Delphi Wants Partners for 48V Technology

While Delphi might lack the motor- or battery-making capabilities of its rivals, it boasts one big advantage, the supplier’s product chief says.

James M. Amend, Senior Editor

May 18, 2016

3 Min Read
Delphi 48V demonstrator
Delphi 48V demonstrator.

TROY, MI – A top Delphi executive says the global supplier is actively seeking partners to deliver electric motors and batteries to its 48V stop-start system, a fuel-saving hybrid technology expected to take the industry by storm in the coming years.

Mary Gustanski, vice president-engineering and product management at Delphi, says the U.K.-based component and electronics expert wants motor and battery partners with flexible packaging to accommodate placement in a variety of spots in the vehicle. Robust, lightweight designs also are wanted. Value is another key factor, she says.

“We’re looking for the most efficient components at the best cost,” Gustanski tells WardsAuto on the sidelines of a 48V briefing on Delphi’s North American campus here.

Delphi needs partners to deploy its 48V system because the onetime General Motors subsidiary shrunk its parts-making business after bankruptcy a few years ago to concentrate on vehicle software and electronics. It wants to be the go-to supplier for OEMs looking to integrate the safety, efficiency and connected technologies of their vehicles.

A typical 48V installation swaps out the engine’s traditional alternator for a motor-generator backed by a small lithium-ion battery. The system does not replace the vehicle’s 12V electrical architecture or lead-acid battery; instead, it provides power when the vehicle shuts down at a stop and helps restart. It provides smoother, more seamless and driver-friendly stop-start performance than a 12V system alone.

The extra power also can take on tasks such as running a turbocharger or cooling fan to alleviate the engine workload and further increase efficiency. It can provide a propulsion boost, too.

Fuel savings for 48V systems can be upwards of 15%, or a 10% slash in carbon-dioxide emissions, and is seen as a key enabler for automakers to meet tightening efficiency regulations. At a system cost of between $1,000 and $2,000, 48V units come at one-third the investment of stronger hybrid technology.

“It is a game-changer,” Gustanski says.

Delphi has two unidentified OEMs launching production models with its 48V system by the end of next year. Gustanski offers no volume estimates, but says the supplier is vying for big piece of what is expected to be a 12.5 million-unit global vehicle population using 48V technology by 2025.

Germany’s Continental and Bosch also are fighting for a piece of the 48V market with end-to-end systems.

And while Delphi might lack the motor- or battery-making capabilities of its rivals, Gustanski claims its new focus on software and electronics gives it an advantage. That’s also why most automakers are not doing 48V systems in-house, she adds, because no OEM has the time or willingness to dedicate costly manpower to bring a unit to market before regulations tighten.

“We’re not selling standard 48V systems here,” Gustanski adds. “What we’re selling is a 48V system that is additive to everything we’ve done on a fuel system, everything that we’ve ever done for the engine.”

Delphi is demonstrating its 48V system in a Honda Civic with 1.6L 4-cyl. diesel, where in addition to providing the stop-start function it powers an electric supercharger.

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