Technology company Continental AG has been operating in five divisions such as Chassis & Safety, Interior, Powertrain, Tyres and ContiTech. Fuel & Exhaust Management Business Unit is part of the Powertrain division and it works on three main areas of tank management, selective catalytic reduction system and catalysts and filters. “We have the competence to develop the right system solution to meet the BS-VI emission norms along with the catalysts and the particle filter. In our powertrain product portfolio we have a large number of sensors like temperature and product sensors that are required in a BS-VI vehicle. We are in a position to offer the entire system solutions to our customers,” Dr Markus Distelhoff, Executive Vice President and Head of Business Unit Fuel & Exhaust Management, Continental, told T Murrali of AutoParts Asia in an exclusive interview. The excerpts:
Q: Can you describe briefly the areas in which Continental’s Fuel and Exhaust Management business unit is working?
A: I am heading the Fuel and Exhaust Management business unit. We work on the three main areas of tank management, SCR system and catalysts and filters. Tank management includes the in-tank modules and the fuel pump, which helps to transfer fuel from the tank at the rear of the vehicle to the engine.
The selective catalytic reduction (SCR) system is a fast growing market, especially in Europe, to meet the latest emission legislations. Our catalysts and filters, for cost and technical advantages, are based on metallic substrates instead of the conventional ceramic substrate-based technology.
In our portfolio we have a variety of fuel pumps. The more advanced pumps have electronic control units that can deliver the optimum amount of the fuel to the engine as and when needed.
Compared to the conventional fuel pumps, the power consumption can be reduced by 50-60 percent which also results in fuel saved per km. This system meets the high efficiency standards in Europe.
Q: Is the 50-60 percent reduction in power consumption due to the advanced fuel pump?
A: Yes; in the conventional system 120 watt power is needed, but in this advanced system we talk about only 50 watt. It will help reduce emissions and conserve energy for the battery. The second main driver for the pump is the packaging of the fuel system into the fuel tank.
In hybrid vehicles the height of the fuel tank is limited to accommodate the conventional and electric drivetrains. This requires new design concepts for the fuel module. Previously the height limitation was around 20cm, now it is 10cm.
Q: When you downsize, you enhance efficiency, there is a trade-off. You have to compensate either on the material to strengthen the housing, etc. or some other technologies. What is the route that Continental has taken; how did you achieve this?
A: Previously we had brush pumps with a commutator but now we have a brushless system. This helps where engines have electronic control. It adds to the cost but helps to reduce the size of the system.
Q: What about the SCR system, your second product line?
A: SCR system is a technology that supports NOx emission reduction and helps to meet the emission legislation. It is specific to diesel vehicles and the system ensures that the right dose of Adblue is injected. It is a fast-growing business because of the rising fitment rates and new technologies.
Q: Are you in discussion with the OEMs in India to supply this system for BS-VI?
A: Sure, also for India this is an important system both for passenger cars and for commercial vehicles.
Q: To achieve BS-VI, the passenger and commercial vehicles must have SCR and also diesel particulate filter (DPF). Is there a single solution from Continental for the vehicle manufacturers to avoid the hassle of managing different systems?
A: This is where we see the strength of Continental. We have the competence to develop the right system solution, the catalysts and the particle filter; in our powertrain product portfolio we have a large number of sensors like temperature and product sensors that are required in a BS-VI vehicle. We are in a position to offer the entire system solutions to our customers. With increase in complexity of specifications, more and more customers are approaching us for relevant system solutions. We see the specifications of individual components to give them the right solution. This is our strength; I don’t think there are many companies in the world market with such an extended portfolio.
Q: Can Continental supply the entire exhaust pipe from the hot-end to the cold-end?
A: We only supply the catalyst, not the entire housing. Our products are integrated into the housing and other parts; we can offer the entire system layout.
Q: Commercial Vehicles in India are more into rigids than the tractor-trailer that you see in Europe or the US. There are multiple axles in a chassis today that leave no room under the chassis to accommodate SCR, DPF, etc. What kind of solution does Continental have for this?
A: Our technical offer is based on close-coupled systems where we attach the catalyst right to the engine block rather than having it somewhere below the chassis. This is the technical advantage of metal substrates. Though it’s more cost intensive than ceramic, the advantage is that it is more flexible in its geometrical design which, therefore, gives us the ability to create more complex structures. With metal substrates we are able to shape the catalyst to fit into the space available; we are able to put it under the engine block. This helps in packaging the entire module within the space available under the engine hood rather than taking it away from the engine.
