Clean machine

A black box that calculates the true emissions of a moving vehicle, reporting the level and composition of its pollutants, could slash fleet operators’ fuel bills and benefit the environment, its makers say.

According to its Essex-based developer, automotive software specialists Lysanda, use of the Eco-Log could cut fleet fuel costs by about 10 per cent.

It could also prove invaluable to fleet operators if the proposed London Low Emission Zone is introduced in 2008. As the technology will allow fleet operators to prove the true emissions of their vehicles, they will be able to demonstrate compliance with the zone restrictions.

The Eco-Log is aimed initially at managers of delivery fleets and public service vehicles. It will enable them to monitor how their vehicles are being driven and calculate the exact fuel economy of daily operations, mile by mile, minute by minute. The company is in talks with a leading supermarket chain, which is interested in taking part in trials using the device in its supply chain.

The box could allow vehicle developers and government agencies to see the effects of applied emissions technologies, measuring the impact of vehicle operating and maintenance practices.



Diagnostics

The Eco-Log monitors the vehicle’s powertrain, taking information from its on-board diagnostic (OBD) system to predict its emissions characteristics, rather than directly measuring the gases in the exhaust pipe.

The factors examined include load, engine speed, throttle angle, engine temperature and for diesels, injector profile, and timing, shape and duration. These are plotted against the vehicle’s powertrain characteristics map. The collected data is then transmitted back to base over the mobile phone network, where a software system analyses and reports on it.

The box can also display the key data to the driver via a visual display unit, allowing them to modify their driving to save on petrol use.

The system uses continual advanced simulation-based monitoring (CASM) technology — an emerging condition monitoring technology that is considered the cheapest, most reliable method of measuring the outputs of complex systems.

Alexander Willard, chief executive and founder of Lysanda, said it could help fleet managers improve emissions efficiency by identifying heavy-footed drivers and inefficient vehicles.

‘The regulation of emissions at present is like sticking your finger in the air,’ said Willard. ‘People rely on using figures based on manufacturers’ calculations of average emissions for a vehicle, depending on its year of manufacture. It is very hard to control actual output unless you consider the largest factor, which is the driver or owner of the vehicle. Presently, it is easy to see if, for instance, one vehicle’s fuel consumption goes up by 10 per cent. However, finding out why this is and how to change it is difficult.’



Economy

The device allows the monitoring of fuel economy to be accurately calculated to a tenth of a second and, by monitoring driver behaviour such as rapid acceleration and heavy braking, will allow fleet managers to identify what is causing increased fuel consumption.

Using the Eco-Log device, fleet managers will be able to create an accurate profile of each driver’s style and how this affects their fuel use. They will then be able to assign tasks based on this information to match the most efficient drivers in particular traffic conditions to jobs requiring these skills.

The company is the first to offer nitrogen oxide emission monitoring without the use of a sensor array. Such sensors are expensive and may also be vulnerable to damage as they are placed in the exhaust system itself. The black box can be installed simply by plugging it into the diagnostics port of the OBD.

The company has fitted a prototype unit to a Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi and is now carrying out road tests. Lysanda is developing the system to make it more robust and suitable for different engine configurations, such as light commercial, heavy goods vehicles and a spark-ignition petrol version.

Julia Pierce