Skip to Main Content
case study

Research center uses Simcenter tools to develop complete model-based engine management system

IFPEN partnership with Siemens Digital Industries Software drives acceptance of system simulation and modeling

IFP Energies nouvelles (Powertrains)

IFP Energies nouvelles is a public-sector research, innovation and training center active in the fields of energy, transport and the environment. It promotes the emergence of a sustainable energy mix, creating wealth and jobs by supporting French and European economic activity and the competitiveness of related industrial sectors.
Rueil-Malmaison, France
Simcenter Products, Simcenter Amesim
Industry Sector:
Automotive & transportation


The control strategies had to be designed from scratch and our team at IFPEN used Simcenter Amesim to simulate the complete system. The project was a successful example of 100 percent model-based engine management system development. An actual engine was used only for final validation on a physical prototype. This is a clear indication that model-based system simulation is the way of the future.
Philippe Pinchon, Director, Powertrain Engineering Technology Business Unit
IFP Energies nouvelles

Rethinking the technology mix

Over the past 15 years, automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) have introduced more than 50 technologies aimed at slashing carbon dioxide (CO2) output. Existing solutions cover issues such as biofuels, hybrid engines and new standards, including start-and-stop and power-on-demand systems. As any Western automotive manufacturer can tell you, the tricky part is to how to adapt the right mix of emission-reducing technology without breaking the bank.

One of Siemens Digital Industries Software’s long-term partners, the French research center IFP Energies nouvelles (IFPEN) with its staff of 1,700, is a driving force behind cleaner and greener cars. The company’s research is helping the industry determine how best to apply these technologies.

In a recent interview, Philippe Pinchon, director of the Powertrain Engineering Technology Business Unit at IFPEN, provides insight about his company’s efforts to perfect technological solutions that reduce fuel consumption and create cleaner and greener vehicles.

What is your goal for the next-generation powertrain?

“At IFPEN, our research targets major challenges: we want to reduce CO2 and other polluting gas emissions by developing the most innovative powertrains possible. A key aspect is to reduce fuel consumption by improving the fit between engine and fuel, particularly through an optimum combustion process. We are also strongly involved in the development of the best possible hybrid powertrains as well as in the assessment of alternative fuels.”

How have partnerships contributed to your success?

“Like other successful research institutions, a significant proportion of our research is conducted in partnership with industry. This credo makes sure that our work is easily fit-for-purpose in regards to major industrial concerns. I think that our partnership with Siemens PLM Software has really driven the world of system simulation and modeling forward. We have developed various tools for powertrain and vehicle simulation that are used today by the automotive industry for both energy management optimization and increasing internal combustion engine efficiency. At IFPEN, more than 70 people are using these tools, from modeling experts to design and control engineers.”

How have partnerships contributed to your success?

Does the perfect pollution-free solution exist?

“Solutions will depend on local conditions. For example, the European Union (EU) is targeting an average 95 grams (g) of CO2 per kilometer (km) by 2020. This push for greener cars means that technology will clearly have to play a major role to drastically reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption from the present situation. But at the same time, the technologies under discussion are rather complex and numerous. Actually, the key issue is to design affordable and efficient solutions.

“However, I think that standardization will no longer be the rule in the future because no unique perfect solution will fit every local situation. Cultural, resource-related or political reasons may influence local trends. For example, Brazil is clearly a leader in the sustainable biofuel economy thanks in part to its advanced agricultural sector and 30-year-old ethanol fuel program as well as early consumer acceptance of flex-fuel cars. In some other parts of the world, we see a trend toward electric vehicles (EVs). In fact, maximizing all the currently available technology will be required to reach the 95g-mark in 10 years. And some new technology breakthroughs will be needed as well.”

Are EVs the answer?

