New integrated circuit provides never-before-possible engine management solution for cars, trucks and CVs.
The pressure to improve passenger car, light-duty truck and commercial vehicle (CV) fuel delivery performance is constant. Fuel economy and emissions regulatory targets are advancing, and the ability to achieve them routinely outstrips current technologies.
Yes – battery-powered electric vehicles are on the horizon. However, the speed of that change – and the mix of conventional to hybrid to BEV technologies – is still unclear. IHS Markit, for instance, predicts that more than 80 percent of the vehicles sold in 2030 will still have some type of gasoline- or diesel-powered engine. While the experts at Massachusetts Institute of Technology forecast that in 2050, 60 percent of light-duty vehicles will still have some form of internal combustion engine.
As a result, the drive to advance engine technologies, albeit smartly, remains.
One such smart path to achieving the precision these systems must deliver is through fuel control electronics. This complex network of integrated circuits (ICs) choreographs the intricate dance between the injectors, pumps and solenoids to achieve clean combustion. The challenge? Today’s IC design, architecture and fixed programming translates into:
- Constraints on the number and types of current waveforms that can be used.
- No flexibility across different vehicle classes or engine configurations.
- No ability to update or upgrade as new engine technologies are introduced.
- The need for cumbersome, compensating programming in other areas of the engine management system (EMS).
- Complex diagnostic and repair approaches to maintain system performance over time.
Essentially, what you have is hardware that can’t keep pace with advances in fuel injection control. This rapidly leads to obsolescence. That once paired with a 4-cylinder passenger car engine, for instance, can’t be leveraged in a 6-cylinder medium-duty truck application. This results in higher development and manufacturing costs. That’s vulnerable to electrical shorts, particularly as the vehicle ages. This compromises system integrity. And that relies upon supplemental engine control unit (ECU) hardware and software to manage its overall function. This leaves it susceptible to concerns that include voltage dips and spikes.
While ECU technologies have certainly evolved, the breakthroughs needed in both the hardware and the software to address such issues has yet to materialize.
That is, until now.
Introducing the DIFlex ASIC.
Delphi Technologies’ Direct Injection Flexible Application Specific Integrated Circuit (DIFlex ASIC) offers you an engine management solution that eliminates the shortfalls and maximizes your options as you push to design cleaner, better propulsion systems.
It is the only electronic fuel control solution available today that can meet the combined demands for flexibility, durability and performance, as well as reduced costs.
With the DIFlex, you can:
- Deploy a single fuel control ASIC across an entire fleet, regardless of the vehicle class or the number of cylinders, to achieve much-needed economies of scale.
- Generate virtually an unlimited number of control waveforms to keep pace with engine technology changes – and with changes over time as the vehicle ages – without needing to replace the ECU.
- Simplify the software throughout the EMS, as well as improve precision and real-time diagnostics.
The benefits of this game-changing innovation are significant. When compared to previously available alternatives, the DIFlex delivers:
- A 20 percent drop in deployment costs.
- A 25 percent cut in software complexity.
- A ten-fold improvement in injector drive flexibility.
- A three-fold increase in diagnostic capabilities.
- An estimated $2.00 per unit cost savings.
With the DIFlex, one size really does fit all.
Fast Take: The heart of advanced injector controls.
More than an upgrade.
In developing the DIFlex, our engineering team leveraged our decades of propulsion software and controls expertise. Through a combination of customer needs analysis, trend tracking and tech modification modeling, our team concluded that the shelf life of existing IC options were nearing the end. Rather than pursue an upgrade, however, they decided the best course of action was to upend the technology and the underlying tenets that had governed their construction for years.
The biggest undertaking: Design an IC that would forever alter how change – whether in the shape of vehicle class, engine technologies, regulatory mandates or performance over time – is managed by shifting it from hardware to software.
It seems simple enough. After all, many vehicle systems are now managed this way. But achieving this simplicity was more complicated than you might think. To deliver the breakthrough envisioned, our team had to:
- Develop a single architecture that could manage multiple, independent functions simultaneously.
- Craft new ways to manage and control current into an injector to increase durability and accuracy.
- Create options to improve control via software while at the same time reducing complexity.
And, of course, they had to figure out a way to do it all while decreasing cost at the same time.
The path to success.
So, how did we achieve our goals? Our engineers attacked the challenge from multiple angles. Ultimately, though, four core elements combined to create our path to success.
First: Hardware banks. We developed novel approaches in how the IC’s hardware resources, or banks, are configured. Previous designs fixed a bank to a specific function or task, leaving no room for flexibility. With the DIFlex, we removed this constraint. Its banks can work separately or in combination to satisfy all possible configurations or conditions.
Second: State-machine based architecture. We reinvented an established approach to electrical architectures known as state machine. Devices that use this architecture store its “states,” and when fed new inputs, determines the best new “state” and the actions needed to achieve it. Take a table lamp. It basically has two states – on and off. In order to move from one to the other, it needs a new input – a voice command, motion nearby, turning its switch, and so on. Moving from off to on is determined by the input. By using this architecture, the DIFlex can adapt to changing states, leveraging a logic built on both the old and new inputs. This patented approach is quicker to react, and simpler to program than traditional approaches that use microcode. It also enables a virtually unlimited number of control waveforms, thereby further increasing flexibility, precision and control.
Third: High-side current sensing circuit. One of the biggest issues to improving durability and reliability was finding a better means to monitor and manage current flow. Previous ICs used low-side or ground-referenced current sensing, which doesn’t allow for visibility of the current during all phases of operation. Moving to high-side sensing improves the DIFlex’s diagnostic capabilities, and enables it to actually fix problems on the fly.
Fourth: Up-integrate to a common building block. We wanted to take a hard run at costs. Significant savings were achieved via our simplified architectures and software approaches. To hit maximum reductions, however, we decided to aggressively “up-integrate” the DIFlex. With this step, we eliminated a number of other components used to construct the circuit board by adding them, or their functionality, into the DIFlex. As a result, we were able to cut approximately $2.00 per unit by reducing the total number of circuit board components.
Moving forward, the need for increased sophistication, yet simplicity, in the design of ASICs is expected to continue. As such, we are looking at ways to innovate engine controls and their key systems, as well as developing ASICs for electrified vehicles to improve control of electric motors.