Thursday, 29 November 2012

A more aggressive Torotrak?

“The time is now right for us to adjust our approach to one of more aggressive, accelerated growth in order to capitalise on the substantial opportunity ahead that will allow us to introduce our clean technology into mainstream commercial and passenger vehicles world-wide,” Jeremy Deering, chief executive of Torotrak plc, told us today, after announcing the company’s latest half-year results.

This suggests that following the departure of former chief executive, Dick Elsy, Deering’s arrival will herald an emphatic change of direction; one that aims to steer the business in a direction that will bring returns more quickly than before.

With a period-end cash balance of £10.7 million, Deering said Torotrak would now “put its hands in its pockets” to push forward more aggressively a number of its programmes.
Torotrak has three main product areas: infinitely variable transmissions (IVTs), MKERS or mechanical energy recovery systems and V-Charge, an induction boost system. Together the value of the latter two lines is roughly equivalent to that of the IVT business, according to Deering.  At the moment IVTs are directed principally at commercial vehicles and off-highway applications.

On the V-charge front, Deering expects to spread the technology across four platforms, from small cars like the Renault Clio, into sports utility vehicles (SUVs) with 1.6-litre engines, premium vehicles that might require a two-stage device, and one other.
The aim is to build more prototypes and develop simulation tools with the aim of spreading wider an understanding of the performance and economy benefits.  There is an aim too to break the supply route issue: OEMs trying out the system want to know if there is a Tier 1 supplier standing in the wings; and Tier 1 suppliers want to know if Torotrak has an OEM customer lined up.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

£1bn China boost for JaguarLandRover

JAGUARLANDROVER (JLR) has clinched a deal with Chery Automobile to build a new vehicle manufacturing plant near Shanghai, due to open in 2015.

Significantly, the vehicle manufacturing facility at Changshu will be alongside a state-of-the-art research and development facility and a new engine plant that could be modelled on the new engine plant now in the initial stages of construction in Wolverhampton, UK to produce the ‘Hotfire’ engine range.

Chery Automobile is China’s sixth largest car manufacturer but the country’s largest exporter.  Last year it sold 650,000 units. Total car sales in China last year was 18.5 million.

JLR is owned by TATA Motors which has revealed plans for a £10 billion expansion plan over the next five years; the link with Chery is part of that expansion plan. JLR has said that the output from the plant, which in the first phase is set to make 130,000 units a year, will be in addition to existing output – and not a replacement for any UK production unit. It is understood that 60 per cent of the plant’s output will be Land-Rover-badged vehicles.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Navistar Big Bore engines to restart in 2013

Navistar International Corporation expects to announce this month the date of start of production (SOP) of its Big Bore engines that have been found to be non-compliant with US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

The US engine builder has been forced to halt production of MaxxForce 13 and 15 diesel engines following the EPA’s decision to oppose the company’s type of engine emissions technology.

So, in an embarrassing about-face, Navistar will adopt SCR technology and is working closely with Cummins to resolve its current issues. Navistar, based in Lisle, Illinois, has opposed SCR technology for years and is now paying the price.

Navistar has come to a long-term supply agreement with Cummins Inc. of Columbus, Indiana to use its heavy-duty diesel engines and “emissions after-treatment systems” for Big Bore engines.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

£80m EU loan for Turkish Transit plant

It is curious that in the year General Motors confirmed Luton, UK as the focus of its European Vivaro van production, Ford elected to vacate its Swaythling, Southampton plant in favour of centralised Transit van production in Turkey where costs are lower.

The interesting difference is that Turkey is effectively outside the principal European trading community. However, it cannot be ignored that in June this year, the European Investment Bank (EIB) approved a £80 million loan to help ramp up production of Transit vans at the Ford Otosan facility at Kocaeli, Turkey.

The UK, France, Germany and Italy are the main source of funds for the EIB.

The loan was agreed as part of a billion dollar investment plan – about £600 million – for Ford’s 395-acre site in Kocaeli. The application for the loan was made in October 2011 to finance the modernisation of the plant ahead of new generation Transit 6.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Ford Ecoboost engine set for CGI block?

Speculation amongst some observers suggests there would be no surprise if the “sensational” engine using compacted graphite iron (CGI) block, due to bow in the 2013/2014 time frame (see last post), comes from Ford Motor Company; the engine lying within the company’s Ecoboost family.

Speculation is ignited through the announcement 29 October by global foundry Tupy SA of Joinville, Brazil, that it has placed a contract against SinterCast for its System 3000plus process control technology to use for the production of 300,000-plus high-quality CGI castings a year.

Industry insiders suggest the projected annual volume of over 300,000 a year of the new CGI blocks from Tupy SA is too high for a vee-diesel production run. This implies either an in-line diesel or a gasoline engine.

IF the new application is for a gasoline engine, the block could be in-line or vee configuration. For an in-line engine, Ford is one speculated OEM customer to take such high volumes.

