Overview: Delphi at the Frankfurt motor show

Delphi is a French-based multinational automotive engineering and technology provider. Among other things, the Company builds fuel injection systems, cooling systems and collision-avoidance equipment.

As this is written, the Company has a substantial amount of egg on its face, as the supplier behind the spectacularly unreliable common-rail injection system fitted to the Mercedes OM 651 engine. Still, we think Delphi’s range of activities makes a survey of its current and forthcoming products more than worthwhile.

Crash avoidance technologies

The proportion of cars available with active safety technology of some kind has increased to virtually 100 per cent. over a very short space of time, at least on western markets. Anti-skid, anti-lock and stability systems, which use sensors to detect the speed of wheel rotation and the motion of the car body, are now ubiquitous. Over the last two years or so, a new type of safety system has come along, using radar and cameras to monitor the car’s position within its lane and to detect other vehicles that might present a danger of collision should the driver decide to change lanes or fail to slow down. The systems can be specified to trigger warnings, operate the brakes or apply torque to the steering by means of electric power steering systems. The sensors and software for these systems are available off-the-shelf, with the manufacturer needing only to incorporate the proprietary software into its own vehicle’s control system. The market leaders in this type of technology are presently Delphi and Bosch.

Delphi’s newest sensor fusion product — RACam — is an integrated radar and camera system that enables a suite of active safety systems, including full speed range adaptive cruise control, adaptive headlamp control, traffic sign recognition, forward collision warning, pedestrian detection and autonomous braking, which automatically slows the vehicle to a stop in situations where the driver does not react to a hazard ahead. This ‘single-box’ system is expected to be on the roads in 2014.

Delphi RACam (top) and side radar.

The fusion of radar and camera into one ‘intelligent’ module offers the potential for a sophisticated analysis of the road scene while moving the radar unit out of the vehicle’s crush zone. The system allows the vehicle to respond with appropriate action such as automatically applying the brakes to avoid a collision with a vehicle or pedestrian when the driver fails to react to changing conditions.

Delphi’s latest camera and radar technology, by combining two systems, reduces the cost and complexity of the car’s safety system.

At the heart of RACam is Delphi’s electronically scanning radar. ESR makes it possible to provide mid- and long-range sensing with a single radar. For the first time, radar sensing, vision sensing and processing are integrated in a single compact module that can be mounted on the windscreen side of the rear-view mirror. Separate radar systems are traditionally mounted behind the vehicle's front grille, but RACam’s size makes it possible to locate the radar away from crush zone, helping to reduce repair costs following a frontal impact.

Accidents aren’t restricted to the front of the vehicle, of course. Delphi’s rear and side detection system (RSDS) will help alert drivers of approaching vehicles that may be difficult to spot in side-view mirrors. The system uses high-performance, globally-accepted compact 76GHz radar, providing better long- and short-range capability, target discrimination and range calculation when compared to 24GHz units. RSDS is scheduled to go into production during 2012.

With an increase in hybrid and electric vehicles, with their near-silent operation at low speeds, the safety of pedestrians and cyclists has become a priority. As we reported a few months ago, Delphi has developed a vehicle sounder that is lighter, substantially cheaper and consumes less power than conventional multi-box devices. The new sounder can be mounted under the bonnet and integrated with other vehicle systems such as the vehicle alarm or battery charging system. Capable of reproducing melodies that represent vehicle identity and sounds that indicate the need for specific driver action, Delphi’s vehicle sounder will be on Europe’s roads next year.

While Delphi continues to develop a wide assortment of safety products, the Company also offers expertise in integrating these products with others. An example is Delphi’s MyFi family of connected infotainment products. Connecting with safety, MyFi systems can help mitigate driver distraction while addressing the increasing connectivity requirements of consumers. Currently in production in Europe, MyFi system availability is rapidly expanding to other regions of the world.

