a common idea that car makers drive technology. But for the last few decades
it’s actually been the components suppliers that do much of the research and
development. Companies like Bosch, Siemens, BorgWarner, Ricardo, ZF and a host
of others drive automotive technology development. Components suppliers develop
the technology and then sell it – or license it – to the auto makers.
is a leader in this approach - the company has been largely responsible for
cutting-edge technological innovation that has seen its products very widely
used. Some would argue that the technical edge that German car manufacturers
like BMW, Mercedes and Audi have had for so long can be sheeted home to Bosch.
development of L-Jetronic electronic fuel injection in the late 1970s and early
1980s is the classic example of Bosch influence: the technology first appeared
in German products like Volkswagen and BMW but then rapidly spread to cars
across the world. There are very few Japanese, European, American or Australian
cars of that era that didn’t use Bosch developed L-Jetronic fuel injection.
in more recent years, Bosch has been struggling in vision. Its Eurocentric focus
has blinded it to the greatest automotive technological development of the last
decade – the development of hybrid vehicles, led by Japanese carmakers Toyota
and, to a lesser extent, Honda. (These companies have their own, in-house
R&D companies. Significantly, the Korean car manufacturers are taking the
same in-house approach.)
their car company customers, Bosch was dismissive of hybrid cars. So despite
Bosch being probably the most experienced automotive components manufacturer in
the world, especially in the very electronic and electric areas that hybrid
technologies demand, the company did effectively no hybrid development.
now, with the public acceptance of hybrids and their resulting sales success,
that’s all changing. In short, here comes Bosch.
the company is not putting its eggs in one basket. Rather, it is now developing
a whole swag of technologies aimed at reduced emissions and improved fuel
economy. No one should underestimate the muscle Bosch can apply!
take a look at what the company now says is the future...
“Climate change and CO2 emissions have only
recently become the focus of public debate,” says Dr. Rolf Leonhard, Bosch’s
Executive Vice President Engineering, Diesel Systems.
“The issues being examined include CO2 emissions,
climate and environmental protection, and diminishing fossil-fuel resources –
with the focus firmly on the role of the car in all these areas.”
“We are pursuing the ideal of pollutant-free
mobility. Nevertheless, it is already clear that in 20 years' time the internal
combustion engine will still be the drive of choice for the car. Indeed, it
still offers a great deal of development potential.
“The big difference, however, is that there will
be more alternative fuels to gasoline and diesel. Alternative drives will also
begin to make a bigger impact in smaller market segments.”
Bosch says hybrid drives offer great potential for
cutting fuel consumption and thus CO2 emissions. On the company’s figures,
petrol engine hybrids emit 25 percent less CO2 than conventional petrol engines
and diesel hybrids 20 percent less than non-hybrid diesels.
Bosch is now actively developing hybrid
drivelines, with the main focus being on parallel hybrids, where the electric
motor can drive the wheels independently of the internal combustion engine. In
their system, the electric motor is sufficiently powerful to drive the vehicle
for short distances on electric power alone. Compared with what the company
calls “distributed hybrids” (code for Toyota’s system), Bosch predicts that by
2015 half of all hybrids will use parallel hybrids.
Besides mild and strong hybrid concepts, Bosch is
also now developing simpler and cheaper start-stop techniques.
“Our new start-stop system switches off the
internal combustion engine when the vehicle is at a standstill in a traffic jam
or at a red light,” Dr Leonhard says.
“As soon as the driver depresses the clutch pedal
to put the vehicle back into gear, the system automatically restarts the engine.
The electronics ensure that the driver can save fuel and cut CO2 emissions
without compromising on convenience. Depending on the vehicle, these savings can
add up to eight percent in urban traffic. The system is being used for the first
time in the new BMW 1-series.”
An indication of how far behind the Japanese
carmakers Bosch has fallen can be seen in one simple fact: the Honda Insight,
first sold to the public in 1999, used just this system.
Bosch says that improved operation of the
vehicle’s alternator can also improve fuel efficiency.
Dr Leonhard: “An optimized generator from Bosch
can reduce consumption by one to two percent. Intelligent adjustments to
generator regulation mean that a proportion of the energy produced when applying
the brakes can be used to charge the battery. This helps save two to three
percent on consumption and CO2 emissions.”
Christopher J. Qualters is Director of Sales &
Marketing for diesel systems at Bosch North America.
He says that both for cost and strategic reasons,
the United Sates now becoming much more focused on low fuel consumption. However
hybrid vehicles are not the total answer.
“The possibilities for hybrid vehicles are still
limited,” he says.
“Last year approximately 16.5 million cars and
light trucks were sold in the U.S., and around 240,000 of them were hybrids.
That's just 1.5 percent of all new vehicle registrations in the United States.
By 2010, global production capacities for hybrid vehicles are expected to reach
a million units.
“But that will only cover six percent of demand in
the U.S. market and around two percent of global demand for new vehicles.”
However, Mr Qualters suggests that hybrids are the
most effective way of meeting increasingly tougher emissions legislation.
exhaust gas requirements to be
introduced in 2009 will play an essential part in progressing modern engine
technologies and alternative fuels to the series production stage.
“Hybrids stand the best chance in states with
tough environmental legislation, such as California, and urban areas.”
The penetration of diesel passenger cars in the
United States is much smaller than in Europe, where diesels make up about half
of all new car sales. However, US buyer perceptions of diesel passenger cars are
changing. A recent Harris Interactive survey found that 31 percent of informed
buyers of new vehicles would select a clean diesel engine for their next vehicle
over other available powertrains, including hybrids.
“Modern direct-injection diesel engines consume
around 30 percent less fuel than similar conventional gasoline engines that rely
on port injection systems,” Dr. Leonhard says.
“Consequently, the energy efficiency of diesel
makes it a more environmentally friendly vehicle drive system. And that is why
we will do everything we can to help diesel break through in North America and
Asia as well, following its success in Europe.”
The diesel technology that Bosch has available
also lends itself to renewable bio-diesel. But alternative fuel quality
legislation is lagging.
“Current quality standards for biodiesel are not
adequately established, and extended storage can lead to ageing of the product
and damage to fuel systems,” Mr Qualters says.
“Legislation is urgently needed to establish
“Only when these and other challenges are overcome
will alternative fuels become a truly viable, widescale option.”
As with most predictions, Bosch suggests that over
the next few decades, internal combustion engines will continue to dominate.
Concludes Dr Leonhard: “The next likely technical
developments will enable the automotive industry to come to grips with the
foreseeable tightening of exhaust emission limits. Alternative drives such as
the hybrid will make a major contribution to cutting CO2 emissions in certain
“In addition, we are creating the technological
conditions that will allow internal combustion engines to run on alternative
fuels – particularly biofuels from renewable raw materials – that will improve
the CO2 balance.”
So how serious is Bosch about hybrids?
“We expect to be able to supply hybrid technology
for series production for the first time next year in Volkswagen, Audi, and
Porsche vehicles,” Dr Leonhard says.
The hybrid and alternative fuels technological
horizons are just about to get a lot wider....