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Gaspar Gascón | Worldwide Product Vice President at Renault. “The autonomous car increases the responsibility of the manufacturer”

Automotive News

The future of diesel will depend on what society or authorities decide

Gaspar Gascon, (Corral Rubio, Albacete, 1965), an aeronautical engineer from the Polytechnic University of Madrid, entered Renault in 1990 and has been increasing until reaching in 2005 the Worldwide Vice President of Product Engineering of the Renault Group, the head of all The mechanical components used by the Renault and its partners, such as Dacia and the Korean Samsung.

Its role includes the development of new models, engines – gasoline and diesel – changes, chassis and suspensions, hybrid and electric technologies, and even safety and autonomous driving systems. He is also one of the 12 members of the Executive Committee of Renault, the highest governing body chaired by Carlos Ghosn, and another Spaniard is José Vicente de los Mozos, World Director of Manufacturing and Logistics.

Question. Is the future of the car electric?

Definitely electric, but I can not date.
How do you expect autonomy to evolve?
A. At the moment Renault is the only European brand able to do 400 kilometers with a load [ZOE]. The rest promises, but we have it.
What batteries do they use?
A. We started as partners with LG Chem and between the first ZOE and the current have doubled the capacity of batteries with the same size.
What is the margin of improvement of autonomy with the lithium ion?
A. It is difficult to say, because as time passes the limits go up. We think that in 2025 we will reach maximum potential and work in parallel with other technologies that will continue to increase energy density, and by then we expect to jump to another chemistry. But I say it with humility, because lithium is an evolving technology and every day solutions for improvement appear.
Will it be possible to double the density and autonomy by 2025?
It is planned, but the progression will be much smoother.
Will there be enough lithium?
For now yes. The industry adapts and looks for more resources.
How will the load speed of the posts evolve?
A. You work on much more powerful solutions, at 350 kW, which will charge 80% in 20 minutes.
Are diesel cars dead after the dieselgate scandal?
Customers will tell. Technically they make sense, because they are the most versatile and economical motorization in CO2 emissions and consumption for a multipurpose city-highway use with high kilometrajes. There are other solutions and the key will be in how local regulations make the customer tilt to one side or the other. To date, there is no alternative to diesel for SUVs and cars of a certain weight that make long journeys on the highway, or for trucks and transport vehicles. But their future will depend on what society or authorities decide.
Will emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) from diesel and gasoline be equalized, as in the American standard?
It is what we try. The future European standard will be almost identical to the North American standard, from emission requirements to test cycles and severity of controls. The RDE (Real Driving Emission) ‘Package 4’, will mainly include the technical controls and the durability and effectiveness of the anti-pollution system during the actual use.
When will you vote?
Now, in June or July.
Package 3 of this standard will require direct injection gasoline engines to mount a particulate filter. Why?
Physics has no secrets: to optimize combustion you have to raise the temperature, as do the diesel. That generates charcoal or ash, also in gasoline engines that comes close to the cycle of diesel operation. Since 2014, the diesel particulate filters have dropped them almost to zero. But gasoline engines as they gain efficiency generate more particles than a filter diesel, but always less than when they did not. That is why they are now.
How will diesel develop in five or 10 years?
Much work will be done on combustion efficiency to reduce NOX. That is achieved by raising the injection pressure and inevitably with the aftertreatment of gases [filters and catalysts], which will include a mixed NOx filter system and selective reduction catalyst with urea.
How much will it cost?
According to engine and model, 800 to 1,400 euros, being optimistic.
Q. Will turbo-gas turbochargers continue to be the most efficient if the homologation cycles reflect actual consumption or will return to larger engines?
Raising the displacement in petrol engines is a solution to counteract NOx emissions and particles.
But is the turbo still the best? As soon as it accelerates a little the consumption shoots ….
The turbo is unquestionable and stubborn physics: if you get more air per volume of fuel, gasoline or diesel, you improve the thermal performance. What can change is downsizing: small engines in big cars.

Why?

When you accelerate from scratch in a big car with a small engine, you lose almost all the efficiency and if you have more displacement and torque, you lose less.
Are ‘mini hybrids’ (MHVs) no better for such cases?
A. Yes, there goes the shots: small electric motors with adapted batteries that are recharged when braking and provide electrical support in the starts from scratch.
Will the plug-in hybrids (PHEV) make sense if the batteries evolve so fast?
That’s what we all think. It will depend on what the transition will last. PHEVs depend heavily on how they are used. For motorways they can defraud: they do not recover energy and they add 200 kilos of overweight, at least. In city and short routes that allow to circulate only with electricity, they make sense. But adding an electric system and a thermal engine is expensive, and compared to pure electric only improve the total autonomy and charging time.
Will the autonomous car make it necessary to make new [chassis] platforms and change current processes and factories?
There will be a profound change depending on the level of autonomous guidance, but the strong transition will be with the car without driver, which will change the structure, design and mobility services. Renault’s aim is to offer advanced and useful solutions at affordable prices: we are only interested in technology if it brings value to the customer. We are focusing on level 4 autonomous driving, which allows the driver to delegate in the car if the appropriate conditions are given: there will be areas where yes and others where it will not be possible. But the goal is to free him from being behind the wheel and to do other things. Today you can let the car drive with certain levels of automation, and you do other things, but if there is an unforeseen situation can be critical. Level 4 indicates the safety of the system: the car is prepared to stop automatically and safely if something happens, giving the driver time to regain control. And it forces to equip levels of electronic redundancy and hardware that involve changing the platforms (chassis).
Do you require digital cartography?
It is essential from level 2.
When will this level 4 be reached?
Ghosn [President of Renault-Nissan] has announced 10 models level 3 until 2020. Shortly after the level 4 will arrive.
And the level 5?
R. They demand other solutions that work in parallel and there are two ways. One, Google, is applying a lot of technology.
Will there be problems with legislation and insurance?
The big reason for being autonomous is the reduction of accidents, and should reduce insurance. It is estimated that each year more than 1.2 million people die, which means that seven Jumbos fall every day, and 90% is due to human failures. 26% of the accidents are due to distractions with the mobile and from 46% to 50% to road exits. According to some studies, in 2030 or 2040, when all cars are autonomous, the deaths will be reduced by 80%, although it remains to be verified. This will automatically generate greater responsibility for the builder, because the customer will rely on the reliability and robustness of what he buys.
Are Spanish factories ready for the next technological change?
At industrial level, Spain is still one of the best places to produce cars, and these technologies do not represent a major change in the industrial structure. With electric cars there will be changes in the production system to adapt the industrial platforms to these technologies, but will not involve ruptures compared to the current cars. At the engineering level, yes. The strongest short-term impact on the industrial level is going to be electrification, because you have to put electrical components in the factory, but especially in manufacturing methods, because linked to the need to reduce energy consumption in cars. The way to increase the autonomy is not only to put a bigger battery, but to make a car more efficient in aerodynamics, weight, etc., and to use new materials like carbon fiber. This is a major change in manufacturing processes.
Are we going to see carbon fiber in normal cars?
There is quite advanced research to produce different types of resins that start to be price competitive and provide a very strong advantage in weight reduction.

Manuel Gómez Blanco – EL PAIS – París 19 MAY 2017 – (Translation Soft)

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