As automakers continue to add features like RACam and MyFi, suppliers are also tasked with safely managing electrical power. Delphi’s Battery Electrical Centre offers integrated monitoring and circuit protection, along with a highly accurate rating of the systems’ health, a pyrotechnic disconnect device for collision protection, and several high-current protection devices for auxiliary loads. For vehicle systems operating at high voltages, such as hybrid and electric vehicles, Delphi’s High Voltage Interlock (HVIL) prevents dangerous arcing that could occur if the connectors are pulled apart too quickly. This system detects the separation and transmits a signal to the control computer, which automatically disables the power supply.

Green technology at Frankfurt

Delphi’s areas of interest include not just electronics but also larger-scale conventional engineering. But with virtually all ‘real’ componentry now controlled by electronics, the two aspects of automotive engineering can’t really be separated. So it is that companies such as Delphi and Bosch that make — for example — fuel injection systems, also develop and produce the electronic systems to control them.

At Frankfurt, Delphi showed a range of what it called ‘green’ technologies that the company is bringing to market. These ranged from vehicle electrification and engine systems to developments in air-conditioning and vehicle wiring.

Improvements that will have strong impact on environmental friendliness can obviously be made under the bonnet. Delphi’s work with diesel and petrol engines has led to a portfolio of products that help reduce CO2 and NOx, and which will help vehicle manufacturers meet increasingly demanding emissions regulations.

Delphi’s high-pressure SCR (Selective Catalytic Reduction) dosing system and ammonia sensor will help manufacturers meet stricter NOx requirements such as EU6 and Tier 2 bin 5 while allowing further reductions in CO2 emissions and overall system cost. The SCR system injects aqueous urea solution into the exhaust system as a means of generating ammonia gas, which is used to reduce nitrogen oxides in the SCR catalyst. Because engine fuelling can be reduced for a benchmark power output and emissions standard, improved fuel efficiency also results. Delphi’s ammonia sensor can be used to monitor the effectiveness of the system, minimising ammonia ‘slip’. The ammonia sensor potentially allows the SCR catalyst size to be reduced, and also reduces the amount of urea that needs to be carried on the vehicle. Delphi’s SCR dosing system will enter production in 2014, while the ammonia sensor will be introduced next year.

Delphi ammonia sensor.

For petrol engines, we know that technology improvements bring about steady gains in combustion efficiency and cleanliness. One of the most promising technologies to gain wide acceptance over recent years is direct injection, which depends not only on sophisticated gas-flow dynamics in the combustion chamber but also on powerful electronics to work properly: the first car with a direct injection petrol engine was the Mercedes 300SL (which used a Bosch mechanical injection pump) in 1954, but such engines have traditionally suffered severe NOx emissions. For stratified charge engines, in which the fuel-air mixture is heterogeneous, the mixture concentration close to the spark plug varies substantially; there is also very little time between injection and start of combustion. Delphi’s multi-charge ignition system, which uses one coil for each cylinder and fires the spark plug several times per combustion event, delivers a significant improvement in combustion stability, leading to smoother running and reduced cold-start emissions. Multi-charge ignition also offers the potential to use increased exhaust gas recirculation to improve combustion efficiency and reduce NOx emissions. Delphi multi-charge ignition will be on the roads in 2012.

Traditional air-conditioning systems can account for up to five per cent. of a vehicle’s fuel usage. Delphi’s air-conditioning technologies can reduce HVAC (heating, ventilation and air-conditioning) fuel usage by up to 50 per cent. Delphi was the first supplier to introduce a variable compressor, which has since evolved into today’s high-efficiency compact variable air conditioning compressor (CVC). The Company continues to develop a portfolio of CVC products focused on improved fuel economy. Delphi will soon produce a newly redesigned five-cylinder CVC that is significantly lighter than its predecessor. With a die-cast aluminum shell, this lightweight, high strength compressor provides improved comfort, fuel economy and dehumidification. Additionally, it is engineered for uninterrupted air conditioning at high engine speeds. Aimed at small cars, Delphi’s latest 5CVC will be on the road in 2014.

