Industrial Trends

Succeeding today while planning for tomorrow

During the next five years, the market for automotive thermal systems is expected to grow over 10 percent. Global economies are promoting renewable energy and emphasizing the need for energy-efficient products. SANHUA Automotive is continuing to develop a new generation of thermal management and control components, including heat pumps, to meet the demand. We want to be a leader in reducing our carbon footprint and provide potential solutions for a number of applications.

Concerns over the environment have set SANHUA Automotive into motion, developing the next generation of products:

  • HVAC systems that focus on the natural refrigerant replacement option R744.
  • SANHUA Automotive’s Electronic Expansion Valve (EXV) was designed to replace conventional mechanical thermostatic expansion valve devices. The new electronic expansion valve is available for R134a, R1234yf, R410a and R744 refrigerant systems.
  • As the marketplace moves more toward technology, SANHUA Automotive is developing battery
    chiller systems for use in electric and autonomous vehicles.

The combination of the US economy on the upswing and the government’s push to curb the effects of climate change has led to significant growth in the industry. SANHUA Automotive has already begun preparing for the increased demand by focusing on highly trained people, innovations in technology and management eager to provide responsive customer service.

There are three automotive market megatrends that require optimized vehicle thermal management systems, which will drive the latest technology improvements:

  1. Continued CO2 emission global regulations
  2. Electrification
  3. New environmentally friendly refrigerants

Continued CO2 emission global regulations
Vehicle manufacturers are under great pressure to meet future CAFE fuel economy standards and greenhouse gas emission regulations. Automobiles will be expected to reach 20-30 percent reductions in fuel consumption and CO2 emissions in the next decade. In Europe and in the US, large penalties may be imposed on vehicle manufacturers who don’t meet their targets. Current technology and start-stop systems should allow manufacturers to meet 2019 targets in the US and Europe, but the longer term goals are unlikely to be met with conventional technologies alone. Electrification technologies and thermal management advances are anticipated to be quite important for reaching goals from 2017 to 2025. Governments set drive cycles to make consistent comparisons between vehicles, but do not attempt to represent real-world variability.

In the US, many OEMs use mobile A/C credit incentives to help meet CAFE standards. The credits are controlled and granted by the US EPA. “Leakage” credits are calculated using the method described in SAE J2727.  “Efficiency” credits are calculated using a menu-based approach, where design/control attributes of the vehicle’s A/C system are used to determine the amount of the credit. “Off-Cycle” credits are those which are not captured in an existing test cycle or menu item.

Global electric vehicle production in 2016 was approximately 800,000 units. Many industry experts predict that the production rate will increase astronomically over the next 10 years. The recent introduction of high-density battery technology in hybrid and electric vehicles has complicated HVAC and refrigerant systems. In all ambient temperatures, the battery and electronic component temperatures must be precisely controlled to prevent damage or limit vehicle range capability. At high ambient temperatures, a chiller is normally added to chill the coolant in the battery and electronic component cooling systems. In these systems, the refrigerant flow must be balanced between the evaporators that cool the occupants and the battery chiller. In lower ambient temperatures, the battery may need to be heated.

Active electric vehicle thermal management has driven the need to develop efficient electronic coolant pumps from 15W to >200W in size. Smart electronic oil pumps are also needed to control oil temperature requirements of high-wattage electric vehicle drive motors. Intelligent actuators have also been developed to drive coolant flow control valves, refrigerant EXVs and shut-off valves.

The industry is currently working on advanced technologies to increase the low ambient electric vehicle driving range by using the on-board air conditioning system in a heat pump mode.  Studies have indicated that a heat pump system can efficiently operate at a coefficient of performance sufficient to provide heater system temperatures that satisfy occupants in ambient conditions down to minus 20 degrees C.

New environmentally friendly refrigerants

Since 1987, the first mission of “The Montreal Protocol” has been to protect the ozone layer. The world’s attention has now shifted to concerns over global warming.  The major part of a refrigerant’s global warming potential is due to indirect CO2 emissions, which are caused by the increased fuel consumption needed to power air conditioning. Today, there are more than 400 million cars worldwide with air conditioning systems. The most common refrigerant in use is R134a, which has a global warming potential (GWP) of 1430.  As the number of vehicles multiplies almost eightfold over the next decade, that GWP level cannot be sustained.

Starting in January 2011, all new EU vehicle types must have an air conditioning refrigerant with a GWP below 150. From 2017 on, this will apply to all new EU vehicles. This is based on the MAC Directive (2006/40/EG) passed in July 2006. Starting in 2021, all new US vehicles must have an air conditioning refrigerant with a GWP below 150. The US EPA has approved R744 & R1234yf for vehicle A/C systems with special use conditions, such as more robust evaporators that can withstand higher system pressures and are more deformable in a crash event.

R744, or carbon dioxide, is suitable for many applications in refrigeration and heating and for vehicle applications utilizing heat pumps. Like most natural refrigerants, R744 is regarded as being environmentally benign. It has an Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP) of zero and has a very low GWP of 1. The main benefits of R744 compared to other natural refrigerants are that it is non-toxic and non-flammable. These are characteristics which often limit the application of other refrigerants.