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Here are key take aways from the Engine ORC Consortium in Plymouth MI in November 2017. The Engine ORC Consortium is an open forum for technology sharing and learning about mobile and stationary ORC systems up to 100 kW output power. The conference was well represented by many key players working in the ORC field. They had 6 OEMs (Volvo, GM, Landrover, FCA, Daimler, & Honda) and 10 Universities and about 30 Suppliers. Among many presentations over 3 days, including those from OEMs, Tier 1 suppliers and folks from academia, following are my key moments from the conference:

  • 4X growth of market size in China: In his wonderfully inspiring big-picture presentation, Gary Smyth of General motors talked about the growth in automotive industry. We already knew that China has overtaken the US and Europe as the largest the automotive manufacturer, but the fact the China is currently at 90 vehicles/1000 people and is expected to reach 330 vehicles per 1000 ppl really brought home how unstaurated their market was and how much growth there is yet to happen in China. As a contrast, US has 800 veh/1000 ppl and Europe has 550 veh/1000ppl in Europe. It is no surprise that the chinese consumer will drive the majority of the demand in the coming years. Gary shared more details on GM’s effort for autonomous vehicles, but that’s a bigger subject and I’ll address them separately (my thoughts on Autonomous vehicles are in my upcoming blog post “Are Autonomous Cars following the Segway fallacy?”)


  • ORC performance in steady state operation: Papers that talk about ORC system typically talk about its power to energy ratio, fluid selection, its transient operation, transient controls etc. But the presentation by Thomas Reich from Volvo highlighted that the standard drive cycle used for assessment (combined drive cycle for long haul) for both North America and Europe were very close to steady state. This drive cycle for assessing technology was so close to steady state that even a micro-hybridization technology, (48V system), provided a meagre fuel economy gain of 0.7 – 1.1% fuel economy benefit. I belelive this, along with the Supertruck II program requirements suggest that the ORC design and optimization can really be optimized around steady state operation to gain higher power generation.


  • The cost benefit of ORC: This is the elephant in the room and the reason why ORC is still in its research phases. A few presentations discussed the economic case for the ORC and laid out the key variables that make or break the deal on the ORC. With the fleet operators looking for a 18 month to 24 month payback on any technology, the target price for the ORC system is around 3,150 Euros. These calculations are based on a diesel price of 1.20 euros per liter and a fuel consumption reduction of around 3%. Of course many parameters go into this equation, and a fuel consumption reduction of 5% can increase the price target to above 5000 Euros as would the fuel price. With today’s fuel prices and system costs, the truck operators remain unconvinced of the economic equation of the ORC and a payback potential of 18 months to 2 years. However, with the Supertruck II program underway with FIVE highly competent teams, ORC is very likely a key piece of the puzzle in an effort to achieve 55% BTE. This will inject further research dollars into the ORC development to improve its business case.


I look forward to the next years ORC conference in Lyon, France and track how the next gen ORC system takes shape into the Supertruck II program.


Sudhi Uppuluri is the Technical Director and Co-Founder at Computational Sciences Experts group. He has over 15 years of experience in system simulation of automotive and aerospace systems. He worked as a consulting engineer and sales manager at Flowmaster USA for 8 years. He has various technical publications on related subjects in SAE and AIAA journals. He holds a Masters in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Certificate in Strategy and Innovation from the MIT Sloan School of business.

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