BOXBERG, Germany - Better fuel economy and tighter emissions requirements are driving major changes in powertrain technology, says Bernd Bohr, former automotive chief at Robert Bosch GmbH.
Bohr spoke with Special Correspondent Richard Truett at a press event here before he left Bosch at the end of June.
Bosch wants to double the driving range of lithium ion batteries and cut the cost in half. What is the road map to do that?
A lot of it is [improving] the chemistry. We think we can improve the energy density by a factor of two. Today, we are roughly at 130 watt hours per kilogram per cell. This will go to 200 by 2016, and we see it going to 300 by 2020. So that is basically the road map - improvements in the anode, cathode and electrolyte as well as all the mechanics that go into the cell.
If Bosch doubles the driving range and cuts the cost, will electric vehicles be viable?
It makes them more viable. There is a place in the market for electric vehicles, which we think in the beginning is commuting. We think that a real-world driving range of at least 150 kilometers [93 miles] is necessary even for a commuting vehicle. Even though you don't drive 150, you still want the opportunity to go further without having to stop and calculate how much range you have. And that's with the heating, lighting and stereo on - real-world driving.
Do you see a day when there is just one diesel emissions system for Europe and North America, with maybe just different software calibration?
As soon as we come to world-harmonized emission regulations then that would be the case. Currently we have significant differences between the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. regulations are currently the toughest.
When Euro 6 emissions standards take effect Sept. 1, 2014, most European diesel cars will for the first time be equipped with urea injection systems. Will this big increase in volume help lower the cost of diesel cars in North America?
It would, yes. Currently urea systems are in use in the heaviest vehicles [semitrucks] in Europe, so small numbers. As production numbers grow, this will have a positive effect on the cost of implementing diesel in the U.S. In the last seven years, we have reduced the cost of the urea system by about 70 percent. The first systems we had were really expensive and complicated and cost more than the fuel injection system.
Will all diesel engines need urea to meet emissions in Europe and North America?
No. It is not needed on everything. It depends on the driving cycle. NOx [oxides of nitrogen] increases substantially when you have high loads on the engine. On European cars, especially big vehicles with small engines such as vans, they are toughest to meet emissions, and you will see urea on those vehicles. We would try to improve the engine-out emissions on small vehicles so we don't have to use urea.
Does Bosch have a role to play in helping automakers cut weight?
We do work on weight reduction on larger units such as alternators and starter motors, the heaviest components.
Bosch is new to the turbocharger business. How are sales going?
We had a bit of a slower start because the first customer postponed start of production and didn't ramp up as fast as we had hoped for. In 2014, we will hit our plan and be where we want to be, around 1 million turbochargers. We will start in China next year.
Are smaller engines, such as the three-cylinder units from BMW and Ford, bad for business?
These are not low-tech engines. Yes, we miss one fuel injector, but they have turbocharging and they need quite sophisticated control strategies to make these engines drivable.