“EVs or plug-in hybrid electric vehicles are certainly raising more and more interest because of the intrinsic advantages of electric power. Similar to the early years of the automobile more than 100 years ago, these first-generation vehicles are preliminary products and they are expensive. As an industry, we must make an enormous research and development (R&D) push to make this technology affordable to the masses. This won’t be simple nor will one single OEM be able to do it alone. This is a play requiring a top-notch performance from the entire cast.”

Where can we see your research at work?

“We focus most of our research work on internal combustion engine improvement and on vehicle electric hybridization. We currently have two successful running prototypes combining natural gas engines with hybridization: one based on a mild-hybrid Smart car and the other on the Toyota Prius. What is remarkable is that both of these vehicles easily go under 80g CO2 per km.”

Where can we see your research at work?

You make it sound easy, but it is not?

“True. There is a lot of next-generation technology to consider when creating such a low CO2 car. Besides the entire aspect of using natural gas instead of gasoline, the cars feature recovery loss systems such as regenerative braking as well as highly efficient internal combustion engine (ICE) and electrical hybrid technology. The puzzle is very complex and design is an expensive process. However, by using a very effective system simulation platform like Simcenter Amesim software from Siemens Digital Industries Software, you can drastically reduce costs and the time frame of the design.”

How can system simulation make hybrid vehicles safe?

“Control engineering must be included from the very early stages of the design process. This can be achieved through the numerical simulation of various driving situations and testing of vehicle control strategies in the virtual world. This is where Simcenter Amesim can play an important role; it can be used for failure analysis to specify failure modes in vehicle control strategies. The principle vehicle controller designed as an Simcenter Amesim model can be tested on a hardware-in-the-loop (HiL) platform. Various what-if scenarios can be run such as: what if the electric motor blocks during certain maneuvers? By validating typical scenarios like those encountered by this car manufacturer on the control software before actual physical prototype testing, you automatically eliminate certain issues. And this is just the beginning. This type of simulation concept can be used for worst-case scenario testing and might eventually even replace the proving ground. We’ll see massive amounts of simulation development in this area in the coming years.”

Switching gears, let’s talk about the powertrain

“Definitely. As you know, the combustion engine has changed dramatically during the past 10 years, from a limited set of actuators to a bundle of dual-stage turbocharger technologies, variable valve actuations and multiple injections. For engineers, this means many more degrees of freedom, but it is much more difficult to control. You can’t design this in a traditional manner and you certainly can’t write the control strategy with testing it out. Along with Siemens Digital Industries Software tools, we have done some groundbreaking work in this field. The system consisted of a two-stage turbocharger fitted with two exhaust gas re-circulation loops. The control strategies had to be designed from scratch and our team at IFPEN used Simcenter Amesim to simulate the complete system. The project was a successful example of 100 percent model-based engine management system development. An actual engine was used only for final validation on a physical prototype. This is a clear indication that model-based system simulation is the way of the future.”

Does this mean that testing as we know it will disappear?

“Not at all. There is still a tremendous need for large-scale experimental equipment, like internal combustion engine test benches, full vehicle test benches, component test benches. There are even new ones in demand like battery test benches. But testing and simulation are certainly becoming more and more interconnected. For example, take HiL. This is an excellent way to simulate nonexistent parts on a working real-time test bench. Perhaps the best example I could name at the moment is the HyHIL project, a virtual hybrid test bed we’ve designed using various tools to reproduce and assess any complex hybrid vehicle architecture. Simcenter Amesim is used for the real-time simulation of components like the transmission or electric motors. Only the internal combustion engine is real and the powertrain test bench is controlled by D2T’s MORPHEE 2 test bench supervisor. This is a unique tool today to help design and control hybrid powertrains for optimum fuel-efficiency and engine performance.”

It sounds as if there is no turning back

“This is certainly the way forward. And as we all know, design cycles cannot be increased, products are more and more complex and quality is of the essence in today’s brand-driven world. It is clear to me that without model-based system simulation, we wouldn’t be able to develop these next-generation vehicles. I am looking forward to working with Siemens Digital Industries Software to develop a unique model-based system engineering platform. This is where the future of simulation will lead us.”