Friday, 29 August 2014

Kia: All systems go in Mexico

Kia Motors Corporation will build a new assembly plant in Mexico and will invest US$1 billion in facilities in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, scheduled for completion in the first half of 2016.

Mexican government officials expect the plant would drive suppliers to invest another US$1.5 billion in the country. Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said the facility would boost Mexico's output by 13%.

Opposed-piston engines set to bow?

Opposed-piston engines could be about to make a comeback as three US suppliers argue that their designs can give significantly improved fuel efficiency.

Two-stroke opposed-piston engines first developed in the 1930s have failed to catch on. However, with the opportunities afforded by modern technology, including new materials, powertrain developers claim they have updating previous designs to the point they can compete with more conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) architectures to which OEMs are accustomed today.

Both gasoline and diesel engines are being developed, one has been tested by the notable FEV GmbH which develops and tests engines and transmissions.

Opposed-piston engines were developed in the 1930s in Europe, primarily by Junkers in Germany before WW2, and subsequently by Napier (the Deltic) and Rootes Group in the UK. All were two-stroke diesel engines, the Deltic being the most complex engine ever built! The TS3 on the other hand was Rootes Group’s first diesel engine and appeared in Commer commercial vehicles. Rootes group formed part of Tilling-Stevens.

Monty Cleeves, founder, president and chief technical officer at Pinnacle Engines Inc. of San Carlos, California, whose opposed piston design the company claims can provide 30-50 per cent improvements in fuel economy without the typical cost penalty, believes that by focusing on developing automotive markets, his engines could reach the automotive market by 2018.

The company, based in Silicon Valley, has noted on its website that it is “launching its first product in 2014 in partnership with a major Asian vehicle OEM”.

And it claims that it has completed 500 hours of testing at FEV.

Meanwhile, EcoMotors Inc. of Allen Park, Michigan, is another opposed piston engine supplier targeting developing economies. It has also developed an electrically controlled turbocharger, and believes its opposed-piston diesel engines could be on the market even sooner than 2018.

Amit Soman, the company’s president and chief operating officer, has revealed that the company’s OPOC (opposed-piston opposed-cylinder) engine might be used by OEMs in Asia as soon as 2017.

“If you look at the off-highway market in Asia, it’s still not emissionised,” Soman is reported as saying. “It’s still where fewer performance characteristics are dominant, and that’s what our engine brings. It’s smaller, lighter and has good torque and power compared to other engines of its weight.”

He added: “Because of these characteristics, and because we don’t have to meet the challenge of emissions in the short term, we will focus on off-highway in emerging markets first. This gives us a foothold, allowing us to get the first half million engines on the market before we start focusing on the western, more ‘emissionised’ segments. Our first two manufacturing facilities are under construction in China, which will remain as our location of focus for a while.”

In March of this year. EcoMotors announced that in association with a subsidiary of First Auto Works it had formed a joint venture to develop, manufacture, sell and service advanced engines in China based on Opoc designs. These are two-stroke diesel engines and contain 50 per cent fewer parts than a conventional reciprocating internal combustion engine.

EcoMotors announced in March 2014 that it was delighted to have First Auto Works Jingye as a partner. A year earlier, in April 2013, EcoMotors signed a deal with Zhongding Power in China which is investing $200 million in facilities to make the opposed-piston engines. Executive chairman of EcoMotors International is Don Runcle, well known in the US for his long association with Delphi. EcoMotor claims a single module opposed-piston, two-stroke diesel engine with 100mm bore can develop 325bhp at 3,500 rev/min and 664lbft (900Nm) torque at 2,100 rev/min for a dry weight of 296lb (134kg) to give a power density of 1.1 bhp/lb. A Ford 4.4-litre V8 diesel, also with a CGI block delivers 335bhp and 516lbft (700Nm) torque. However, Runcle admitted they were not getting as much (performance) as they deserve.

Meanwhile, David Johnson, president and chief executive of opposed-piston engine developer Achates Power, is focused on changing attitudes about opposed piston engines in both passenger car and commercial vehicle segments around the world. Achates Power is perhaps the best known of the three US companies.

“It’s a little bit like hand-to-hand combat,” he is reported as saying. “You need to meet with every individual person who has a say in these large companies. I’m not selling to my neighbour, I’m selling to large corporations where decisions are made in committees, and lots of people have a say. Each and all of them need to be convinced of the data that we generate and the effectiveness of the solution.”

Johnson is nevertheless confident Achates has developed a lucrative solution to improving fuel economy, and believes that it is the right time for opposed-piston engines to reveal their advantages over more traditional ICEs.

Reverting to Pinnacle Engines, it seems the first step in its strategy is proving the opposed-piston engine’s merits in the scooter and motorcycle market, before using this success to convince automotive OEMs to invest. This is a route taking by other innovators, including Fallbrook with its continuously variable transmissions (CVTs) applied first to bicycles.

“We focused on scooters and motorcycles as a faster time to market,” explained Cleeves. “Our expectation is that success in scooters and small motorcycles will give us the credibility to enter the broader automotive market. In an automotive application, we will provide even better fuel efficiency gains for the same cost as the current downsized turbo GDSI engines. Cost sensitive markets like India, China, Indonesia and Africa will find this combination irresistible.”

Achates Power on the other hand is targeting the passenger car and commercial vehicle markets in parallel.

Achates Power’s Johnson has pointed to the fuel savings that can be made in CV fleet operations.

“Commercial vehicles use a tremendous amount of fuel per year – in the order of 20,000 gallons,” he is reported as saying. “We’re talking about millions of vehicles on the road. Now you’re talking about volumes that really drive the total consumption of fuel.”