Q: Is not there an advantage as the thermal characteristics will be higher when the systems are closer to the engine. However, metal substrates can manage these thermal issues to an extent. Do you see this working for long or will the life of the unit be cut short because of the thermal problems?
A: This is the benefit of using metal substrates. It can withstand higher temperatures and it is more flexible on the geometrical design of the catalyst.
Q: How do you ensure that these technologies will comply with regulations under all operating conditions and at temperatures varying from -49 degree C to +50 degree C or so?
A: By very extensive testing.
Q: Do you have to do this for every technology?
A: Yes, we have our own test benches. For commercial vehicles we have a huge facility in Germany with test benches for the HCV.
Q: Coming to passenger cars, the packaging is even more complex as the space under the hood is limited. The ground clearance levels also have to be maintained for markets like India. What kind of solutions do you have?
A: The trend is the same; go closer to the engine. We have global passenger car OEMs where they use the close-coupled system with metallic substrates for passenger cars.
Q: Coming back to commercial vehicles, in the emerging markets the driving cycle is very different due to several reasons like driver behaviour, road conditions, etc. These technologies are very sensitive to NVH, so how do you develop a robust system that can hold good even for markets like India?
A: I don’t think I have a clear answer for that, but we have a long presence in India with our Fuel Management plant in Pune. We have been in the market for 20-30 years. We have our local development engineers who closely interface with the local OEMs.
Q: Is there a way for Continental to standardise certain systems and products in the Fuel & Exhaust business unit, as standardisation will give you volumes?
A: Standardisation allows us to reduce costs and complexities to make the product more robust. On the SCR technology standardisation works well on the fuel management and catalyst products, but it has been a challenge. We can achieve this only by close cooperation with the OEMs. Every OEM has a unique requirement and limitation that we have to consider. We give them solutions that would further help standardise products.
Q: For fleet operators in India the issue on aqueous urea solution (Adblue) is that it will not be effective with emission compliance if it is not charged at a particular density. Continental would have carried out studies in the local market to address all kinds of issues. Could you tell us about the initiatives taken to offset such issues?
A: In Europe the petrol stations have dedicated pumps to sell Adblue; it’s all easy and straightforward. We have quality sensors in our system to measure the concentration of urea; it’s part of our strategy.
Q: Early this year Continental celebrated the hundred-millionth MAPPS, the Magnetic Passive Position Sensor, which has dominated the market for over two decades. Can you tell us about the current development on any technology that will have a long future like MAPPS?
A: We are going into serious production of our Screw Pump, which is a pump technology for diesel passenger cars; it’s very energy efficient where we can control the pump application speeds over a large area; it increases the efficiency of the pump especially at very low flow rates.
Regarding brushless fuel pumps, previously we had stand-alone electronic pump flow units with separate electronic control boxes. Now we are integrating the electronic control unit into the fuel module itself. Rather than having two separate components we have one that is fully integrated, so the OEM needs to have only one part instead of two. There is no wiring harness and the logistics is simple.
The other new technology is water injection using a water delivery module for gasoline engines, where water is injected into the cylinder; it is a technology used if you need high engine output. For high output today you would have to inject additional fuel into the cylinder to cool it and bring down the temperature. In future this could be achieved through water injection for high output at full throttle. The water evaporates, cools and brings down the temperature of the compressed air. It can be used to downsize the engine and continue running it at higher power which helps to meet the emission requirements.
Q: But will that not consume additional power either from the battery or from the engine?
A: Of course, there is a trade-off for installing SCR in passenger cars and dozing units. For gasoline cars you will need additional tanks for the water and changes in infrastructure for its delivery system, like hoses and pipes, to inject water into the manifold or directly into the cylinder.
Q: Is this in series production now?
A: We have been awarded the first contract and will start production in 2020.
Q: To an OEM in Europe or the US?
A: I cannot disclose that.
Q: Globally several companies are working on to convert mechanical operations into electric to enhance fuel efficiency and also reduce weight. What is Continental’s contribution?
A: Unlike conventional technology, the Pump Electronic Module (PEM) helps to control fuel demand by delivering it optimally and increases savings with reduced energy consumption.