Continentalrsquos Wiggins says Eco Drive important step in EV direction Full View Photography

Continental’s Wiggins says Eco Drive important step in EV direction.

Continental Building Bridge to Electrified Vehicles

The supplier says its Eco Drive technology can deliver fuel savings up to 17% with a 3-cyl. gasoline engine.

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Acknowledging it’s a large technological jump from internal-combustion powertrains – and even hybrids – to full-blown electric vehicles, German mega-supplier Continental says its 48V “Eco Drive” technology could become an effective bridge to increasing degrees of vehicle electrification.

Speaking on a panel at the Management Briefing Seminars here, Kregg Wiggins, Continental North America’s senior vice president-powertrain, says Eco Drive is an electric machine designed to be incorporated into a combustion-engine powertrain in one of two fashions: either as a more-powerful but relatively low-cost belt-driven replacement for the engine’s conventional alternator or integrated into the transmission as a higher-feature, higher-cost drive-augmentation device.

Continental recently told journalists there are six automakers planning to launch Eco Drive within the next two years.

Wiggins says Eco Drive in effect creates a vehicle with enhanced electric capabilities he terms a “low-voltage hybrid-electric vehicle.”

For reasonable cost, he says, either Eco Drive configuration is a “progression into full electrification” and can demonstrate “fairly significant (fuel-economy) benefit on the drive cycles.”

The belt-driven Eco Drive variant easily could be incorporated into an existing vehicle, Wiggins says, simply replacing the existing alternator. It could provide satisfying, almost instantaneous engine restarts, a boon for the coming deeper penetration in North America of engine stop/start systems, Wiggins says. The belt-driven machine also could enable certain other attractive accessories and features.

A 48V Eco Drive unit incorporated into the transmission can enable a higher order of fuel-saving functionality. With the electric machine integrated into the automatic transmission, the engine could be “downspeeded” during certain drive conditions, as the machine’s “boost” to the transmission enables fuel-saving strategies such as early upshifting, Wiggins says.

The more-sophisticated, transmission-located Eco Drive unit also could provide enough electric oomph to heat the exhaust catalysts, saving fuel normally used in the engine’s cold-start phase to heat the catalysts.

Wiggins says the transmission-integral Eco Drive system could enable other powertrain and vehicle synergies such as engine combustion optimization and “active coasting” that allows decoupling of the engine during light-load driving.

Stacking all the fuel-saving possibilities, Wiggins says, delivers fuel savings up to 17% with a 3-cyl. gasoline engine Continental has used as a test bed. The engine is Ford’s highly regarded (and already quite efficient) 1.0L available in the U.S. market in the Fiesta subcompact and Focus compact cars.

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