“It’s coming,” he added. “Our customers will make the announcements about when products will be available, so it’s not really our place to do so, but I can tell you that based on the work we have been doing, it’s soon. Soon means within the decade, around 2020 – maybe before, maybe after. Certainly, going forward as the decade unfolds, we’ll see a lot of these engines used in applications around the world.”

On the other hand, this newsletter has come across a number of chief executives who glibly report that a particular technology “is coming” only for there to be major disappointments down the road.

So no one is holding their breath at the moment for opposed-piston engines.

See also........ 

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Nissan launches Pathfinder in Russia

Nissan has launched the Pathfinder range in Russia; it includes the first Russian manufactured petrol-electric hybrid. Next year, Nissan will add Qashqai to its Russian production line-up.

Pathfinder debuts alongside the new Russian-built Sentra sedan, reaffirming Nissan's commitment to bringing to market built in Russia, with Russian consumers in mind.

Press problems halt Nissan car output

CAR production has restarted at Nissan in Sunderland ending a temporary shut-down at one of the world's most efficient car plants, according to The Northern Echo.

Last Monday, according to the newspaper, car making on both lines were halted after problems emerged in the factory’s press shop.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Vivaro UK plant: The “crown jewels”?

The latest issue of Autocar describes the Vauxhall Van Plant in Luton, UK, which makes the Vivaro, as the “crown jewel of the motor industry”.

If this is so, then the magazine will have great difficulty in finding superlatives to describe Jaguar’s XE facility at Solihull which, for the first time in the UK, has the distinction of making aluminium body-in-white in large numbers, something that has never been achieved at Luton, which processes steel components. Added to which, JaguarLandRover stamps its own aluminium body pressings, including body sides. The Luton van plant has not stamped aluminium in its entire life! The distinguishing feature of aluminium being that it requires an extremely clean working environment, especially in the press shop.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Camaçari – most modern in the world

When Ford opened its new Camaçari Engine Plant earlier this year it said the new plant is among the most modern in the world and is designed to meet global quality and productivity standards.

The plant produces the 1-litre three-Cylinder TiVCT Flex Fuel engine, an entirely new family of three-cylinder engines with advanced technology for the compact car segment. 

Ford gives students robotics support

Ford Motor Company Fund has announced a $50,000 grant for FIRST Robotics Community Centre at Kettering University, Flint, Michigan.

The grant is part of the Ford’s ongoing support for innovative programs that promote careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Europe’s new car sales head for 12-month growth

Europe's largest markets continue to grow, with four out of the 'Big 5' recording significant year-on-year growth, according to JATO Dynamics.

Spain achieved best performance with government incentives creating double-digit growth of 11.3% for July. Great Britain (+6.6%) and Italy (+5.3%) also performed well during July, while Germany’s growth of 6.8% followed a slight fall in June. France experienced a sales drop of 4.3% but growth remains up 1.9% on year-to-date sales.

FCA reveals vendors for new Recife plant

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), the company planned as a merger between Fiat Group and Chrysler, remains on schedule to open its new plant in Recife, Brazil with production set to roll in the second quarter 2015.

The company has recently announced the names of 11 companies that will be integrated into a new supplier park to support the new plant.

Jaguar in danger of over-hyping XE

Jaguar is in grave danger of over-hyping its new XE passenger car with its latest pronouncement even before the car has been judged by the public.

“A smooth, supple ride, exceptionally sharp steering, quiet, luxurious cabin and seamless connectivity – the new Jaguar XE delivers in all respects and is equipped with a wide range of state-of-the art technologies designed to make every journey an even more enjoyable experience,” is the beginning of the company’s latest pronouncement.

Monday, 18 August 2014

US robot experts win again

A curious trend appears to have evolved in the world of robotics.

For the seventh time in 37 years, three US citizens in a single year have won the Engelberger Robotics Award, named after the worldwide “father of robotics”, Joseph F. Engelberger, the founder in 1956 of Unimation Inc.

. . . As KUKA spreads its wings in China

KUKA, the Augsburg-based robotics and automation company and long-time supplier to the automotive industry, is expanding its footprint in China – the world’s second-largest robot market.

Following the opening of its new production facility in Shangkai earlier this year with an annual robot capacity of 5,000 from a workforce of 350, Reis GmbH & Co. KG Maschinenfabrik, a subsidiary of KUKA AG has concluded a joint venture with Jiangsu Yawei Machine Tool Co., Ltd. in China.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

JLR invests £20 million in Special Ops

JaguarLandRover (JLR) has chosen Prologis Park, Ryton, Coventry for its £20 million Special Vehicle Operations Technical Centre. 

The facility will be JLR’s global centre to create high-end luxury bespoke commissions and extreme performance vehicles. 

Cummins to boost output by 50 per cent

Cummins Inc. is boosting annual investment in its Jamestown Engine Plant (JEP) by more than 50 per cent in a bid to hit 500 engines a day, mostly ISX15s.

Cummins is slated to spend nearly $100 million over the next three years to 2016 to boost production capability at the 40 year old plant.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

JLR to edge beyond £1 billion quarterly profits

Jaguar Land Rover Automotive plc (JLR) achieved profit before tax of nearly £1 billion for the first quarter of its 2014/2015 financial year.

The company’s strong sales volumes have resulted in revenues for the period of £5.353 billion.

With an actual profit before tax increased to £924m for the quarter, this reflects the growth in volumes and revenue as well as strong product and geographic mix. 

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

A new Roller due in 2016

Rolls-Royce Motor Cars has a new car that is currently undergoing a rigorous process of prototype testing as it enters its next stage of development.

The company, owned by BMW and the manufacturer of the world's pinnacle super-luxury automobiles, has confirmed the development programme for a new Rolls-Royce. The new car will reach the market by mid-2016.