Industry Has Very Little Appetite To Support Further Diesel Development

Interview February 2019 Ricardo Diesel CryoPower
Industry Has Very Little Appetite To Support Further Diesel Development

Global strategic engineering and environmental consultancy, Ricardo continues to look at combustion improvements in engines. Talk about the CryoPower concept for long haul trucks and other heavy-duty applications, or the over 40 % improvement in thermal efficiency it has achieved in gasoline engines; the company continues to innovate while also developing solutions to address urban mobility challenges. Auto Tech Review recently spoke to Mark Garrett, Chief Operating Officer, Ricardo, for a detailed insight into the organisation’s work.

Mark Garrett is the Chief Operating Officer at Ricardo. Garrett joined Ricardo in 1998 and was appointed COO in 2010. Prior to joining Ricardo, Garrett spent 14 years in various powertrain related roles in the Rover Group, including the BMW Engineering Centre in Munich. Garrett is a Chartered Engineer (CEng) and a Fellow of both the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (FIMechE) and Royal Engineering Academy (FREng). Garrett was also appointed as non-executive chairman of SBD Automotive in November 2016.

ATR _ Mark, let’s start with your thoughts on the urban challenges, and how you’re addressing the larger megatrends of the mobility industry today – connected, autonomous, shared, electrified and digitalisation.

Mark Garrett _ Looking at the rise in urban population, we need to meet the goals of productivity and air quality in our city centres. The pressure on the urban transport system continues to grow at a significant pace. The problem of air quality is now the world’s number one challenge in terms of deaths. Even if we get to safe autonomous transportation and eliminate all road deaths, we will still have probably three times that amount.

We actually distinguish between digitisation and digitalisation. If you look at the automotive business, digitisation effectively means virtualisation of the product development process. And that’s driven by several factors – one is speed to market and the ability to virtualise the testing efforts and be able to do it simultaneously with the design process. We could half the time we get to take it to market and also cut down on cost.

The other challenge though is that we’re going to have to move the virtual world with these more complex systems. If we take the autonomous vehicle, we will never have the ability to certify or validate that product in the real world using hardware to test it. The only way we can certify and validate an autonomous vehicle is through a virtual environment, where we can run multiple use cases in parallel on accelerated cycles.

Kinetesis or car sickness is going to be big differentiator in shared mobility

So, simulation becomes a very important tool?

Absolutely! At Ricardo, we’re in a good place as we have a very strong software business, which is traditionally doing software products for product development. We see a very strong role for our software business to extend into these new virtual products, and to allow us to create digital twins effectively. We can then use those digital twins in our virtual environment using agent-based modelling to validate products.

What is Ricardo doing in terms of data mining? How are you using data to find solutions and innovate for the future?

Probably in two areas: one, we have a large range of data ourselves from historic programmes we worked on with customers, and we’re mining that data to look at how that predicts trends for the future in terms of performance and functional problems, but also creating improved designs based on such historic data. One of the big next steps that we are in process of researching is how do we use machine learning and artificial intelligence to pull out data sets to create designs for the future.

People talk a lot about machine learning and data patterns, which work well in the Fintech industry and in Medicare, but for design it’s a whole different world. How do you teach a computer what a good design is? There are solutions in the market that mathematically calculates lots of different permutations, which help achieve a goal. Actually, good use of machine learning will go a step beyond that. They can look at what is a good design and use background historic datasets to generate a range of solutions. Human beings can then decide what the most appropriate application is.

The other one is more data analytics and we do a lot of that in our environmental practice. We’re looking at urban emissions data and urban traffic movements, and using data analytics to try and predict the change of air quality during a 24-hr cycle, for example.

What’s your view on the emergence of special purpose vehicles in the personal mobility space?

I very much see that happening. As we get more towards shared vehicles, consumer are looking for more feature content in the vehicles when they’re being transported, even if it’s being driven by human beings. The latest London taxi is a good example of a purpose-designed shared transportation product. It is a standard vehicle that is designed for maximum comfort for the individuals inside.

But it’s not the full solution. Autonomous vehicles will definitely require special purpose design. With our interactions with a lot of organisations, particularly start-ups, we’re seeing quite a few different designs coming through. The challenge is, those organisations are looking for the advent of autonomy for their products to work, and that’s not a solution that suits every market.

