Growing European demand for better fuel economy is fueling the rapid development of direct-injection diesel engines.
The fuel-economy benefits of direct injection have lifted the share of diesel engines in Europe to 27 percent of sales this year, up from 25 percent in 1998.
Although the overall European market for engine control systems is flat, the trend toward direct-injection has created a sense of urgency among automakers.
Suppliers benefiting from the trend include Robert Bosch GmbH, Siemens AG and Delphi Automotive Systems.
Bosch is the market leader in engine control units, with more than 50 percent of the European market, according to Standard & Poor's/DRI. At the Frankfurt auto show, Bosch introduced its Motronic MED engine management system that will be fitted to the Volkswagen Lupo next year.
Also next year, Siemens will produce a second-generation common-rail diesel injection system for two European automakers.
Meanwhile, Delphi has unveiled a diesel system featuring an ion-sensing device that increases torque by 3 percent to 4 percent. Pilot production has started, and full production is planned for 2003.
In a common-rail direct-injection diesel engine, fuel is pumped at high pressure into a metal tube. That tube - called the common rail - feeds fuel to computer-controlled fuel injectors. This adjusts the flow of fuel for maximum performance and economy.
Automakers are pushing development of better diesel and gasoline engine management systems to comply with tough European pollution standards.
Starting in 2005, strict EURO 4 emission thresholds will reduce allowable emissions of carbon dioxide, oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbons to a third of their current levels. In addition, European car companies have pledged to reduce new-car fuel consumption by 25 percent in 2008, compared with 1995 levels.
To comply, automakers are developing a flood of new gasoline direct-injection engines. These powerplants are expected to account for 23 percent of European gasoline engine production in 2003, and 50 percent by 2007, according to Siemens and Bosch. Those two companies unveiled the first European engine control units for gasoline direct-injection powerplants this year.
This year, Delphi launched a new common-rail diesel system, which Delphi believes will aim at the North American market, as well as Europe.