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Oz engine tech could come here via China

FlexDI: Perth-based Orbital Corporation will supply Chinese manufacturer Changan with engine tech for future models.

Orbital’s Australian engine tech could lower emissions of Chinese cars sold here

General News logo10 May 2011

PERTH’S Orbital Corporation has revealed better than expected performance results for its advanced new FlexDI direct-injection fuel system, which will be fitted to a range of Chinese-built Changan vehicles that could eventually be sold in Australia.

Orbital’s LPG division, Orbital Autogas Systems, is the original equipment supplier for HSV’s Australian-first Liquid Propane Injection (LPI) system and will also supply Ford with the Falcon’s upcoming sequential liquid injection EcoLPi gas system.

Now it has revealed the results of the critical second phase of its deal to supply Chongqing Changan, one of China’s largest car-makers, with its patented FlexDI system that could fuel a number of new Changan models revealed at the recent Shanghai motor show.

Reports from the show claim Changan is in discussions to distribute its vehicles in Australia. Changan produces a range of passenger cars for China, including the Focus and Mondeo in a joint-venture with Ford, the Star micro-minibus and the Benni, Jiexun and Zhixiang sedans, plus the Jiangling engine family.

Changan used the Shanghai show to debut the Sense luxury plug-in hybrid sedan concept, the Clover small battery-electric sedan and the Voss hybrid people-mover concept, with the most likely to reach production being the Clover, followed by the Voss.

 center imageFrom top: Orbital ICCS engine at Auto Shanghai, Changan Voss, Changan Clover, Changan Sense.

Suggesting it might also begin joint-venture operations with PSA Peugeot Citroen, Changan and PSA also displayed a funky two-door ‘Green-i’ city-car concept in Shanghai.

If introduced here, Changan would join pioneering Chinese passenger vehicle brands Great Wall Motors, Chery and Geely, with at least two others – Foton and JAC - to follow by 2012.

There is no guarantee that Australian-engineered Orbital engine technology will be fitted to any Changan products, but the car-maker enlisted Orbital’s help in early 2009 specifically to help it meet China’s stringent new Stage III fuel consumption regulations.

To come into effect in 2012, China’s new vehicle efficiency laws call for consumption reductions of around 20 per cent, but Orbital claims the FlexDI system has achieved far better results than that.

Combined with other advanced technologies including Changan’s own new Intelligent Compound Combustion System (ICCS), FlexDI has reduced the fuel consumption of Changan’s existing D20 four-cylinder engine by up to 40 per cent, while increasing torque output by 10 per cent.

Orbital says recent Changan testing on the ICCS engine revealed a fuel consumption reduction of more than 27 per cent at a typical part-load engine speed of 2000rpm, and by more than 40 per cent at idle.

Orbital’s project manager for Changan engine development program, Nick Coplin, said the low-pressure air-assisted FlexDI system differs significantly from conventional direct-injection petrol systems.

“Conventional direct-injection systems inject fuel at extremely high pressure in order to achieve the small fuel droplet size needed to improve efficiency and reduce particulate emissions,” he said in a May 9 press release.

“Orbital's FlexDI overcomes these issues by injecting the fuel at comparatively low pressure and utilising air pressure to atomise the mixture as it is delivered to the combustion chamber.”

Apart from Orbital’s FlexDI system, Changan’s ICCS engine concept incorporates the latest low-friction components, plus variable valve timing, variable valve lift and exhaust gas recirculation.

While Orbital branched into liquid-injection LPG technology when it acquired the LPG operations of Boral group – and partnered with established LPG players Vialle and Continental – in 2009, it continues to develop other engine technologies for both local and global manufacturers.

As we reported in March last year, Orbital applied its FlexDI system to Changan’s four-cylinder engine with the aid of a $440,413 grant from the federal government’s now-defunct Green Car Innovation Fund.

It followed the announcement of the Changan deal in May 2009, when Orbital invested $2.4 million in an 18-month proof-of-concept development contract to fit its Australian-designed DI system to Changan’s current petrol engine family at its Perth engineering centre.

Orbital’s integrated FlexDI ignition/injection system was previously seen on the variable-compression two-stroke Omnivore research engine from Lotus, and has been used in outboard marine, motorcycle and ATV engine applications since 2000.

In its Changan application, FlexDI aims to deliver best-in-class fuel consumption while meeting Euro 4 emissions standards, but is adaptable to suit almost all alternative fuels, including hydrogen.

“The Orbital FlexDI system, in tandem with other advanced engine technologies embedded in the ICCS engine, has the potential to provide best-in-class fuel consumption,” said the supervisor of Changan’s ICCS project and vice-director of the Changan Auto Research Institute, Dr Zhan.

Orbital says that unlike direct-injection systems from other manufacturers, FlexDI does not require low-sulphur premium fuels, which add significantly to running costs and are not widely available in some developing markets.

“With FlexDI, a cleaner and more efficient combustion occurs without the need for higher quality fuels,” said Mr Coplin.

“Significant improvements in fuel consumption can still be achieved with FlexDI by using lean-burn in combination with a three-way catalyst after-treatment approach.”

Orbital Corporation CEO Terry Stinson said his company looked forward to the continued success of its collaboration with Changan.

“Changan appear to be leading the way with advanced engine technology in China and Orbital is honoured to be part of the ICCS project,” he said.

Changan was established in 1996 and produces a range of passenger and commercial vehicles for the world’s largest automotive market. It was rated China’s fourth-biggest car-maker with 2.38 million vehicles in 2010, behind SAIC, Dongfeng and FAW.

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