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Engine Software Patch Can Reduce Fuel Consumption by 2.6%

16 March 2007

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Mondeo in the lab.

A researcher at the Technische Universiteit Eindhoven has developed a software patch for engine control systems that can reduce fuel consumption by 2.6%.

In examining possible fuel savings without the use of hybrid technology, John Kessels developed a patch that could shut off the generator when it is inefficient for the engine to power it, and partly shut off electric energy systems (such as the rear window and seat heating) for further efficiencies in the power supply system, all leading to reduced fuel consumption.

In approach, this is similar to what BMW’s is providing in its new 1- and 5-Series cars with its Intelligent Alternator Control system. (Earlier post.) Kessels’ patch can be implemented with a simple upload and the addition of one single small cable—no replacement of any parts is necessary.

Regenerative braking could supply additional energy for storage in the battery. Adding an idle-stop capability could boost fuel savings to 5-6%. This combination of functionality systems is what BMW is now providing: Brake Energy Regeneration, Intelligent Alternator Control, and Automatic Start-Stop. (Earlier post.)

Kessels tested his retrofit patch on a Ford 2.0-liter Mondeo with a five-speed manual transmission.

March 16, 2007 in Fuel Efficiency, Vehicle Systems | Permalink | Comments (11) | TrackBack (0)

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Comments

What would it take to add regenerative braking and stop start ?
It wold be very nice to capture some proportion of braking energy.
At this stage do we have a mild hybrid ?
Do we need a 42 Volt system for this ?
In other words, how much effort would it be to convert most cars to a mild hybrid over say 2-3 years ?
What happens if you make a diesel mild hybrid ...

I'm guessing retrofitting existing cars all the way to mild hybrid is a non-starter, so to speak. Whether this ECU patch is really practical for retrofit is an open question (validation across models; warranty issues?).

For new cars, however, the kind of thing BMW is doing with their 1-series seems like a no-brainer. This is low-hanging fruit, and should be incorporated into all new cars as baseline functionality. Idle-stop alone would provide a huge benefit in the auto-congested cities.

Hot Rodders in the USA in the 60's knew about shutting of the alternator during 1/4 Mile passes down the dragstrip. This is not "new technology" - a Free wheeling alternator draws less engine power than one that is even supplying minimal current.

I don't know about retrofitting old cars, but it would seem very viable to design a controller that shuts off the draw on the alternator during acceleration in the first 2-3 gears, and then increses the draw to maximum when braking.

May also need to redesign the battery in most cars as well, as they would need to be a bit more towards the "deep cycle" and less of a "starting" battery, allowing the battery to be run down a bit more before it is absolutely necessary recharge.

Here is another idea:

Make it so that all cars default to the "off position" for fog lamps every time the car is shut down. In other words, you push a button to turn the fog lights on when you need them, but next time you drive the car, if you want them, you have to push the button again.

Too many vehicles make it way to easy to leave the fog lights on all the time. GM is one of the few that has the design I mention. I always laugh when I see and "not so bright person" in a Toyota Prius driving around on a clear sunny day with thier fog lights on.

Hmmm...all of the seat heating and rear window stuff wouldn't do much for me but the generator shut off is a great idea.

Just check the voltage of the battery. If below some set threshold then the generator kicks "on", else leave it off. When slowing have the generator always go on to recharge the battery.

Most cars from atleast 96 should be able to do this much since I believe most OBDII vehicles have a speed sensor.

The only tough part is if some vehicles have a mask-PROM. Not every car has a flash port and not every car has an EPROM or EEPROM.

BMW does this on the new 1 series. On the engine family they developed jointly with Peugeot, the water pump can be disconnected from the drive belt if it's not needed (cold start, idling, ...) Small fry like this really adds up when you apply it to a large number of vehicles and, patching the ECU of legacy vehicles is a good idea - if the manufacturer endorses it.

Mahonj -

a little bit of recuperative braking could be done by activating the alternator along with the brakes, even on legacy vehicles. The battery has to be tough enough to handle burst charging, though.

A mild hybrid, by definition, is one that features 10-20kW electric power/1000kg vehicle weight. You can't do that with a 12V grid, you need at least 3-4 times the voltage. Saturn's Green Line apart, it hasn't been done yet because (a) all of the umpteen electric motors and gadgets in a car are designed for 12V today and (b) higher voltage means increased risk of short circuits and creep currents, especially when contacts get moist or caked with crud.

Car makers are aware that battery failures are the #1 reason that vehicles strand, but they are terrified of dying the death of 1000 cuts because of warranty liabilities related to a new grid voltage. A few years ago, proposals for a DC-DC bridge that would keep minor consumers on 12V went nowhere on grounds of cost and complexity.

Still, with Chrysler in the doldrums and the EU determined to limit CO2 emissions, DCX CEO Zetsche recently announced that ALL future DCX designs will be laid out so hybrid options are at least possible, typically mild ones. If others in the industry follow his lead, demand for 42V technology could reach critical mass after all.

Diesel hybrids are not going to happen, though. Given the cost, weight and low-end torque of diesels, anything beyond idle-stop (to reduce emissions) makes no economic sense, even at European fuel prices.

building on what Rafael has said..

Idle stop diesels seem like a good idea to me.
I live beside a main road and you can really smell the diesel fumes.
From a "local pollution" point of view idle stop would be a good idea: from a "global pollution" ( ie. ghg) point of view, diesel is a good idea, so if they can be combined at reasonable cost, we could have something.
+ regen braking to supercaps + smart alternator control.

I don't think my base-model Prius ('05) has genuine foglights, but I often leave the headlights on for weeks at a time. It makes no difference in measured fuel economy (48-50mpg in my current driving mix), and I figure increases my safety.

The post above mine will probably get deleted, but I'll suggest the guy get a mountain bike. You can go fast, get exercise, and ... if you're like me, break bones and set 'em yourself(*).

... any slob can buy something that goes fast.

* - not recommended, i was hoping that i was just fixing a dislocation ... though the doctor said i did as good a job as he could.

odograph:

I have no problem with using 1 set of high wattage (>20 Watts) clear lights on the front of a vechicle for safety- but to run headlights plus foglights when there is not a weather condition that dictates the use of fog lights is just plain wasteful.

It is well known that the use of aux lighting uses extra fuel.. Search the web... back when DRLs were first introduced, GM asked for a waiver to turn them off during EPA fuel mileage testing.

Spokane Walt:
What about using something a little less dated than high wattage incandescent light bulbs on cars (such as LEDs) that put a much lower drain on the power supply?

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