Cummins discusses the future of engine, powertrain technologies

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Updated Sep 25, 2017
Connectivity is one trend shaping the way customers monitor and interact with engine performance.Connectivity is one trend shaping the way customers monitor and interact with engine performance.

During a press conference at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show in Atlanta, Cummins laid out its strategy for the future roles of engines and powertrains as autonomy, electrification and other trends continue to sway customer interest and demand for new technologies.

“The disruptions 15 years ago centered around emissions, globalization and the lack of power availability,” says Srikanth Padmanabhan, Cummins’ engine business president. “Today, the disruptions are connectivity, automation and energy diversity.”

With all the news of electric mobility in commercial trucking applications, internal combustion engines still have plenty of shelf life, Padmanabhan says, adding internal combustion engines will be part of larger hybrid systems in the future.

“Fifteen years from now, you’ll still see primarily combustion-powered trucks using diesel, natural gas, petrol or other bio fuels,” says Padmanabhan. “That application is enormously important.”

Simultaneously, Padmanabhan says there will be other applications where customers will use predominantly electric battery vehicles, starting with passenger bus and urban delivery. Earlier this year, Cummins debuted Aeos, its Class 7 electric vehicle concept for urban markets with operating ranges from 100 to 300 miles. “Cummins has been in electric power for more than two decades,” says Padmanabhan. “We believe that right now, the technology already is viable and economically possible in certain markets.”

In the middle, Padmanabhan says, the industry will see advancements in hybrid powertrains with both internal combustion and battery power.

“We will be there to provide that power of choice for our customers,” says Padmanabhan, adding that in 2022 Cummins will launch its next generation of heavy-duty engines and powertrains with a design protected to integrate on-engine aftertreatment, waste heat recovery, and mild electrification. “Over time, anything that can be electrified will be electrified. For places were emissions requirements are stringent, we can switch to an electric powertrain to provide power.”

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According to Padmanabhan, Cummins’ next-gen engines and powertrains will be smaller, lighter with better power efficiency and lower greenhouse gas emissions.

In terms of connected vehicles and powertrains, Padmanabhan says that by 2020, every engine Cummins makes around the globe will be equipped with engine control modules, the platform for connectivity.

When Cummins first introduced electronic engines in the late 1980s, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and other technologies weren’t available and “it wasn’t possible to analyze data in a meaningful way,” says Padmanabhan. Today, however, connected software allows uploading of calibrations and enables fleet managers to interact with service advisors.

“I’m so excited about the connected enterprise because it can collect masses of data and make better decisions,” says Padmanabhan. “I think it is going to revolutionize the industry in the next 10 years in the way in which we detect and fix problems.”

Padmanabhan believes advancements in vehicle autonomy will continue to develop as sensors are becoming ubiquitous and allow vehicles and components to sense their surroundings and communicate with one another.

“We are addressing automation through our ADEPT suite of software,” says Padmanabhan. “The powertrain and the braking system is what eventually controls vehicle to be safe and efficient,” citing Cummins’ SmartCoast, SmartTorque2 and predictive cruise control, adding the company is working on predictive shifting to further optimize power and performance. “This will lead to intelligent braking and other [autonomous features],” he says.