FPT Industrial periodically holds Tech Days to demonstrate its latest research and development in a particular technology area. The company’s most recent Tech Day, taking place in late November at its Turin Industrial Village, was devoted to future propulsion innovations, under the “4.0 Powertrain Technologies” title.
Among the new technologies on display, the company unveiled a multi-power, multi-application modular power source concept called Cursor X, an eAxle and a transfer box for electric and hybrid vehicles, an eFlywheel and eTurbocharger, a hydrogen fuel cell concept chassis, and an evolution of the Cursor 13 natural gas engine.
“Innovation is our competitive edge,” Annalisa Stupengo, FPT Industrial brand president, told Tech Day attendees. “What has changed is the speed of innovation. The first electronic engine systems were present in the ’50s, but powertrains have continued to be a mechanical device with a digital brain.
“The next step of this digital revolution will be represented by smart and connected powertrains, as all FPT products will be soon,” she claimed. “Connectivity will change forever our research and development, production and service.”
Cursor X concept
Perhaps the most unusual concept of the day, the Cursor X proposes a multi-power, modular power source that could be used in tractors, trucks, wheeled loaders and other machine types. Created jointly by engineering and design departments, the Cursor X points a possible way forward for equipment manufacturers to offer customers a choice of propulsion system with minimal re-engineering.
The encapsulated driveline has been designed to be the same size as a six-cylinder diesel engine, but with a modular assembly that would be easy to integrate into existing machinery or scale up into heavier equipment. The system could be powered by a natural gas internal combustion engine, by batteries for full EV use, or by a hydrogen fuel cell.
With a range of power inputs, the Cursor X package would be paired with a choice of power transmission solutions, to suit the machine requirements. In each case, the external appearance would remain the same, making it easy for machinery makers to meet individual customer needs.
“The project was carried out with my team in research and development and the [parent company] CNH design center,” Pierpaulo Biffali, vice president of product engineering, explained. “FPT has evolved to a full system integrator with a multi-power approach. As a powertrain integrator, our mission has changed; now we have to develop the best powertrains to efficiently convert the energy for the vehicle, using any available source. In the future, there will be no one-fits-all solution like diesel has been for several years. Any technology option should remain open.”
Biffali added that the power source must be fully scalable and connected. “Thanks to this modular architecture, it can be supplied as an all-inclusive package or a disassembled configuration. Cursor X’s form and size have been designed for interchangeability with internal combustion engines,” he said. “The module will be smart and connected, aware of its state, capable of interacting with our service network. It will have self-learning capabilities, to be used for further development.”
If used in a road-going truck, the concept has been designed to provide up to 200 km (124 mi) of range in a battery-electric application. That would rise to a 400-km (248-mi) range with a natural gas engine, or as much as 800 km (497 mi) for a 44-tonne (48-ton) fuel cell truck with a 200-kW stack.
“Cursor X is an aspiration of our strategy for 2030. It’s what we think for the future,” said Stupengo.
Hydrogen for long haul
Hydrogen fuel cells provide a promising technology for high energy demand applications, such as long-haul trucks. FPT has produced hydrogen concepts in the past, with a fuel cell bus in 2001 and a fuel cell tractor in 2009. The latest concept is a fuel cell chassis for long-distance transportation.
“The hydrogen fuel cell is the most promising realistic electric technology for industrial applications, such as long-haul transportation,” said Stupengo.
The powertrain, which includes a fuel cell, hydrogen tanks, a lithium-ion battery pack, an eAxle and an energy management system, can deliver a maximum fuel cell output of 200 kW. This offers a motor output of up to 400 kW and, with the current 350-bar (5,076-psi) hydrogen tanks that hold up to 64 kg (141 lb) of gas, a potential range of up to 800 km. FPT is targeting a refill time of 20 minutes for the 64 kg of hydrogen, and the aim is for the fuel cell to provide up to 20,000 hours of use, or 1 million km of driving life.
Taking the fuel cell cost out of the equation, the energy cost and cost of ownership is currently four times that of a diesel driveline. However, FPT is expecting hydrogen costs to fall as demand rises. Indeed, the company calculates the total cost of ownership, including the purchase premium of a fuel cell, should be comparable to diesel by 2025.
The only other downside is that the powertrain weighs around 6.0 tonnes (6.6 ton), which is 4.5 tonnes (5.0 ton) heavier than a similarly powerful diesel driveline.
Electric propulsion and assistance
FPT has split its focus on electrification into two distinct areas: electric propulsion and electric assistance. New to the propulsion solutions area are an eAxle and a transfer box. The eAxle is a compact solution that transfers power and torque to the wheels through a gear unit. Available to support front-, rear-, and four-wheel drive layouts, the eAxle can deliver up to 250 kW with 98% efficiency.
The transfer box has been designed to add an electric power source to an original engine installation, to provide a hybrid driveline. It can be installed on existing vehicles and is scalable to suit a range of power outputs, delivering up to 8,000 N·m (5,900 lb·ft) of torque at the wheel. The transfer box has been designed primarily for vehicles that require an electric last-mile function, or for construction equipment used in an urban setting.
The electric assist group of products are designed to assist combustion engines via mild hybrid technology. The eFlywheel and eTurbocharger are used to recover energy from the engine that can be stored and reused to boost performance. FPT claims this mild hybrid technology can save up to 8% in terms of fuel consumption, while improving transient response by up to 50%.
“Electric technology represents the next wave,” said Stupengo. “Initially, we don’t see it as a realistic alternative, rather as a way to improve the performance, efficiency and sustainability of our thermal solutions. We have electric drivelines in our offering.”
Natural gas prototype
FPT has been pushing natural gas, both compressed and liquified, for some years, with particular success in sister company Iveco’s truck lines. Indeed, the company has sold more than 40,000 gas engines since 1997. The most recent addition to the lineup was the Cursor 13 NG in 2017, which is offered with 400 or 460 hp (298 or 343 kW) in Iveco’s Stralis long-haul tractor. Now the company has unveiled a prototype evolution of that engine, which should be on sale by 2020.
The Cursor 13 NG Evo prototype uses a new cylinder head design with a pent-roof combustion chamber with tumble intake ports, designed for positive ignition combustion. The engine also benefits from a higher-pressure direct injection fuel system, to deliver reduced emissions during transient operation.
A high-pressure cooled exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) system helps to reduce throttle losses at part load and a variable valve timing system with cam phaser technology, to achieve improved volumetric efficiency.
FPT now has natural gas engines from 3.0- to 12.9-L capacity, delivering 134 to 460 hp, to suit light, medium and heavy commercial vehicle and bus applications. The engine’s CO2 emission levels are said to be 9% lower than those of a similarly powered diesel engine, with a 98% cut in particulate matter and 48% lower NOx emissions.
“Natural gas is the only green answer that is fully available now,” said Stupengo. “It is a reality today in our on-road applications and will soon feature in off-road as well.”Continue reading »