Since many car journeys include only the driver, it is wasteful to heat or cool the entire passenger cabin. Delphi’s new Spot Heating and Cooling System reduces this waste by providing heating and cooling only to areas of the occupant’s body that are most sensitive to temperature. The technique will allow faster thermal comfort, even before the engine is fully warm, increasing consistency across the body and substantially reducing energy consumption. This novel system is expected to enter the market in 2016.

One of the unique characteristics of a hybrid vehicle is that its engine can shut off while it’s going along, and not just when you’re waiting at a red light. Conventionally, air-conditioning compressors were belt-driven by the engine, so when the engine shuts off, so does the air-conditioning system. To help keep passengers comfortable when this happens, Delphi has developed a Phase-Change Material (PCM) storage system. A direct replacement for the original equipment evaporator, the system integrates a reservoir of the phase-changing material within the air-conditioning evaporator. During normal operation, thermal energy is removed from the material which solidifies (freezes). When the vehicle’s engine is stopped, the PCM gradually melts, drawing heat from the air to keep passengers cool and comfortable. The system can typically maintain target air temperature at the cabin vents for one to two minutes, keeping occupants comfortable during periods of stop-start driving. The PCM evaporator is expected to enter production during 2014.

Vehicles have more than a mile of wiring, dozens of computer modules and multiple serial data links. Because of its size and complexity, the electrical-electronic architecture (E/EA) system presents a great opportunity to save mass and space. Delphi’s aluminium cabling is an approach to saving both mass and space. The cable is now in production and will be on the roads in 2012, bringing with it mass reductions of up to 48 per cent. over traditional copper-core cable without sacrificing performance. For a given power rating, aluminium cabling weighs about half as much as copper, allowing around 1.8kg to be trimmed from a typical vehicle through material substitution in the wiring harness.

Innovations in materials technology for the cable core and insulation have already allowed a substantial reduction in the size and mass of copper-core cable — from 0.35mm² (22 gauge) thin-wall cable to just 0.13mm² (26 gauge) ultra-thin-wall cable — while also improving tensile strength and resistance to pinch and abrasion. Delphi is also the first supplier to market a new electrical centre technology that uses micro-fuses for circuit protection to reduce electrical centre size and footprint by up to 30 per cent.

In 2013, a further step in mass-reduction and miniaturisation will be available to vehicle manufacturers when Delphi’s 0.50 Connection System enters production. Offering mass reduction of up to 60 per cent. and requiring up to 50 per cent. less packaging volume compared with a typical 0.64 system, these new connectors are validated to USCAR-2 and crimp to cable as small as 0.05mm².

Materials reduction is also happening with Delphi’s in-car entertainment products, with the Company deploying its proprietary ultra-light plastic chassis for its audio systems. The current plastic composite technology with insert-moulded EMC shielding improves structural integrity, can be used in fully plastic or hybrid versions, and reduces the weight of receivers by up to 70 per cent.

Hybrid and electric vehicles offer special opportunities for suppliers to maintain the health of the electrical system, ensure seamless performance and increase range life, and make these green vehicles an affordable choice for consumers.

Hybrids and electrics require inverters to manage power demands for propulsion. Delphi’s inverter uses patented power silicon packaging to reduce cost, size and mass, while increasing overall reliability. The unique packaging eliminates wire bonds, enables higher current and power density, and when combined with double-side cooling, reduces power semiconductor area. The inverter will be in volume production in 2013.

Delphi’s battery-pack controller calculates state-of-charge, evaluates battery health and determines the power available for the drivetrain. Using this information, it performs cell balancing to maintain cell safety and increase battery life. The battery pack controller is scalable, Autosar capable, relatively cheap, compatible with multiple cell chemistries and is expected to be in production in 2012.

Power inverters, battery-packs and other HEV/EV components create a high-voltage environment that can be dangerous to drivers and service technicians. Delphi’s electrical and electronic architecture systems help keep both safe with physical harness protection systems, battery monitoring devices, plug-in charging systems and a series of connection systems that incorporate the shielding, sealing and high-voltage safety interconnectors required for high-voltage, high-power applications.