But, on the other hand, IF the new CGI block is intended for a vee gasoline engine, then General Motors could be the customer. However, GM has no previous experience of machining CGI on such a massive scale. And over 300,000 blocks a year is ‘big scale’. All IFs and BUTs.

The EcoBoost is a family of direct-injected gasoline engines developed by Ford in association with FEV Engineering. They range from the three-cylinder I-3 of 100-123bhp, through the 1.6-litre I-4, the 2-litre I-4 and up to the 3.5-litre V6 giving 350bhp.

The speculation would fit in with suggestions (in the previous post) that the cylinder block of the upcoming engine is an I4 of around 1.6 to 2-litres and not a vee diesel engine configuration. Indeed the idea could be taken a stage further – the engine could be an I-3 three-cylinder 1.6-litre or an I-4 four-cylinder 2.2-litre gasoline engine.

The benefits of CGI have now become well established and well-proven through the efforts of numerous OEMs, with Audi and Ford leading the pack in passenger vehicle applications: lighter weight, higher strength, higher stiffness, and improved rigidity and NVH. In theory, a CGI block can be as light as an aluminium block and would be of great advantage in the Ford Focus or light duty truck use in the US.

CGI would assist with Ford’s programme of down-sizing whilst retaining improved performance and fuel economy. For example, a 2.2-litre I4 gasoline engine with a performance of 125bhp/litre could deliver 257bhp and 300ftlb torque. With 150bhp/litre this would give 330bhp. Eventually, around 380bhp might be possible with 2-litres being seen as a possible company in-line capacity limit in years to come.

In the absence of mature information at this stage, speculation further fuels the nature of the upcoming engine family. For example, it is known that Ford has carried out work over the years on HCCI (Homogeneous Charge Ignition Engines) in partnership with PSA in France on the 2.7-litre V6 engine with a CGI block. Both companies have experience of machining CGI cylinder blocks. Could HCCI be a step too far for Ford at this stage?

In an HCCI engine, fuel and air are mixed and injected into the cylinder. The piston compresses the mixture and spontaneous combustion occurs. (In HCCI, the engine combines the fuel and air pre-mixing of a spark ignition engine with the instantaneous combustion of a diesel engine.)

Ford also has supported HCCI research through Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and oil giant BP. Ford executives believe an HCCI engine can give near-diesel engine fuel efficiency but with the lower cost of the gasoline engine. However, to be successful, the conventional gasoline cylinder block must be strengthened and this is where a CGI block could be of advantage.

Ford is not alone. General Motors too has tested HCCI in Aura and Vectra mid-sized cars. But GM has not machined CGI blocks before in production-environment volumes. It has yet to introduce its own CGI engine, though GM Europe, must have ‘looked over the shoulder’ of VM Motori in Italy with its vee diesel. GM has plans for a CGI V8 diesel but they are believed to be still on the back burner.

Another variation is GDCI or Gasoline Direct-Injection Compression Ignition where low emissions are combined with high efficiency. In 2010, Delphi Corporation with Hyundai America Technical Center and academics from Wisconsin University won a US$7.48 million grant from the US Department of Energy to develop a GDCI engine; details were presented at the 2012 SAE World Congress in Detroit.

In GDCI, air is compressed in the cylinder before partially pre-mixed fuel is injected into the cylinder. As air is compressed, the heat generated is sufficient to ignite the mixture without need for a spark plug.

GDCI differs from HCCI in that with the latter, air and fuel are mixed before compression begins. Compression of the air/fuel mixture causes self-ignition, rather than introducing air/fuel into the hot compressed air at or near top dead centre, as with GDCI. GDCI would benefit also from a CGI block.

Among those working on advanced powertrain systems in the UK is CAFDR, the Centre for Advanced Powertrains and Fuels Research at Brunel University, Uxbridge. Sponsoring companies include Ford Motor Company and Delphi Diesel Systems.

Global machine tool supplier MAG IAS LLC of Erlanger, Kentucky, is probably the pack-leader in terms of most experience of developing and supplying machining centres for CGI, though Grob-Werke GmbH of Mindelheim, Germany cannot be discounted through its association with Audi. This year, Grob-Werke opened a production base in Liaoning, China – its fourth. MAG claims to have successfully used cryogenics to machine CGI, and has supplied Ford with machine tools for its latest V8 diesel engine lines in Chihuahua, Mexico. The Chihuahua Engine Plant (CEP) makes engines for Ford’s F-series trucks. These vee engines use CGI blocks from Tupy SA.

Specialist CGI foundry Tupy plans to supply the 300,000-plus CGI cylinder blocks from its newly-equipped foundry in Saltillo, Mexico.

Meanwhile, back to square one – all IFs and BUTs. But whatever, this will prove to be a “landmark” CGI engine application – the biggest-ever single order for such a prominent and vital engine component.