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Developing the IC powertrains of the future

A significant proportion of road vehicles will continue to be equipped with Internal Combustion (IC) engines for several decades to come.

In line with market reality and industry’s requirements, IFPEN research in this field aims to find the best compromise in order to improve vehicle energy efficiency while reducing pollutant emissions. In terms of percentage, double figure fuel consumption savings are still possible.

 

Gasoline powertrains

In order to comply with regulatory objectives in terms of global CO2 emission reductions, further energy efficiency improvements need to be made to gasoline engines in order to establish them as a viable alternative to the diesel ones.

To this end, in 2015, IFPEN and one of its industrial partners developed a solution aimed at urban goods transport vehicles (6-19 tonnes). Thanks to the technology developed, these vehicles now have access to a gasoline powertrain with a performance level similar to that of a diesel engine. The other advantage of this approach is that it avoids the need to employ complex pollution after-treatment systems.

In addition, within the context of its historic partnership within the GSM (Groupement scientifique moteurs bringing together IFPEN, Renault and Groupe PSA), IFPEN pursued its research efforts aimed at delaying the onset of abnormal combustion phenomena, evaluating, in particular, the impact of local wall temperatures, cyclic combustion variations and the nature of the lubricant.

                  Optical test bench for study of spark ignition engines via compression.

Lastly, IFPEN continued its research within the context of the Essencyele project supported by ADEME, aimed at developing a highly efficient gasoline engine combined with an affordable hybrid powertrain. Tasked with optimizing this gasoline engine, in 2015 IFPEN’s teams focused on how to increase its compression ratio while reducing the risks of abnormal combustion. The use of 3D calculation enabled teams to identify potential efficiency gains. Thanks to the contribution of advanced technologies such as the Atkinson cycle, these gains, tested on a single-cylinder engine, amounted to nearly 10% over a broad working range.

 

Diesel powertrains

Diesel continues to be the reference fuel for industrial vehicles (off-road - agricultural and site machinery) and heavy trucks. This is a sector that is seeing significant changes due to the tightening up of the highly restrictive Euro 6 and Euro 7 environmental standards, and US Tier 4 standards in the United States.

In this context, IFPEN’s R&I approach is designed to improve the efficiency of diesel powertrains while reducing emissions at source.

Its research concerns:

  • the thermodynamic cycle,
  • the combustion system,
  • and engine control of transient phases.

Diffusive combustion is one of the avenues being explored by IFPEN to improve thermodynamic efficiency.
  
Research is also being conducted to simplify after-treatment systems.

The GSM’s research has led to improvements in terms of efficiency, pollutant emissions, after-treatment activation and transient behavior. These results have been obtained thanks to the original application of a variable valve technology making it possible to effectively optimize the engine combustion system.

In addition, IFPEN is pursuing research launched several years ago on the two-stroke engine, which has emerged as an interesting technological avenue in terms of fuel consumption, pollutant emissions and drivability. A first demonstrator was produced within the context of the European Powerful project. IFPEN has now joined the European Reward project which goal is to develop a new two-stroke diesel powertrain architecture aimed at vehicles in C segment and above.

Finally, in its capacity as an independent expert, IFPEN was commissioned to take part in the Board of Inquiry examining NOx emissions from diesel vehicles, set up by Ségolène Royal, French Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Marine Affairs, in October 2015. For this purpose, IFPEN is conducting additional tests alongside those implemented by the Utac (French Technical Union for the Automobile, Motorcycle and Cycle Industries).

 

Advanced combustion systems

In addition to the research being conducted on conventional engine technologies, IFPEN has also set out to achieve ultra-high efficiencies, with a target of 50%. One of the avenues currently being explored concerns advanced combustion processes, particularly via the analysis of combustion boosters – looking at both fuel and oxidizer –, in order to make it possible to fully exploit the potential of combustions with highly diluted blends.

Within this context, IFPEN is taking part in the Cicco project, supported by ANR, set up to examine the potential of using ozone as a combustion booster. Thanks to its oxidizing capacity, ozone significantly reduces the self-ignition temperature of fuels, including low-cetane fuels. For this project, IFPEN is responsible for numerical and experimental assessment of the impact of ozone on advanced combustion modes.

                       IFPEN analyzes the potential of ozone as a combustion booster.

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Key figures

25%
of global energy demand relates to transport.

3 to 4x
Increase in global individual mobility 2050 (IEA).

x 2
Predicted increase in the number of light-duty vehicles on the world's roads by 2040.

70%
Market share of gasoline engines in vehicle powertrains in 2020.