DETROIT - Hydra LLC, the U.S. automotive subsidiary of Germany's Witzenmann GmbH, will supply new fuel-rail technology to the new 3.7-liter, six-cylinder Mercedes-Benz gasoline engine this year.
Working with Robert Bosch Corp., Hydra has developed a patented stainless steel damper that operates inside of the fuel rail, not outside as dampers normally do. By developing a flexible steel tube that can absorb pressure, Hydra created a component that can help reduce pressure fluctuations, enhance engine durability and improve cold-weather performance.
The part will be produced at Hydra's Salem, N.H., manufacturing plant, which opened in 1997.
The unassuming, 12-inch-long crimped tube is a critical development for the supplier. Hydra believes because the new damper is simple to produce and needs no assembly, it will shave 30 percent off the cost of the traditional diaphragm dampers it wants to replace.
The cost savings is prompting Bosch to use the technology on all of its new fuel-rail designs. That could mean Hydra will go from virtually no presence in the North American engine market to a major position, since Bosch supplies several North American automakers, including General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler group.
Last week at the SAE 2000 World Congress, Hydra officials said they are forecasting a 200 percent sales gain. Last year, the subsidiary saw sales of $6.5 million, stemming exclusively from exports of flexible metal components from New Hampshire to Europe. After the introduction of the air tube later this year, sales will rise to about $20 million in 2003, said Hans-Eberhard Koch, Hydra president.
Typical diaphragm dampers are at one end of the fuel rail to dampen pressure fluctuations as injectors open and close. In the event of a system failure, they can allow fuel leakage.
Koch said the new concept would not allow leakage, since it is housed inside the fuel rail. And because of its steel composition, it is impervious to cold temperatures. Traditional dampers are susceptible to becoming rigid in low temperatures, decreasing their ability to dampen.