Two engineering executives from Auria Solutions will be presenting at the WardsAuto Interiors Conference May 30 at Detroit’s Cobo Center.
A quiet cabin always has been a high priority for automakers. Mercedes, Lexus and other luxury brands have built their identities around the concept. But electrified powertrains and self-driving capabilities are adding new twists to silencing noise, vibration and harshness issues.
Electric drive motors may eliminate internal-combustion engine clatter, but they can open a Pandora’s box of annoying new noises and vibrations at different frequencies that need to be squelched.
Autonomy introduces new problems, too. Robo taxis may transport 100 passengers or more per day, creating special wear-and-tear issues for vehicle interiors. And then there will be a segment filled with luxury-brand autonomous vehicles, and owners will have very high expectations for comfort and quiet.
“It is amazing that the interior NVH performance is actually very poor on EVs even at the high end of the cost range. It’s less than a mid-segment sedan,” says Brian Pour, CEO of Auria Solutions, a new global company focused on the increasingly complex task of making quieter vehicles.
Auria is known in the auto industry as a soft trim supplier, which includes flooring, acoustics and fiber-based parts such as carpets, dash insulators, trunk trim package trays, underbody shielding, underhood thermal management insulation and wheel arch liners.
It was formed last September as a joint venture between International Automotive Components and Chinese supplier Shanghai Shenda Co.
IAC spun off its soft-trim business and Shenda bought a 70% stake in the company, with IAC retaining 30%. The company’s operational headquarters is in Southfield, MI, a suburb of Detroit.
“We’re taking a business unit from inside of a larger company and we’re carving it out and standing it up,” Pour says. The move gives both companies the opportunity to expand more globally. Shenda, already a major player in China, now gets access to IAC’s markets in Europe, North America and Africa.
Auria’s largest customers worldwide are Daimler, General Motors and BMW, but no single customer represents more than 20% of revenue, Pour says.
Auria President and CEO Brian Pour
The new company came together smoothly because Pour and Shenda Chairman Yao Minghua have a long business relationship dating back 20 years through several business ventures.
Auria has 29 manufacturing plants, nine engineering, testing and tooling facilities and 7,000 employees and plans on steady growth. Pour now is eying areas where Auria doesn’t yet have much of a footprint, such as India, Indonesia and Thailand.
One of the company’s higher-profile parts is a dash insulator that uses a new material and molding process to prevent engine compartment noise from entering the cabins. It’s used on the some of the latest top European luxury models.
The wall between the engine compartment and the back of the instrument panel is filled with holes for wiring and other systems that allow noise to enter the cabin. Auria’s newest dash insulator features a spray-on polyurethane foam that can be applied in “hot spots” where engineering modeling indicates higher noise levels.
The spongy foam can be used to expand in the dash insulator holes and form a gasket around whatever may be sticking out, preventing engine and suspension noises from intruding. It makes luxury vehicle cabins quieter than competitors with conventional insulators.
Pour admits soft trim and acoustical parts are not the sexiest components, but they are playing an increasingly important role throughout the interior of vehicles, especially as electrification and autonomy begin to alter the automotive landscape.
A recent study on the future of the automotive supply chain released by consultants at Roland Berger says more attention to NVH and increased interior sound insulation will be an important feature of vehicle interiors going forward.
“The acoustical side of our business really is the key takeaway,” Pour says. “Acoustical knowledge, the ability to understand noise intrusion, the type of noise and how you address it through various layers of your composite is what’s critical about our product.”
Certain noises in conventional vehicles cancel each other out and go unnoticed by drivers and passengers, but when some of those noises go away when electric motors displace conventional powertrains, formerly undetected frequencies can pop up and become very annoying, Pour says.
Auria has been doing intensive studies and teardowns of EVs during the past year at its technical centers in Michigan and Germany, running the cars on dynos while acoustically mapping their interiors, then replacing crucial soft parts with new types of insulation and sound-absorbing materials to demonstrate their ability to improve interior NVH.
“We’ve developed a number of materials and used our facilities in Plymouth, (MI), and Germany to show customers where they are falling down and what we can provide to give them a better solution; quieter interiors to help the consumer experiences,” Pour says, adding there are several options on the menu.
“We show how we can deliver a quieter, lighter product or a cheaper, quieter product that is a little heavier.”
Another new product area Auria is developing is specialized flooring for vehicles. Many self-driving concepts feature architectural-like wooden flooring for a living-room-on-wheels appearance. It looks great, but Pour says these concept-car materials could never meet production-car requirements for weight, durability, cost or other specs.
Armorlite can be made with many patterns and textures.
Auria is touting a new industrial material trademarked “Armorlite” that can meet new appearance demands and automotive specs.
The material can be made to look like wood grain, carbon fiber or a variety of other patterns. Standard automotive torture tests show the material is extremely durable, ready to face 100 pairs of feet per day 24/7 in robo taxis or shared vehicles.
Farther down the road Pour is talking about using heated floors to replace bulky climate control systems in vehicles.
“HVACs are a nightmare to design around. Do they have to be there? Maybe not. If you’ve ever had heated floors in your house it is really nice. That might be a way to open up space.”
However, the biggest challenge for automakers and suppliers wanting to make quieter interiors does not involve the actual interior, Pour says.
“One of the (design) trends is that from the beltline and above the vehicle is all glass. What is the least acoustic product in a car? The glass. You work so hard to address all the intrusion coming in from the road, the wheel wells and the dash and then you put a greenhouse of glass above it and it becomes difficult to keep sound from bouncing around the cabin.”
Even so, automotive glass producers are coming up with solutions such as sound-absorbing acoustic glass and Pour says he wants to collaborate. “We are looking to work with those folks on a solution we can take back to the OEMs.”