Monday, 14 December 2015

Former Volvo exec to join Ricardo board

Maline Persson joins Ricardo plc in the UK from next month as a non-executive director.

Maline Persson worked at Volvo from 1985 to 2012, holding various roles including vice president of corporate strategy and business development, as well as president and chief executive officer of innovation company, Volvo Technology, and head of environmental affairs at Volvo Logistics.

Persson has an MSc in industrial engineering and management from Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg.

Volvo Technology says its main assignment is to drive research, development and advanced engineering for the long term competitiveness of the Volvo Group products and services.

Areas of operation also include innovation, business engineering, and corporate services. Technology areas in focus are Technology Strategy & Innovation, Transport Solutions & Services, Energy Efficiency & Environment, Vehicle Technology & Safety, Electrical & Embedded Systems, and Supply Chain, which includes materials technology, environment & chemistry and process development & manufacturing engineering.

It will be interesting to see if Persson has input into Ricardo's natural gas heavy duty vehicle research.

Significantly, perhaps, Cummins Inc., Volvo and Westport Corporation all have an interest in heavy duty natural gas engines, including high-pressure direct injection natural gas engines that are in various stages of development.

Ricardo recently became a key partner in the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 Green Vehicle initiative – HDGAS – set up to develop and optimise advanced powertrain concepts based on dual fuel and natural gas, principally for application in long-haul trucks.

HDGAS is set on delivering improved fuel efficiency and reduced GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, whilst meeting current Euro VI emission standards. As such the teams will be looking to develop new technologies able to deliver 10 per cent improvements in torque, power, fuel efficiency and GHG reduction.

Meanwhile, Westport Corporation of Vancouver, Canada and Cummins Inc., of Columbus, Indiana, have been partners in various projects, and both have developed high pressure direct injection (HPDI) systems for gas engines.

Westport’s HPDI technology, for example, uses natural gas as the primary fuel along with a small amount (five per cent) of diesel as a pilot ignition source, or ‘liquid spark plug’.

At the heart of the engine is a patented injector with a dual-concentric needle design.

It allows small quantities of diesel fuel and large quantities of natural gas to be delivered at high pressure to the combustion chamber. The natural gas is injected at the end of the compression stroke.

Under pressures normally found in the combustion chambers of normal diesel engines, natural gas requires a higher ignition temperature than diesel.

To assist with ignition, a small amount of diesel fuel is injected into the engine cylinder followed by the main natural gas fuel injection. The diesel acts as a pilot, rapidly igniting the hot combustion products, and thus the natural gas. HPDI replaces approximately 95 per cent of the diesel fuel (by energy) with natural gas.

Currently in development at Westport is an LNG locomotive programme, an automotive programme with General Motors, an LNG system to supply a new 13-litre Volvo engine, an engine programme with Tata Motors of India, and the WP580 program with GAZ.

This year, Westport launched the Westport WiNG Power System for the 2016 Ford F-150 in a dedicated CNG, bi-fuel CNG and dedicated liquid propane (LPG) configuration. Westport also launched the new 2016 bi-fuel Volvo V60 based on the new Drive-E platform.

The recent plunging price of oil, however, has made natural gas less attractive to long-distance truckers, especially in North America. Just how long this will be so remains to be seen. But engine researchers such as Ricardo plc, relying on global interests for income, have to take ‘the long view’.

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