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VIEWPOINT | HIGH-PERFORMANCE FUEL SYSTEMS

Supplying engines with fuel may sound easy, but the challenge is becoming significantly sophisticated as carmakers strive to make vehicles simultaneously more powerful and energy efficient.
#HP #Peugeot #Dodge

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Supplying engines with fuel may sound easy, but the challenge is becoming significantly sophisticated as carmakers strive to make vehicles simultaneously more powerful and energy efficient. Today's most advanced fuel pumps, for example, optimize engine power and fuel efficiency by matching fuel flow to the instantaneous demands of the engine. Then they deliver the fuel through sophisticated multi-layered plastic, coated steel and stainless steel lines engineered to meet global performance and evaporative emission targets.

TI Automotive, already a worldwide leader in fuel handling components, is expanding its systems capabilities. For the first time, the company also is providing fuel system technology support to an endurance racing team. Chief Technology Officer Al Deane discusses the trends.

What is driving the need for high-tech fuel management systems?

Fuel economy is a big factor. Our brushless fuel pump motors are smaller and lighter than conventional products. They can increase a vehicle's fuel economy over 0.5% because they have no wearing surfaces and use electronic controls that may be linked directly to the engine control module. This is especially important with automatic engine stop/start systems that switch off the engine when you stop at a traffic light and then restart it when you touch the accelerator pedal. A faster-acting pump makes restarts smoother and more responsive. Our systems work just as well with gasoline and diesel engines.

Brushless motors do require special magnets that can add cost. But it's also possible to use different grades of magnets to match the fuel flow requirements of the vehicle. We expect this type of motor will become the industry standard for fuel pumps over time. This type of device already accounts for approximately 10% of our sales in Europe, where stop-start systems are popular, to such customers as Audi, Mercedes-Benz and PSA Peugeot Citroen.

Are you using production fuel pumps in racing?

Yes we are. The technology flow in this area is from production street vehicles to the track, rather than the other way around. TI Automotive's dual-channel single-stage fuel pumps are available with conventional and brushless motors. One of our dual-channel, single-stage pumps can handle engines with output as high as 700 hp. High-performance systems have been applied in production cars that make more than 1,000 hp by using a combination of two or more pumps. These output levels can be more than you find in a number of spec series race cars. A production example of combining multiple pumps would be exotic cars such as the Bugatti Veyron.

On motorsports, we have not normally provided technical support services to race teams. But last year we launched a partnership with Riley Motorsports and ViperExchange.com to provide fuel delivery and air conditioning systems for the two Dodge Viper GT3-R cars that they race in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Series. This year we supported the prestigious Rolex 24 Hours At Daytona, where our systems and team won the GTD class, and we were very close to victory at the 12 Hours of Sebring endurance race.

Most race cars use fuel cells of course, rather than conventional tanks, so there are some unique fuel pump mounting requirements. But when it's all said and done, like in a production car, we have to get the fuel from the rear tank to the fuel rail in the front of the car.

What's new in fuel line technology?

It's been a surprisingly active field. Lines these days are multi-layer plastic, coated steel or stainless steel, depending on the pressure and operating environment. Production of multi-layer plastic tubes was interrupted in 2012 by an accident at a chemical supplier plant in Germany. The problem cut off half the world's supply of a key ingredient in PA-12 a nylon resin widely used in fuel and brake systems for several months. The crisis prompted the industry to quickly validate alternatives. As part of this study, TI Automotive developed a new global multi-layer plastic material and construct with three application variations for under-hood, chassis and fuel tank use.

It wasn't long ago that the specifications for plastic fuel lines were very supplier or customer or country specific. We've been able to establish a global protocol for these fuel lines according to their application in the vehicle rather than unique one-off variations. This has improved functional performance and increased value for everyone.