Warm Up Before the Start: A Look at Some of the Complexities of Designing Electric Cars - VIDEO ENHANCED


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By Henny Hemmes
Senior European Editor Amsterdam Bureau
The Auto Channel

AMSTERDAM - January 19, 2010: Due to the huge publicity on electric vehicles, people might think that it is the car of the future. But let’s not forget that this publicity was initially generated because of the financial crisis. When GM was doing bad and had to seek bail out money, they promised the White House to develop clean mobility. In Europe and especially in The Netherlands, my home country, politicians copied the trend. Reality is, though, that we will not see the EV in noticeable numbers on our streets any time soon.

According to Robert Bosch GmbH, cars with a combustion engine, be it petrol or diesel, will be unmatched in the next 20 years and beyond. That is due to the many technical challenges that have to be solved before the mass production of the electric car can be a fact. And also because of the ongoing improvement of the internal combustion engine.


Click PLAY to watch the "warmup" promo video

Dr. Ign. Bernd Bohr, member of the Board of Management of Robert Bosch GmbH and Chairman of the Automotive Group, says that his company is working hard to get the electric drive of the future ready for mass production. At the same time, Bosch does its utmost to improve the combustion engine for decades to come. Last year Bosch invested 4.25 billion dollar in Research & Development of automotive technology.

Dr. Bohr predicts: “The electric vehicle will come, but in small numbers at first. And it will not be seen in much on the roads until after 2020. One of the developments is that mega cities of more than 5 million inhabitants are growing. By 2015 there will be around 60 of those cities. Then we may expect to see a sales volume of some 500,000 electric vehicles worldwide. Not much, in the light of a production number of 80 to 90 million cars worldwide.”

According to Dr. Bohr, the Bosch engineers are focusing on improving the reduction of CO2 emissions of gasoline and diesel engines by one third, compared to today’s standard engines. This means that CO2 of diesel cars will drop below 99 grams per kilometer. “We will do the one thing without neglecting the other.”

Bosch has a very strong position as a supplier of systems for electric cars. This year, the company will start production of hybrid systems. Experiences with those systems will be essential for further developing the electric vehicle. At the moment, 50 engineers are working in a dedicated division on the electrification of the car. The German company is able to get extra innovation power from its joint venture with Samsung SDI in SB LiMotive, where engineers are working to improve the heart of the future electric drive: the lithium ion battery. SB LiMotive developed batteries for BMW’s concept for an electric car, the ActiveE that was unveiled this year at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit. The BMW ActiveE will hit the roads in 2011 in limited numbers for tests. After the Mini E it is the second electric vehicle of Project-I, BMW’s development program for a mega city car to be ready before 2015. “But do not expect us to come up with a range of EVs by then,” said Dr. Klaus Draeger during the presentation of the ActiveE.

CLICK HERE to watch the complete ActiveE Press Conference at the 2010 Detroit Auto Show

Reducing weight, re-using energy Dr. Rolf Leonhard, Bosch Executive Vice President Engineering, Diesel Systems, forecasts that in 2015, there will have been a shift to the use of smaller combustion engines. They will be around 100 kW/137 hp strong 1.1- or 1.2-liter three-cylinder engines, both gasoline and diesel, that will offer the same performance as a current 2-liter four cylinder motor, but with a better fuel efficiency. “More and more, hybrid and electric vehicles will play an important role, but CO2-emission and fuel economy can be reduced quicker and more remuneratively by “better using the potential of such engines.”

He expects that in 2015, a gasoline engine will only use 5.5 l/100 km (43 mph), 29 per cent less than a standard motor in 2009. By that time, a diesel-powered car will use averagely 3.6 l/100 km (65 mpg), which is a third less than in 2009.. In combination with hybrid technology fuel efficiency will be improved by 35 to 40 per cent.

To achieve this, car manufacturers are already applying other measures, such as a start-stop system, that stops the engine automatically when the car is not moving, for instance in a traffic jam or waiting at a red light. They will also apply direct gas injection or higher pressure in diesel engines, or use brake regeneration, reduce vehicle weight and improve the aerodynamic drag of the car.

Warm start costs less energy Another measure is related to the thermal management system that quickly gets the engine up to its optimum operating temperature and keeps it there. The latter is important, as the cold start of car engines relatively uses a lot of fuel. When you park a car, the engine’s temperature is around 80 degrees Celsius ( 176 F). This drops significantly (mostly to some 10 degrees) after a parking session of 6 to 8 hours, even with an outside temperature of 25 degrees (77 F). Each time when the cold engine is put to life, it costs fuel. A well isolated engine will be 40 degrees (104 F), or somewhat lower in winter after 12 hours, which means there will be less cold starts.

According to Stephan Neugebauer, development engineer of BMW’s Forschungs- und Innovationszentrum (the R&D center), we should compare this with heating up your house, but with the windows and doors wide open. “We all know that the heat literally flies outside.” Of each liter, or gallon, of fuel, some two-thirds will be lost to heat through, for instance, the radiator or the exhaust. By keeping the engine warm for a longer period of time, much can be gained.

“Future BMW models get a ‘wrapped’ engine, which will result in reducing fuel consumption of some 1.5 to 2 percent per year. For shorter drives this can rise to 1- to 15 per cent,” said Mr. Neugebauer during a work shop on innovations at the FIZ in November. “You’d have to consider the engine to be an athlete, who does his warm up before the start. With warm muscles his energy can be fully used for the performance. There is no sportsman who comes at the start with a cold body.”

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