With the powertrain world reeling from a series of emissions-related revelations, 'compliance' may seem a brave subject to choose for a keynote speech at the recent Vienna Motor Symposium. Delphi's vice president engineering, Delphi Powertrain, John Fuerst tells just-auto why he believes this is the right time to take a deeper look at the topic.

Your speech has been reported as one of the highlights of the Symposium. Why do you think a speech on compliance was so well received against the backdrop of recent news?

First, we are at a stage in the development of emissions regulations where some of the money may be better spent on areas that could bring greater benefit. I mentioned driver education and training. As a supplier maybe I shouldn't say that as our business is focussed on developing technologies that solve the emissions challenge, but that's the truth today and I think the assembled powertrain leaders appreciated having it said.

Second, compliance isn't only about meeting the regulations – be that emissions or safety or quality or anything else that is defined by numbers. It's also about complying with the increasingly disruptive requirements of new generations of vehicle user –what I called 'soft compliance factors'.  We are moving quickly into an era where there is growing potential for the traditional vehicle manufacturers to lose control of the customer relationship –the most profitable part of our industry – to new entrants who don't build their own cars. Delphi's wider view of compliance is focussed on ensuring we continue to delight these new generations so our industry remains successful at every point in the value chain.

What do you see as the wider role for compliance?

I think that 'compliance' should be an everyday word, a commonplace word that informs our entire approach to business, a natural driver of all our behaviours, in technology development and through to product delivery, marketing and support. That means compliance with the desires and aspirations of every major market's consumers. It means complying with the ways the next generation of customers want to engage with their vehicles. It means understanding – even predicting – the fundamental changes in our industry: the internet of things, new ownership models, a radical shift in how customers attribute value to their cars, how they choose to spend their money.

This period of disruption isn't only about 'digitalisation' and the challenges of bridging consumer electronics into a robust and secure automotive environment: it's about new ways of integrating vehicles with people's lives, entirely new customer expectations, all wrapped up in a new type of customer relationship. To stay successful, we have to be compliant with these requirements too.

You mentioned driver training as a potential step in reducing emissions. Is that realistic?

Today, we are spending increasing sums both on emissions reduction technology and on ways to measure real world emissions, but erratic driving on a test cycle can increase 'real' real-world emissions by up to 40 percent.  Compared with the regulated incremental changes, that's a huge amount. Aggressive driving can double emissions.

How do we educate drivers to understand that they also have a responsibility in this equation? Will the future public accept that?

Do you think we can meet future real-world emissions targets without better driving?

The regulations will be implemented to accommodate erratic driving and we have technologies that enable compliance to 2025 and beyond. The challenges are 1) to keep those technologies robust and affordable and 2) to apply our new understanding of hard and soft factor compliance so they also open new competitive opportunities.

Delphi is achieving both of these by developing technologies that are 'clever, not complex'. A great example of this is Dynamic Skip Fire, a radical new approach to cylinder deactivation invented by Tula Technology, a company in which Delphi has acquired an equity stake. It isn't often that a new technology creates so much opportunity, but I think this one does and I'm pretty sure that we haven't yet imagined all the ways that it can be used.

By making a fire / no fire decision for every cylinder on every cycle, Dynamic Skip Fire determines the best option in real-time, pushing up efficiency by maximising the cylinder load for every combustion event. But that's just the beginning. Because it's an integral part of the engine control strategy, valve lift, throttle opening and ignition can all be optimised synergistically. In future implementations we can integrate strategies to manage exhaust oxygen levels to protect aftertreatment on overrun. We can enhance Miller Cycle operation, and much more.

We already have DSF running on a four cylinder engine and it's impressive. Testing verifies that we are looking at a CO2 improvement approaching 20 percent on a V8 and close to 10 percent on a four; even compared with the best current production engines.

That system relies very heavily on clever software control. How important is that strategy to your future technology developments?

It's central, even in areas of powertrain engineering that on the surface appear to be based on largely proven electromechanical technologies. Our new 48V mild hybrid system is a great example. Compared with a full hybrid it can deliver 50-70 percent of the benefit for just 30 percent of the cost, but it's clever thinking from my Delphi colleagues, not complex hardware, that delivers this benefit. We had a demonstration car with this technology at the Vienna Symposium and there was a lot of interest in our approach.

We presented it as the first, second generation 48V mild hybrid system because it's the first to benefit from ground-up design, optimised as a single, tightly integrated system with state-of-the-art control. It's that control that is the heart of 'clever not complex' and a common theme for each of the new technologies.

Take brake blending as an example. The greater resolution and reduced latency possible with our model-based control architecture allows us to increase the proportion of regenerative braking without compromising the end-user experience. Testing has shown that we can capture 85 percent of the braking energy available on the WLTP; exactly what is needed to get more out of a mild hybrid while complying with the need to make its operation transparent to the driver.

It's the same approach – advanced software control complementing proven, high-precision hardware – that is allowing us to run Gasoline Direct Compression Ignition (GDCI) with no spark over the engine's entire operating range. GDCI can be affordably applied to existing engine designs, in compliance with the need to maximise use of validated, already capitalised components, yet delivers a fuel economy improvement of around 13 – 18 percent compared with the latest GDi turbos.

HCCI has been in development for many years without ever fulfilling its early promise. Why do you think GDCI will finally make gasoline compression ignition a viable strategy?

The remainder of this interview is available on just-auto's Global light vehicle engine technologies market- forecasts to 2030