When we get to that sort of purpose design vehicles, passenger comfort is going to be key. NVH and chassis dynamics is another element, but car sickness or kinetesis is actually a big challenge, which many people are not focused on at the moment. Kinetesis is going to be big differentiator in shared mobility. We’re starting to develop some solutions that are non-intrusive. We can measure the susceptibility of the individuals and then start to actively manage the ride quality and right conditions, so that people get out at the other end feeling good or better than when they got in the vehicle.

The future would also see newer propulsion systems to cater to a different energy mix in the future. Talk to us about the new developments in these areas.

I think there’s been a very large amount of hype around EVs being the solution. I don’t think in the long term that is probably the right answer. However, it’s going to take us a long time to get there. There are lots of issues – price points for battery systems, charging infrastructure, etc. There’s a lot of invested capital around combustion systems. In fact, combustion engine vehicles are becoming cleaner and more efficient all the time. Our understanding and our best predictions are that even by 2030, full EV penetration is probably only going to be around 15 to 20 %.

This means we’d have a large car parc still going to be running on combustion engines. Does that mean we should slow down our development work? Absolutely not. There is a significant role for hybrid systems. As battery costs come down, that price point becomes more attractive. Strong hybridisation is a path to full electrification, and I think there is definitely a role still to be played in advanced combustion engines as range extenders.

On the other side, for Class A and heavy goods vehicle transportation, we see no viable alternative to liquid fuels right now. It just doesn’t have the energy density. We’ll continue to work and see improvements in thermal efficiency in liquid fuelled engines. Our role is to see how we can help the industry find more efficient means to use those engines. Our latest ‘CryoPower’ split cycle combustion process gets us significant thermal efficiency improvement, and helps save approximately 30 % in CO2 emissions and 20 % in operating fuel costs. With fuels, we can decarbonise it through more use of biofuels, and then go to synthetic fuel. We see a long-term use of combustion engines.

How do you look at the petrol versus diesel debate?

It’s a very interesting topic, because I think there’s a technical perception or technical understanding and then there is politics and public perception. Diesel gate has massively influenced the whole public perception base, and diesels have been a major contributor to poor urban air quality. However, Euro 6 or BS VI will actually produce very clean diesel engines, and they will probably no longer contribute to poor air quality in cities.

There is pretty much a guaranteed public perception that diesels are dirty. We’re seeing a continued drop down in diesel sales in Europe and dramatically in India as well. These are the two geographies, where diesel passenger cars have traditionally had a very big share. We’re going to see a continual decline in sales of diesels passenger vehicles. A small segment of luxury vehicles will retain diesels; also by people who want to travel long distances. But it’s very much going to become a niche. For long haul CV operations, I still think diesel or clean diesel alternatives will be the viable mode. Light and medium good vehicles, particularly for deliveries in urban areas, we’re going to see a move from diesels towards gasoline hybrid or full electric cars.

Do you think the industry would stop doing diesels or stop innovating with diesel for the mass market?

I think it’s a real frustration in the industry because the vehicle manufacturers see the real world benefits of using diesel. But the political and the public perception against it basically means that there is very little funding available and very little research and appetite to support further diesel development. There is a solution there to be had technically, but there is very little appetite to push it through. A lot of our clients really aren’t doing much work anymore. We see almost every month another vehicle manufacturer saying “that’s” the last diesel we’re going to do.

Specific to transmissions, one of the areas we see significant development is in dedicated hybrid transmissions (DHT)

Talk about the transition in transmissions. There seems to be a great future for hybrid transmissions?

The big push towards automatic transmissions is a big bonus here. Once you get into automatic transmissions, be they DCTs, full ATs, or AMTs, that starts to lend itself naturally to hybridisation. One of the areas we see significant development is in dedicated hybrid transmissions (DHT). For me, it’s a glorified AMT and so lot of the drawbacks you have in AMTs in terms of shift quality and drive perception can be changed with the addition of a dedicated electric motor. We’re developing a lot of technologies around DHTs, which then support the different levels of hybridisation.

We see a significant penetration for 48 V systems. A very mild 20-25 kW motor can provide you with a power base and improved shift quality. This fits very nicely within the gearbox as it is a very compact solution, offering good performance and fuel economy improvements. This is applicable in both passenger cars and light goods vehicles. Hybridised transmissions do have a real opportunity, particularly to take cost out of transmissions and provide feature content. DHTs are ultra lightweight, and we can look at 30-35 % weight savings in the transmissions alone without any drop in driveline performance.

TEXT: Deepangshu Dev Sarmah

PHOTO: Ricardo