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Innovations at Volkswagen

6th Feb 2015 12:10 pm

The VW Group is developing some fascinating over-the-horizon technology. We get a sneak peek.

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The Volkswagen Group is all about delivering the right technology at the right price. The German company has followed this strategy since its origins around half a century ago, and let’s be clear, this engineering-led approach has got the company far. The Volkswagen Group is among the top two global car makers today, and the company’s market share is only growing. Whereas earlier, technology extended to more fundamental aspects of the car like build quality, and chassis and engine technology, today, its scope is much wider and all encompassing. The current charge is undoubtedly led by a desperate need to make cars more efficient and less polluting, especially carbon dioxide emissions. Then, there’s gradual electrification and the increasingly important advances in the area of the ‘connected’ car. But what exactly can we expect to see on VW cars in the near future? Here’s a quick but interesting preview.

10-speed DSG (Twin clutch automatic )

VW’s new twin clutch automatic gearbox not only has two distinct clutches that allow it to change gear faster and be more efficient, it will also have the added flexibility of ten gears. The new gearbox, called the DQ511, is a development of the seven-speed DQ500, and is designed for a peak torque of 56.08kgm. Apply conventional logic and a 10-speed gearbox should be proportionately larger and heavier than a seven-speed box. But it is no larger than the current seven-speed, and doesn’t weigh more either. This is because the new box uses the same amount of gear sets as the seven-speed gearbox. This is done by employing an entirely new shifting strategy so that the existing gears combine differently to form new ratios. Only two new additional linkages are used. This also works perfectly for VW’s platform strategy as it allows the 10-speed to be seamlessly integrated into all VW’s new MQB platform cars. VW says it will customise ratios in accordance with the car’s requirement, so you can either have densely stacked gears for strong performance, well spread out ratios for overall benefits, or even super tall ratios for ultra efficient cruising. In fact, one of the biggest benefits of the new 10-speed is the increase in average gear ratio over the earlier seven-speed, without any compromise in driveability; the new box has an overall average ratio of 10.2 versus 7.9 for
the earlier seven-speed.

Mild Hybrid (with coasting ) and Start Stop 2.0)

Volkswagen’s new Mild Hybrid tech and Start Stop 2.0 use a system that shuts off the engine to save fuel. “So what’s new?” you ask. Well unlike most other systems that only shut the engine off when a car comes to a halt, Volkswagen’s systems come into operation both when you so much as get your foot off the throttle or when it anticipates a stop.

The Mild Hybrid system works at pretty much any speed. Take your foot off the accelerator pedal for a pre-defined number of seconds and the engine is shut off. Engine revs fall to zero, the engine is de-clutched from the gearbox and you get a message on the instrument panel that tells you that you are ‘coasting’. When needed, the engine of the car is re-started from any engine speed. This is done as the DSG automatic gearbox selects the right gear, and the engine is ‘dragged’ into starting up again seamessly. This is unlike the start-stop systems today, that need the engine revs to fall to zero before a re-start process is initiated.

Start Stop 2.0, on the other hand, switches off the engine when it detects that you are coming to a stop. This is done below 7kph and is a huge advantage in start-stop traffic situations, especially over the life of a car. Of course, in the event that the driver changes his mind, the vehicle is restarted quickly. 

High-performance diesels

Volkswagen has always been strong on diesels and now, with its new twin-turbo system, is likely to extend the performance envelope even further. The new bi-turbo 2.0 TDI makes a very impressive 237bhp, attaining a specific output of 118bhp per litre, high for a diesel engine. The system uses one high and one low pressure turbo, enabling a total boost pressure of 3.8bar. VW had to strengthen the internals of the existing 2.0 TDI to enable the motor to better handle the higher peak combustion pressure of 200bar. And these new-gen TDI engines get strengthened crankcases, pistons, connecting rods and even crankshafts. A new high-performance cylinder head is used and there’s a new Piezo injection system too, that runs at a high 2500bar to enable fuel to get cleanly injected into the higher pressure combustion chamber. There’s an even higher 268bhp version of the engine. Part of the same modular diesel engine system (MDB), this engine uses a third compressor or turbine, that is driven by electrical energy.

Sandwich construction

A lighter car is more efficient and better performing, and so, methods of light weighting are always being sought. While this is quite easily done with the use of aluminium in more expensive cars, it is more difficult to do so on higher volume cars that are on a tight budget. Volkswagen, in the future, will get around this problem by using a composite sandwich construction; a polymer-based thermoplastic is sandwiched between two layers of steel. First used on the WRC Polo R, this allows parts to be 30 percent lighter, without sacrificing strength in any way.

Infrared reflection (heat protection )

If there is one area of a car that is consistently baked, it is the dashboard. Sat under a wide open windscreen, it’s the area of the car that is most exposed to the sun. What makes it worse is that you have to use dark colours that don’t reflect and disturb the driver, which of course makes it even worse. To combat this, VW will introduce a new infrared reflecting dashboard. While earlier, soot was used to coat the plastic panels, it isn’t effective in reflecting NIR or near infrared radiation. VW’s new coating now includes metallic oxide pigmentation that reduces heat absorption by a significant amount. Also introduced in the future will be cars with a low-E (emissivity) glass sunroofs. While standard glass roofs tend to heat up the cabin significantly, the new low-E roofs block long wave radiation that warms up the cabin of the car. A reduction of around 15 percent is possible with this.

Connectivity

With in-car connectivity getting important, VW is concentrating on getting more and more sophisticated systems into its central consoles. Car-Net or VW’s Modular Information System (MIB) opens up a world of connectivity. Divided into four basic areas – Guide and Inform,  e-remote, Security and Service and App Connect – these new systems allow a bewildering array of functions to be utilised via the car. Dynamic navigation, for example, will integrate Google Maps with live traffic info and 360-degree street view for easier road identification. Other functions will allow you to start your air-con system in the car via a phone app, track your car, set speed limits, receive a monthly fuel consumption record and even book a service without actually making a call. Media control, another system, will allow you to control the car’s media from the back seat; again via an app on a tablet or smart phone. And VW has also designed a new bracket that makes it easy to use your tablet while sat on the back seat. Next on the agenda is personalisation, where you decide what shows up where on your screen and the integration of Android Auto (Google) and Car Play (Apple). 

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