MCE-5 VCRi: Pushing back the fuel consumption reduction limits

Major investments
and factory modifications
will be necessary in order to make it

Investment is a relative notion in any company. If an investment is not profitable, regardless of its size, it should not be made. If an investment is very profitable and supported by strong guarantees, its size matters little as long as you have the means to make it. Investing is risky but not investing is also risky. The main risk today for the automotive industry is to not innovate and not invest in high-energy efficiency solutions. A failure to act will be costly for carmakers that fall behind. The real challenge is to invest in the right technologies.

There is no significant difference between
“changing plants” to launch a new family of
conventional engines and “changing plants”
to launcha new family of MCE‑5 VCRi engines

In-depth validation of MCE‑5 VCRi enables
the elimination of technological risks as well as
those related to energy efficiency and profitability

With regard to investments in MCE‑5 VCRi, there are several questions facing carmakers, with first and foremost: what is the expected profitability and what are the risks? These questions are both linked to the performance levels and success of MCE‑5 VCRi technology.

It’s easy to evaluate MCE‑5 VCRi’s profitability using measured values for fuel consumption reduction and identified additional manufacturing costs. The resulting cost/benefit ratio places MCE‑5 VCRi in the competitive arena for technologies applied to engines. The profitability of MCE‑5 VCRi can thus be compared with other existing or future technologies, as MCE‑5 VCRi can be used as an alternative or in combination with these technologies.

The technological risk associated with MCE‑5 VCRi depends on its level of “validation”. No significant investments can be made until this validation is identical to that of conventional engines. This validation is almost complete, with its finalization underway via endurance tests carried out under different conditions.

The economic risk associated with MCE‑5 VCRi is low: an increase in its cost price is highly unlikely given the progress made in its industrialization. What’s more, there are significant advantages for customers who in many cases will pay less to consume less. This last point will guarantee normal if not higher operating margins.

Investments linked to the mass production of MCE‑5 VCRi technology can be made progressively. Production that will initially be mostly external can rapidly be internalized after confirmation of the ability of MCE‑5 VCRi to meet market expectations. This strategy will allow carmakers to accompany the growth of the VCR market with minimal risk.

The investments required to produce the MCE‑5 VCRi engine are too often overestimated. In fact, most of the innovative MCE‑5 VCRi parts are intended to be outsourced to major automotive suppliers; they will be taking on the cost of most of the investments linked to the production of these parts. There is nothing new in this type of organization: the pistons, valves, bearings and, increasingly, the conrods and crankshafts of conventional engines are being outsourced. MCE‑5 VCRi will add its gearwheel and racks to this list produced by major OEMs, already partners of the MCE‑5 project.

The main investment to produce the MCE‑5 VCRi is linked to its crankcase and assembly. If a carmaker is already equipped with machining centers to produce its crankcases (flexible lines), it will be able to produce the MCE‑5 VCRi crankcase with a limited investment. If it decides to build a new “transfer” line to produce MCE‑5 VCRi crankcases, several dozen million euros of investment will be necessary but with a reduced cost price per crankcase (high production volumes). We can underline the fact that many pre-existing “transfer” lines can be modified to produce MCE‑5 VCRi crankcases for roughly 25 to 30% of the initial investment.

It will not be a problem to manufacture the MCE‑5 VCRi cylinder head: it’s quite conventional and cylinder heads are currently systematically produced in machining centers.

The term “changing plants” is often used when talking about innovation and yet most new engines require the building of new plants. There is no significant difference between “changing plants” to launch a new family of conventional engines and “changing plants” to launch a new family of MCE‑5 VCRi engines. In both cases, the investment amount is comparable.

Producing MCE‑5 VCRi engines will in the end be a question of will: the reasons behind a decision to produce a technology or not are sometimes obscure. Certain carmakers are wagering on electric cars and yet the efforts required to produce such a car are incomparably greater than those associated with the production of an MCE‑5 VCRi. The MCE‑5 VCRi is intended for the traditional professions of the automotive industry and the mass market while electric cars will revolutionize automotive professions and are intended for niche market. The choice to produce a new technology is partly rational and partly political.

In conclusion, MCE‑5 VCRi meets the need to produce more fuel-efficient cars as soon as possible. The investments associated with its production are reasonably comparable with those required to produce conventional engines. Its innovative parts are mostly subcontracted to Tier 1 OEMs. Its production can be progressively ramped up, initially with reduced investments and then with the aim to best use existing production facilities. The cost/benefit ratio of MCE‑5 VCRi makes it a potentially high-return investment.