Valeo Sees Opportunity in Drive for Fuel Efficiency

With pressure from both regulators and increasingly from customers, the French supplier expects half its revenues in 2013 to come from its CO2-reduction products.

William Diem, Correspondent

March 19, 2010

5 Min Read
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PARIS – Valeo SA is trying to recover from its lack of growth over the last decade by focusing on technologies that will improve automotive efficiency.

For Valeo President Jacques Aschenbroich, the theme of the Geneva auto show “was not the rebound of the auto industry, but the search for the technical solutions of the future. Carbon-dioxide reduction is our guiding principal for the coming years.”

The French supplier has been showing analysts and customers a slew of new products that would improve fuel economy.

These range from saving 0.3 oz. (180 g) of weight in a set of four door locks to an intelligent thermal management system that would deliver hot or cold water to the engine’s cooling circuit, as required to reduce emissions and improve performance 10%.

“We’ve talked about intelligent cooling for five or six years, and people weren’t very interested,” says Martin Haub, group vice president-research and development and product marketing. “Today, we can’t satisfy all the customer demands for prototypes.”

While all the big markets are demanding better fuel efficiency, Europe’s goal of 95 g/km of CO2 emissions in 2020 is the most ambitious. The fines for missing the interim goal of 130 g/km in 2018 will be €95 ($131) per gram per car.

To avoid this, auto makers are willing to pay suppliers from €20-E50 ($28-$69) per gram saved, Haub says.

Valeo is reorganizing into four product areas: propulsion, thermal control, visibility and driver aid and comfort. In addition, nearly 100 different departments are being consolidated into 16 product groups. Purchasing, human resources and logistics are being organized globally. Overall, Valeo, under Aschenbroich, is organizing itself more like its customers.

Valeo already has booked most of its anticipated OEM business for 2013, when it expects sales to reach €10 billion ($13.7 billion), up from €7.5 billion ($10.3 billion) last year.

Valeo to supply PSA second-generation stop/start system, beginning with C3 Picasso next year.

Among the new products Valeo is showing:

Aquablade: A windshield-wiper system that dribbles the water out of the blade as it moves, instead of spraying the entire windshield. Direct reversible wiper motors, already on the market, save 3.8 lbs. (1.7 kg) over a system using mechanical links, and the precise delivery of water means auto makers can save another 4.4 lbs. (2 kg) by using a smaller wiper fluid supply tank.

Intelligent cooling: A key element is the water-cooled condenser. Instead of having its own air-cooled condenser in front of the car, the water-cooled unit can be located next to the passenger compartment, saving some tubing.

An electronic-control unit monitors the heat in the system and the heating or cooling required by the engine, air conditioning, EGR system, high-tech battery and oil cooler. It also delivers the proper solution using intelligent valves. The system can improve fuel economy 10%.

Second-generation start/stop system that adds regenerative braking: This goes into production in July for PSA Peugeot Citroen, which launched start/stop in 2004. Valeo has a second contract in Asia.

Where the first generation was worth about 6% fuel-economy improvement, the next generation takes it to 10%. During engine braking, the alternator produces energy for a collection of 10 ultracapacitors. They deliver the energy back to the motor to add up to 5 kW (7 hp) for several seconds to turn the engine during startup.

E-Supercharging: Valeo is working with an unnamed supplier of superchargers on the concept of using the energy stored by the ultracapacitors to power a supercharger, which would add 15 kW of energy for several seconds to the engine during launch.

“This is a downsizing enabler,” says electronics-engineer Henri Trintignac, because it adds boost independent of engine speed. The result would be an engine like the Volkswagen 1.4L, with both a supercharger for low-load operation and a turbocharger for high-load boosting.

A robust clutch that takes over some engine damping duties: Small engines need a damper to prevent vibrations, and a dual-mass flywheel is often the best choice. Valeo has introduced what it calls a long travel damper to tackle tough noise, vibration and harshness problems with downsized engines.

But for certain, less-powerful engines, it has another solution. The new thicker clutch weighs 3.3 lbs. (1.5 kg), more than the 1.8-lb. (0.8-kg) clutch normally used. But it pairs with a single-mass flywheel weighing 20 lbs. (9.0 kg), instead of a double-mass flywheel weighing 29.8 lbs. (13.5 kg). Net weight savings: 8.4 lbs. (3.8 kg).

Charger-inverter for plug-ins and electric vehicles: The device uses the same power electronics for two functions. That’s because when the vehicle is being charged, the motor obviously is not being used. So a single coil and associated elements can be shared, saving 4.4 lbs. (2 kg) from components and cables, as well as cost.

With all its ideas, Valeo says it can bring emissions of 173 g/km down to 95 g/km; extend the range of an EV 2%; and bring diesel emissions, including oxides of nitrogen, down to tough Euro 6 standards without special NOx aftertreatment.

Obviously, it all costs money. But with pressure from both regulators and increasingly from customers, the French supplier expects half its revenues in 2013 to come from its CO2-reduction products.

A recent visit by engineers from Dongfeng Nissan Co. Ltd. to France offered some confirmation of Valeo’s optimism, says Olivier Raby, an engineer who has been working on the Aquablade windshield wiper.

He says he showed the system to the visitors, including a video portraying how end users would perceive the product. “They asked me how much, and I told them a figure that I won’t tell you,” Raby says.

The system is expensive, compared with the standard solution, but the Dongfeng-Nissan visitors said it was “cheap.”

“They said customers would pay for it,” Raby says.

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