Reflecting the industry's drive to introduce mass-produced alternative-fuelled vehicles within the next decade, Pi Technology has formed a new Business Unit specifically to concentrate on developing innovative control systems technologies for the fast-growing alternative fuels market.

The unit employs more than forty staff and will support OEM new vehicle programmes around the world.

Pi Technology has been working on alternative fuel systems for nearly ten years, including Fuel Cell Vehicles, Hybrid ICE-Electric Vehicles, and Natural Gas applications. The new Alternative Fuels Business Unit (AFBU) has been established to employ technical innovation to solve the challenges that will be created by the more complex vehicle configurations appearing in the alternative fuels arena.

Adrian Carnie, head of the new Business Unit said: "We have seen our work in alternative fuels grow rapidly in the last few years. It now makes sense to create a separate team to concentrate on the specific needs of this sector of the industry. We have created a uniquely capable team with great depth and breadth of expertise."

One of Pi's current projects is support of the Ford Focus fuel cell vehicle programme. In particular Pi is developing application software for the Thermal Systems Controller, Vehicle Systems Controller and Energy Management Module, along with a common software platform that the applications on all three controllers use to interface to the Visteon hardware.

Pi is also working on a Hybrid-Electric powertrain development, and is involved from the requirements level all the way through to vehicle testing. The software produced is developed to a high integrity to take account of safety considerations.

One of the areas that Pi is addressing is starting and stopping the engine during the typical drive cycle to gain the benefits of fuel economy and better emissions control that the hybrid configuration provides. Plans are also already under way to develop generic control strategies for different hybrid vehicle configurations that incorporate not only current technology ICE engines with alternative sources of tractive energy, but also future ICE variants, burning future fuels.

Adrian Carnie said: "All indications at the moment are that fuel cell vehicles will become a wider economic reality in about the 2015 timeframe, with small volume production and fleet utilisation in the run-up to success in the mass consumer market. In the meantime the ICE-driven vehicle will still hold centre stage; hybridisation of the engine will be allied to other systems such as traction batteries and motors to extend vehicle range and allow the engine to be more environmentally friendly in terms of its combustion output."

Pi Technology was formed in 1991 as part of the Pi Group to specialise in the design and development of electronics and software for the volume automotive and automotive related markets.