With stop-start systems becoming all but universal on newly-introduced drivetrains in many western markets, the demand for air-conditioning that doesn’t depend on the engine is obviously significant. We have already touched on this issue above.

Delphi Automotive is developing air conditioning technology that aims to save energy without compromising cabin comfort. The Company’s new PCM evaporator will keep the cabin of stop-start vehicles cooler longer, and the system is also ideal for extending the electric range of hybrid and electric vehicles. The PCM system is a direct replacement for the original air-conditioning evaporator, but is usefully cheaper and less complex than an electric air conditioning compressor. It is also more efficient.

Delphi PCM evaporator.

Delphi’s system integrates a reservoir of phase-changing material within the air-conditioning evaporator. During normal operation, thermal energy is removed from the material which solidifies (freezes). When the engine (and with it the air-conditioning system) is stopped, the PCM gradually melts, drawing heat from the air to keep passengers cool and comfortable. Several families of materials possess useful phase-change properties, including hydrated salts, organic and inorganic eutectic mixtures, paraffins and fatty acids. Delphi selected paraffin-based PCMs for their combination of thermal properties and robust, long-term reliability.

Delphi has used the PCM in current evaporators with few additional parts to create a thermal-siphon effect with the refrigerant already present within the evaporator, eliminating any moving parts and simplifying the installation.

Delphi reckons that its PCM-based air-conditioning system can reduce parasitic fuel usage by 50 per cent., while continuing to improve occupant comfort. It’s likely that, in most cases, a vehicle manufacturer will be able to switch to a PCM-based system with no need for any re-engineering.

Delphi at Frankfurt

  • Audi Q3: Ultrasonic alarm, Connectivity Navigation Radio
  • Audi A6 Avant: Connectivity Navigation Radio, ultrasonic alarm, LED light controls, interior harness
  • Audi S7: Ultrasonic alarm, Interior Harness
  • BMW 1 Series: Emergency antenna, steering wheel switches, carbon canisters
  • BMW 6 Series Coupé: Antenna system, TV receiver, roof module, various switches
  • BMW M5: Antenna system, TV Receiver, roof module, seat switches
  • Citroën DS5: Various switches, gearchange paddle controls, ultrasonic module and alarm sounder, diesel common rail, engine cooling module (radiator, condenser and intercooler)
  • Ferrari 458 Spider: Wiring harness (body and injection), heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) module, compressor, condenser
  • Fiat Panda: Body computer module, immobiliser coil, key fob electronics
  • Ford Mondeo: Electronically scanning radar (ESR sensor), body control module, wiring harness (incl. 0.13mm²), connection systems, diesel common rail, carbon canister
  • Mercedes B-Class: DAB Tuner, satellite digital audio reception system, passive occupant detection system, headlamp levelling control, ultrasonic alarm, eCall antenna, fuse and relay box, diesel common rail system
  • Mercedes M-Class: DAB Tuner, satellite digital audio reception system, passive occupant detection system, headlamp levelling control, ultrasonic alarm, TV receiver, rear body computer, power liftgate module, eCall antenna, wiring, fuse and relay box, diesel common rail system
  • Mercedes SLS Roadster: Antenna, satellite digital audio reception system, passive occupant detection system
  • Mini Coupé: Antenna system, engine harness
  • Opel Astra GTC: Integrated centre panel, ultrasonic alarm, power sounder, ECU, complete CRFM (condenser, radiator and fan module), compressors
  • Opel Zafira: Adaptive cruise control, ultrasonic alarm, power sounder, fuel tank wiring harness, complete CRFM (condenser, radiator and fan module), compressors
  • Porsche 911: Integrated antenna, TV Tuner, passive occupant detection system, carbon canister
  • Renault Twingo: Wiring harness, cam phaser
  • Volkswagen Up: Ultrasonic alarm, LED light controls, immobiliser
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