Engine efficiency is the key for automotive CO2 emissions management. While the internal combustion engine (ICE) fuel efficiency still has much room for improvement, what can we do with the environmentally friendly hybrid car? And what can we expect from an intelligent transportation era, where companies like Apple and Google are marching in to compete side by side with the traditional players?
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SJTU-ParisTech Review: The news of Apple is building electronic car seems having brought more shock to the car makers. However, what does this mean to parts suppliers like Valeo?
Michel FORISSIER: If Apple intends to build a car, it would be a customer of Valeo’s like Tesla, VW or Geely. Apple has always focused on the user experience and intuitive design, something that Valeo also focuses on in the automotive environment, trying to make the interaction between the driver and the vehicle as intuitive as possible. We have the best competencies regarding sensors and software. Our products are the ears and eyes of the car.
With the entire Auto industry turning to intelligent transportation and connected cars, what kind of new challenges will be brought to the development of Powertrain System –the heart of cars design?
The biggest challenge is still how to reduce fuel consumption while maintaining the “fun-to-drive” or the overall vehicle performance. And to do this in the most affordable way! People do not want to compromise between fuel economy, performance and cost, and they are right: this has to be done at the same time. We see three axes to do this: improving combustion engine efficiency, improving transmission efficiency and develop hybrid-electric systems to perform superior energy management.
Tesla and Apple car draw more attention because people want to use cleaner energy instead of fossil fuel to drive car. Technically, how far can the efficiency of combustion engine be improved?
There are still a lot of potential improvements regarding internal combustion engine (ICE) fuel efficiency, in the range of 15 to 20%. A car consuming 5l/100km is feasible with an ICE. However, to go further, hybrid – electric systems are mandatory, e.g. the European regulation at 4,1l/100kms (95 g CO2/km) in 2021 will require hybrid solutions for certain.
Alternative fuels could be also a good way for cleaner cars: namely CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) or Hydrogen, when burned instead of gasoline, provide extremely low pollution.
Electric cars are the cleanest ones regarding local emissions, but this is pending the fact that production of electricity has to be done with renewable, clean energy.
When did the auto industry begin to pay attention to CO2 emissions management? Any milestones along this path to today?
I think the auto industry started to pay attention to fuel economy in the 70’s when we had the first oil crisis. It was accelerated with the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 and with a lot of regulations related to fuel economy that came in the early 2000’s. The regulations in most countries (EU, US, Japan, China..) require to lower fuel consumption roughly by a factor 2 between 2000 and 2020/25. This is the main driver of powertrain evolution since 10 years, and for the next 10 to 20 years, in a continuous process.
Aside from engine efficiency, how do other parts of automotive design like visibility and thermal system affect the CO2 emission management?
Reducing CO2 emissions is a question for everybody: Engine efficiency, of course, is the main topic, accounting for 60-70% of the solution, with technologies such as engine downsizing, supercharging, exhaust energy recovery, efficient automatic transmissions, low cost hybrid systems, and electric vehicles propulsion systems. Light weight design (aluminum, carbon, magnesium, polymers) might account roughly for another 20%. For the rest, lower drag, thermal management and energy management are also contributors on fuel consumption reduction. To give few examples: cameras instead of side mirrors, air grille shutters, electric accessories, LED lights: all those technologies could be added up for better fuel economy.
New technology enables new travel modes, like car sharing and high speed railway, which play an important role in tackling challenge of environmental protection and climate changes. Are there any new possible travel or business models which will make trips more convenient on the one hand, and decrease the negative effects on the environment on another hand?
The smartphone is the key enabler for multi-modal transportation, where we can see in the future our trips being a mix of car, train and probably public transportation…this will be managed by efficient applications giving us real-time data on the level of traffic congestion and the most efficient (in terms of time or cost) mode of transportation to use. At Valeo we are also developing systems – like InBlue – where the smartphone (or smartwatch) replace the conventional car key in the future and open up new possibilities of car sharing at the same time.
Does it mean that cross-field cooperation is getting crucial to new product development and innovation? How do you involved in open innovation?
Valeo is heavily involved in open innovation since long. With the speed of Innovation and the new fields being explored we do not have the resources to do everything ourselves. It is important to partner with the best companies, suppliers and experts in other fields to see how we can bring innovative technologies into automotive.
We have partnerships with numerous Universities. We have a strong supplier base we ask for innovation every day. We have developed strategic partnerships with companies such as Safran, Mobileye and Peiker in Intuitive Driving. We have acquired innovative technology start-ups in Powertrain such as CPT for electric supercharger with a unique technology or Eltek for the world best efficiency battery chargers and DC/DC converters. We have also opened a new outpost in Silicon Valley in the U.S. to improve our interaction with U.S. Universities and Start-Ups.
In emerging countries like China, it’s become a critical challenge to balance economic growth and environment protection. From your observation, should Chinese auto industries do more to easing worsening environment? And what are the French experiences on such topic?
Air pollution is a long story in automotive, where regulations have paved the way for decades. There have been huge improvements in the last 30 years and this is going on. We do believe this is very important for the people and, as a tech company, this is our duty and our pride to bring new technologies on the market which could reduce emissions. By the way, CO2 emissions reduction is the key pillar of Valeo’s strategy. This is a true global story, where Europe and the US have long tracking records, and we are committed to help China in this matter.