French suppliercould see a rapid payout from its purchase this week of electric supercharger technology from U.K.-based Controlled Power Technologies.
CPT’s top executive tells WardsAutothe device, dubbed VTES (for variable torque enhancement system),could be beneath the hood of a production vehicle within 12 months.
Under the deal,will pay £30 million ($46.7 million) for the VTES technology and an engineering operation that includes development hardware, validation rigs and 10 of CPT’s 33 employees. CPT will return the money to its investors and focus efforts on commercializing its remaining technology.
The two companies had been working together for the past three years, CPT CEO Nick Pascoe says in a statement. “Our automotive customers wanted clarity about future plans for the VTES product, and a sale to Valeo was the best solution to enable (it) to reach its full potential.”
CPT had considered VTES one of three legs of a product-strategy stool designed around the industry trend toward vehicle electrification. An advanced stop/start system that could see application sometime in 2013 and an exhaust energy-recovery device make up the other two pieces that now will garner the company’s full attention.
All three of the technologies are aimed at vehicles with electrical systems running below 50V, meaning the company is not chasing applications in mild, full or plug-in hybrids.
CPT estimates carbon-dioxide emissions could be reduced 15%-25% in a vehicle using the micro-hybrid technologies at a cost of E750-E1,500 ($1,000-$2,000), well below what it says is the E1,600-E10,000 ($2,100-$13,000) outlay for mild, full and plug-in hybrid powertrains.
The systems developer, which sprung to life in a management-led buyout of a formeroperation in 2007, says continued governmental pressure to improve fuel economy and reduce emissions worldwide is beginning to open doors for its technology.
All three devices, including the VTES supercharger sold to Valeo, use switched-reluctance motors, eliminating expensive permanent magnets and rare-earth materials.
The VTES supercharger, compatible with both gasoline and diesel engines, uses electric power rather than the crankshaft to inject air into the engine and boost output. Because it is decoupled from the engine, there’s no power drag that forces the powerplant to burn more fuel and produce higher levels of unwanted emissions.
The supercharger also can react more quickly, spinning up to 70,000 rpm in less than 350 milliseconds to provide the power boost precisely when the driver needs it.
Although initially developed for 12V electrical systems in use today, work is well under way on a version of the supercharger compatible with 48V systems, a development trend beginning to emerge in Europe.
With such an electrical system, 7 kW of stored electrical power could be used to inject 56 to 94 hp of instantaneous power into the engine for passing maneuvers or hill-climbing, CPT says.
Pascoe says use of the electric supercharger could help prevent future fuel-economy-focused powertrains that combine downsized engines with high-ratio transmissions from “driving like a dog.”
A 30% reduction in engine size can translate into a 15% reduction in CO2, he tells WardsAutoin an interview prior to the technology sale to Valeo “That’s a big improvement, but will anyone buy it? (This) gets you back to being (both) green and fun to drive.”
CPT says its SpeedStart stop/start system also is unique, because it can react more quickly than other devices currently in production. That enables the engine to shut down more often to maximize fuel economy, and do it in a way that is less perceptible to the driver.
Current micro-hybrid applications using a conventional starter-motor pinion have to wait until the engine comes to a full stop before re-engaging. That means opportunities to shut down the powerplant must be limited by software overrides to prevent the car from coasting to a stop every time the driver lifts off the throttle.
CPT’s belt-driven integrated starter-generator, compatible with gasoline and diesel engines from 1.4L to 4.4L in size, takes just 2-3 milliseconds to get current back into the coils, Pascoe says, noting it takes the driver about 200 milliseconds to move his foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal.
“We will be powered up in 3-4 milliseconds, and the engine will be back into idle condition in about 150 milliseconds,” he says. “The speed of that says the driver will know nothing about it.”
The more frequent on/off cycling means the unit must be extremely durable. Initially auto makers were requiring ISGs to handle 200,000 start events over their lifetime, Pascoe says. That later was tripled to 600,000 and since has doubled again to 1.2 million as OEMs begin to eye extended-range electric vehicles that will restart engines frequently to keep batteries charged.
“Do the math on that over 10 years and it means you’re (restarting the car) in your sleep,” he notes.
The third component in CPT’s modular-electrification portfolio is its TIGERS technology designed to capture the huge amount of heat energy lost via the car’s tailpipe and turn it into usable electricity.
But application is tricky, Pascoe admits. Auto makers are all over the board when it comes to how much of that energy they want to capture, how they want to store it and what they want to do with it. In addition, the exhaust pipe can be a nasty environment for advanced technology.
“Straightaway, we can say it is not easy,” he says. “It gets hot down there, and electrical machines don’t like hot.
“It’s going to take a few more years to get to market, but it is progressing nicely.”
The switched-reluctance motor CPT uses in its devices packages the coils in the stator, allowing its steel rotor to spool up quickly and deliver power immediately. With all of the energy moved out to the stator, only the non-rotating parts need to be temperature-controlled, clearing the way for water cooling.
Why haven’t auto makers gone to switched-reluctance technology so far?
“The big issue is availability of electronics,” Pascoe says. “The electronics have to survive vibration, heat. And because you’re trying to do clever things at low voltage...that takes you out of commodity electronics and into exotic electronics.”
But that’s changing, he says, as the big electronics players get drawn into automotive by the prospects of hybridization on a large-volume scale.
“That switching device that would have cost big bucks 10 years ago now costs many cents today,” he says. “We’re going deeply down that (cost) curve.”
CPT is backed by several private-equity funds and other investors, including Kuwait Petroleum, Conduit Ventures and National Technology Enterprises. It has two operations in the U.K., both formerfacilities, with mechanical development centered in Essex near and software engineering housed not far from Jaguar Land Rover headquarters in Coventry.
The company recently opened an office in Germany and is just beginning to troll for business opportunities in the U.S.
Pascoe believes timing will help CPT succeed where Visteon failed.
“The market has changed,” he says. “You can spend a huge amount of money if you get the timing wrong. Obviously, Visteon had the foresight to see this coming, but they were 10 years early. And you can spend a lot of money in 10 years.”
The VTES sale to Valeo is a sign applications are indeed nearing and perseverance is paying off for tiny CPT.
“We’re a very small company,” Pascoe notes. “But we punch well above our weight.”