NEXTCAR prototype vehicle.
Predictive powertrains. What's NEXT in electrification.

NEXTCAR partnership project works to make connected vehicles green, too.

When evaluating the benefits of automated and connected vehicles, the emphasis is generally placed on safety and convenience. Rightly so. The ability to radically reduce the largest contributor to vehicle accidents – the human factor – from the equation is nothing less than transformative. Cars and trucks have always been integral to how we work, play and live. So it naturally follows that seamlessly integrating our digitally connected lives into the “mobile device” that transports us from one place to another is the next logical chapter in the history of the automobile. But is that enough?

Delphi Technologies doesn’t think so. That’s why we’ve joined forces with other technology leaders and the U.S. government to make cars greener by using information from driver assistance and connectivity systems. The goal: To achieve a 20 percent improvement in real-world fuel economy over vehicles found on the road today.

Welcome to the NEXTCAR program.

So, how will these improvements be realized? It’s through the NEXTCAR Program, which is short for NEXT-Generation Energy Technologies for Connected and Automated On-Road Vehicles. The program is a series of projects led by U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). The ARPA-E NEXTCAR Program fosters and funds government, private enterprise and university collaborations aimed at linking connected and automated systems with advancing internal combustion engine and electrification technologies.

The three year, roughly $24 million initiative, partners Delphi Technologies and ARPA-E with The Ohio State University (OSU)Tula TechnologyAptiv and Transportation Research Center (TRC). The plan is for the team to identify the obstacles and the craft real-world solutions that will pave the way toward a new generation of connected and automated vehicles that drive cleaner, better and further.

Shifting powertrains from reactive to predictive.

With the initiative, Delphi Technologies is deploying a next-generation version of our 48-volt mild hybrid with Tula Technology’s Dynamic Skip Fire combination, together referred to as e-DSF. The two innovations work in tandem to enhance electrified propulsion systems. With the NEXTCAR Program, the plan is to adapt the technologies to work with advances in connectivity and automation to be able to predict the path ahead. As a result, vehicles will know the best route to take to optimize energy usage and recovery in order to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.


animation showing how 48-volt mild hybrid works.


The vision for how it will work.

The team sees predictive powertrain systems working much like today’s cruise control – essentially something you can turn “on” and “off.” With this approach, the system can be used with varying levels of driver assist and automation, including those in operation today.

When you engage the system, information from cloud-based route selection programs and ADAS (advanced driver assistance systems) will select the best routes available to you to maximize vehicle range, efficiency and performance.

The team is also exploring vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) innovations, such as receiving information from smart traffic lights, which will time your drive to match green-light patterns. This will reduce the fuel losses and emission outputs caused by stop-and-go traffic.

Future options include leveraging vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) technologies, such as DSRC (dedicated short-range communication) and radar to maintain vehicle speed and distance at optimal levels. This will provide smooth traffic interactions and aerodynamic benefits that will boost fuel economy.


animation showing how cloud-base routing for fuel economy works.

Predictive powertrains + Smart City = Real-world solutions.

There are substantial benefits to predictive powertrain systems. However, the onboard vehicle systems are only as good as the infrastructure in place to support them. And, like many tech advances, there has to be consumer demand to drive adoption and lower costs. Fortunately, technology developments within the NEXTCAR Program are complemented by the Smart City initiative underway in Columbus, Ohio – home to NEXTCAR partner OSU. 

The Smart City effort is aimed at modernizing urban planning by creating and deploying technology to increase mobility and accessibility and reduce carbon emissions. The infrastructure that’s going up, and the people who will trial it, will be available to the NEXTCAR Program team to help to break down the obstacles associated with infrastructure gaps and driver acceptance – both of which could thwart predictive powertrain commercialization.

animation showing how V2X data will be used to help improve fuel economy and emissions.

Looking ahead.

The NEXTCAR team is making progress in realizing the benefits of linking advanced on-board propulsion and cloud-based technologies. The basic control strategies have been developed and deployed on a demonstration vehicle. Extensive testing is under way to further refine the control strategies for the greatest gains. And, modeling work and early vehicle testing indicate the tech advances should meet established project goals.

The results to date are very encouraging. So much so that Delphi Technologies is already starting to apply project learnings and create a broader suite of Intelligent Driving solutions.

While there’s still a bit of road still left to travel on the project, the team is confident NEXTCAR will fulfill the promise of more connected, automated and greener cars and trucks.