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Cummins’ scalable battery packs for commercial applications feature composite enclosures to maximize energy density and increase durability. (Cummins)

Cummins CTO sees increasing power source diversification, digital innovation

Cummins and its Chief Technical Officer, Jennifer Rumsey, help focus the 2019 SAE COMVEC conference on the fast-shifting technology landscape that faces both on- and off-highway sectors.

Jennifer Rumsey has been a member of SAE International her entire career and has participated in the organization’s COMVEC event as an attendee and occasional panelist for well over a decade. Now, as Vice President and Chief Technical Officer at Cummins Inc., her role in the annual affair has been elevated, providing executive leadership for this year’s programming and presenting an opening-day keynote presentation, along with her Cummins colleague Rich Freeland, President and Chief Operations Officer.

“This is a key period of change for our industry and this year is Cummins 100th anniversary, so it was a really good tie with COMVEC and you’ll see that connected to the theme of the conference,” she said. That theme, Charging & Fueling the Next 100 Years, hints at the growing diversity of power solutions that engineers and companies working in the on-highway commercial vehicle, mobile off-highway equipment, ground defense, and mining sectors must navigate.

Technical session topics range from aerodynamics to mechatronics, and chassis subsystems to cybersecurity. And, of course, a variety of propulsion topics will be addressed each day (

“Certainly, we’ll continue to talk about how internal combustion engine (ICE) technologies will be refined and advanced,” said Rumsey. “But we’ll also look at some more disruptive technologies, including fuel cells, electrified power technology, and then thinking about the infrastructure aspect of this technology shift.”

Experts who are “highly engaged in smart city installations” will offer a glimpse into what the future could hold, not only related to alternative power sources but also connectivity, autonomous vehicles, and other transformative technologies.

“COMVEC will give people an opportunity to step back and understand, where are those technologies today? How may they evolve over time? What are our opportunities to innovate? And where do we need to collaborate to successfully drive some of these changes?” she said.

Power source diversification

As CTO of a global power-solutions provider serving multiple mobility segments, Rumsey is excited about the opportunities offered by this evolving technology landscape, but she acknowledges that heading such a broad-scoped research and engineering organization is not without its headaches.

“The challenge associated with this technology shift is that it’s complex. It’s no longer strictly within the powertrain area of what we control,” she shared. “These technologies are dependent on infrastructure, investments that need to be coordinated. It’s important that we understand the full lifecycle, the environmental impact of these technologies. Our ability to bring these different aspects together in a coordinated way that allows us to most effectively drive technology change over time is one of the things that I worry about and think about a lot.”

Diesel engines will remain the predominant power source across many of Cummins’ markets for the next 5-10 years, according to Rumsey. “At the same time, we see growing adoption of lower-carbon alternate solutions such as natural gas, electric hybrid and full-electric products.”

Cross-market technology sharing is not a thing of the past, despite unique challenges for the different heavy-duty markets, particularly when it comes to electrifying such varied products. “We’re looking at how we continue to drive economies of scale and leverage our technical and infrastructure investments across on- and off-highway,” she said. “What that looks like today may be different as we think about electrification and where we might reuse key components of that system across different markets.”

Fuel cells also are on the docket for discussion at COMVEC this year. The technology has garnered more attention over the past year as several manufacturers have announced plans to pursue the power source, especially for long-haul trucking but also some off-highway applications.

“They’re starting to develop in some niche applications and in China where there’s a lot of incentives around fuel cell technology,” Rumsey said.

Cummins is examining both PEM (proton exchange membrane) as well as solid-oxide fuel cells, but work is still in the early development and demonstration phase. “At this point, we don’t have production-intent systems, which we do on the electric side,” she said, adding that a full-electric powertrain will go into production soon in an urban bus application.

Digital transformation

Telematics, connected solutions, and the exploding amount of data that companies have at their fingertips today will increasingly drive how customers optimize the use of their products—and ultimately enable the move to autonomous vehicles. These will be highly anticipated topics at this year’s COMVEC conference.

“We’re seeing growing expectations for e-mobility and automation across markets,” Rumsey said. “Increasingly customers are thinking about a broader ecosystem and how they can optimize routes, coordinate across vehicles, in addition to optimizing efficiency and maintenance on a particular vehicle.”

To help develop that capability in its products, tools and people, in May 2017 Cummins formed an internal organization called the Digital Accelerator, which is focused specifically on bringing digital solutions to market faster. Identifying high-impact areas to effectively employ the vast amounts of data that’s being collected and organized is another major task.

“You can very quickly come up with hundreds of ideas on what you could do with this data,” Rumsey said. “We’re trying to build a strong foundation and standard approach across the company, and focus first on areas that we think can be impactful.”

With increasing levels of connectivity, the ability to prevent, identify and quickly respond to cyberattacks becomes even more paramount.

“This is an area we’re really working with industry organizations like SAE to create the right standards and to strengthen cybersecurity cross industry—it’s an area in which we have a common interest,” Rumsey said. “We’re working together to share data, intelligence and our experience as part of the Auto-ISAC group (Automotive Information Sharing and Analysis Center, which includes heavy-duty commercial vehicles). With this growing level of connectivity, ensuring that it’s done in a safe and secure way is a top priority.”

Advanced-tech demos at The Brickyard

In addition to three days of expert-led panel discussions and several keynote addresses at SAE COMVEC 2019, which will be held Sept. 9-11 in Indianapolis, a new Technology Demonstration day will be held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday, Sept. 12, the day following the conference. A morning session from 8-10 a.m. will be reserved for press/VIP, and the main session will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“The Technology Demonstration will give people an opportunity to actually see some of these new technologies and commercial vehicles firsthand, and really bring that [discussion from COMVEC] to life,” said Rumsey.

Several companies are participating in the demonstration. Oshkosh is expected to bring various military vehicles to the track, and AVL plans to demo its software that evaluates advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) along with actual vehicle rides. ADAS also will be the focus for ZF’s demo, showcasing its lane-keeping system with advanced steering.

Cummins and Allison Transmission also are scheduled to have their latest advanced technologies on hand for demonstrations.

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