduces harmful emissions. Yet increasingly stringent emissions regulations in the U.S. demand better control of the noxious elements in diesel exhaust. Comparatively in Europe, where sales of diesel cars have long surpassed those of gasoline-powered cars, the current Euro 5 emissions regulations are equivalent enough to those for the U.S. and require all diesel vehicles to be fitted with some kind of diesel particulate filter and exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system. This was anticipated by France's automotive giant PSA Peugeot Citroen in 2000 when the company made the particulate filter a standard in all passenger vehicles. French expertise has been noticed by car manufacturers worldwide, as shown by the partnership of PSA and Ford to produce common-rail direct-injection diesel engines.

French diesel technology continues to diversify and grow, constantly working to adapt to regulation changes and making improvements to the vehicles as a whole. Current developments in this field will be showcased for U.S. car manufacturers and suppliers at the SAE World Congress 2007 in Detroit from April 16 to 19 at the "Diesel France" booth, number 1932. This will feature seven French companies covering different areas such as exhaust filtration, fluid circuits, solutions for driving comfort, research, and emissions regulation compliance. Next to the Diesel France booth, number 1938, will be the "On the Road to Green Diesel" venture, a joint effort of several French companies to research and develop better emissions-reducing solutions for diesel-powered vehicles.

The U.S. began phasing in its Tier 2 regulations in 2004, fully implemented by 2009, that require the amount of NOx in diesel emissions to be no greater than .7 grams per mile. The current Tier 2 Bin 5 levels make the U.S.'s regulations tighter than Europe's, but here the French experience in modern diesel technology, sparked by PSA, has an advantage.

Ceramiques Techniques et Industrielle (CTI) is also working to reduce harmful emissions. Its Monolith Diesel Particulate Filter made of silicon carbide reduces particulate matter emissions to less than .005 grams per kilometer, a level acceptable to the upcoming Euro 5 standard for passenger cars and medium- and heavy-duty vehicles. CTI's durable and economical DPF has been verified using the US06 emissions test cycle. The filter can be easily integrated into different exhaust systems, such as single filters for light-duty vehicles or multiple filters for heavy-duty vehicles such as pickup trucks and SUVs.

Solutions such as Long-Route EGR systems, DeNOx catalysts, Selective Catalytic Reduction systems, and diesel particulate filters are all more than likely to be combined in different ways to adhere to current and future emissions regulations. Also foreseen is combining EGR and charge air cooling systems in a single modular solution through a total engine thermal-management approach, such as Valeo's UltimateCooling system. Valeo is a world-leader in EGR systems and charge air cooling solutions, available in a variety of different architectures, to enable an engine to comply with different emissions-levels requirements. These components manage the exhaust gas flow and, in turn, the inlet air temperature.

The Hutchinson group's Fluid Transfer Systems business studies, designs, and manufactures liquid- or fuel-transfer systems for motor vehicles, featuring several multi-material hose-assembly solutions dedicated to diesel engines such as air and fuel systems and common rail return lines. It specializes in working with various materials such as elastomers, plastomers, and metals, and has developed a range of quick connectors for each of its fluid-transfer systems. The company has also been involved with developing DPF hose assemblies with manufacturers including PSA, Audi, and Nissan since 1999.

Fluid-injection components are also being continually improved in modern diesel engines. Designing injection components with tighter clearances improves performance and reliability and extends service life. These types of improvements to components for diesel engines generally require a reduction in the size and amount of particles in diesel fuel by incorporating more efficient filters. On the other hand, automotive engineers have found that reducing particles in diesel fuel can also be achieved by assembling the fluid circuit with clean parts.

France's Institute of Filtration and Techniques of Separation (IFTS) has developed a new lab technique to measure a stringent cleanliness level for fluid circuit components in three steps: first, extracting contaminant particles from the internal surface of a circuit component using an approved extraction liquid; second, analyzing the final volume of the extraction liquid to determine size and number of particles extracted; and third, expressing the results as a number of particles per tested component, identifying the largest particle found on the component, or by grading it according to the proper ISO Cleanliness Code for Components. IFTS has also developed a new extraction and rinsing liquid dispenser to adhere to the new ISO 16232 standard for cleanliness of components of fluid circuits in road vehicles.

Also important to fluid circuits is electronically controlling them to regulate and monitor their operation as quickly and accurately as possible. Electricfil Automotive specializes in sensors and actuators for diesel engine control systems. Its actuators optimize combustion in direct-injection engines by accurately controlling the quantity, flow rate, and timing of the injected fuel. It also produces camshaft speed sensors for quick engine starting and crankshaft speed sensors for very accurate diesel injection timing. The company's non-contact position sensors are ideal for actuator, EGR, and turbocharger control and its temperature sensors can be used to monitor air-admission, engine coolant and cylinder head temperature. Integrated mechatronic solutions are available to help automakers improve engine reliability and performance while reducing costs. Electricfil's innovative sensors include full custom ASICs for higher accuracy, diagnostic capability and EMC performance. High-grade components and sealed packages are used to withstand harsh diesel engine environments including temperatures up to 350°F.

In addition to diesel engines operating at hotter temperatures than gasoline engines, they're heavier and noisier too. The entire vehicle requires excellent noise and vibration cancellation for acoustic and tactile comfort. Paulstra, a member of the Hutchinson group, develops numerous anti-vibration products ideal for diesel-powered vehicles, especially those with automatic transmissions. Its Active Mass Damper (AMA) and Active Vibration Attenuation (AVA) technologies offer real-time vibration cancellation according to the vehicle's current gear, so a transition from neutral to drive is virtually undetectable. This technology can also be used on other fuel-efficient engine technologies, such as cylinder deactivation, where the vibration increase resulting from deactivating half the engine's cylinders can be eliminated. Paulstra's latest innovation is LINKEO, an elastomer-based flex decoupler, keeps decoupler stiffness low, in all directions, in order to minimize the transmission of engine motion to the exhaust system. This single component on the exhaust line can ultimately mean a simplified exhaust system design. As an added bonus, the composite material insulates the exhaust line so fumes arrive hotter at the filtration elements and reheat quickly at vehicle startups.

IFP Powertrain Engineering, the Powertrain Business Unit of IFP, is a developer of new generation automotive powertrains with combined expertise in engines and alternative fuels. Its diesel development teams work with manufacturers in four tracks: 1. reducing pollutant emissions at the combustion chamber outlet for light- and heavy-duty applications with the help of innovative and cost-effective control; 2. developing and validating diesel exhaust emissions aftertreatments such as control strategies and low-cost devices; 3. reducing fuel consumption with downsized concepts and high-injection pressures; and 4. improving the modern diesel engine cold start.

Bolstering research and development efforts for diesel technology, two French automobile clusters, Normandy Motor Valley and the Paris region's Vestapolis, joined forces in January 2006 to form the larger and more prominent cluster Mov'eo. Its supported by some of the largest auto industry companies and incorporates major test and research centers. Since its inception, Mov'eo has already undertaken nearly 50 cooperative research projects representing EUR 150 million ($200 million USD) of investments.

French suppliers of all tiers are involved in the design, development, and manufacturing of different technologies for diesel-powered cars, and their expertise has been recognized worldwide. All signs are pointing to "yes" for diesel making a comeback in the U.S., and French experience in this field will help keep diesel a clean, efficient, and reliable alternative for American drivers in the coming years.





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