Fiat Group pursues its commitment to minimize the environmental footprint of its vehicles through continuous research into a broad array of innovative solutions, with a focus ranging from conventional engines, fuels and alternative propulsion systems to devices on board the vehicle for optimizing energy use.
With respect to powertrain systems, the Group technology roadmap includes the identification of solutions that can be deployed in the near term and experimental work on technologies for the future.
In the medium- to long-term, research on gasoline engines will continue to focus on optimizing MultiAir technology even further and building effective synergies with other technologies. In particular, the integration of direct injection and advanced turbocharging technologies will ensure synergies delivering a reduction in fuel consumption and better dynamic performance and drivability, while containing costs and yielding high performance levels.
Innovation in diesel engines focuses on exploiting further potential for optimizing the combustion system so as to improve emission levels, fuel consumption, performance and Noise, Vibration, Harshness (NVH). Work will also continue on the development and optimization of more efficient and cost-effective solutions than those currently available for the after-treatment of exhaust gases, especially with a view to reducing NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions.
Natural gas engines
In the case of natural gas engines, research is targeted at exploiting the full potential of innovative technologies applied to gasoline engines to reap the benefits of natural gas, especially with a view to significantly reducing CO
2 emissions. With a specific emphasis on promoting the use of biomethane as a transport fuel, the Group is fostering the development of a biomethane supply chain in Italy. In fact, in 2011 the Centro Ricerche Fiat (CRF) ran a feasibility study in collaboration with local stakeholders in the Province of Trento, Italy, for the establishment of biomethane production plants fed by various types of biomass.
Turning finally to transmissions, research is being focused on cost-effective solutions for Dual Clutch Transmission architectures, introducing further enhanced functionalities to provide consumers with higher performance and comfort while meeting fuel economy and emissions targets.
Hybrid and electric engine technologies
In the field of powertrain electrification, as the Group center of expertise for hybrid and electric engine technologies, Chrysler Group spearheads research into innovative solutions to overcome the technological hurdles and cost barriers which continue to make electric vehicles accessible only to a limited number of users. Technical experts from the CRF provide Chrysler Group with specific support on activities related to electrification systems and components, including functional safety, electric drives and battery system management.
In 2011, Chrysler Group deployed
105 Ram Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) demonstration trucks to 15 partners across the United States. These vehicles will accumulate real-world mileage as part of Chrysler Group’s 140 PHEV truck demonstration program funded by the US Department of Energy. The remaining 35 trucks will be deployed in the first quarter of 2012. The purpose of the program is to demonstrate the technology under real-world conditions and assess customer acceptance.
Another example of collaboration in this field is Chrysler Group’s partnership with the US Environmental Protection Agency which began in 2010. The aim is to determine the possibility of adapting an
hydraulic hybrid system for large passenger cars and light-duty vehicles. In industrial applications, including large delivery and refuse trucks, the technology has shown substantial increases in fuel economy when compared with traditional powertrains in the same type of vehicles.