A greener drive: making cars more fuel efficient

A South Korean company picked two European partners to secure its lead in the clean diesel sector.

Hanil Tubes may not be a household name for European consumers but many of us are driving cars fitted with fuel injection and power steering pipes made by the South Korean company. It supplies some of the world’s biggest car manufacturers including Kia Motors and Hyundai Motor and, thanks to two European companies and EUREKA project HTPPT, will be playing a key role in the next generation of clean diesel cars.

A cloud is hanging over the industry in the wake of the VW scandal, which revealed many cars on the road were not as “clean” as the results of laboratory tests showed. Regulation is likely to become tougher as a result. That’s not a prospect that scares Hanil, French partner Arkema and German partner Fränkische. While some engineers were focused on software tricks to lower emissions levels, their engineers were concentrated on producing new hoses to make cars more fuel-efficient.

“We wanted to improve the fuel efficiency of the hoses connecting a car’s radiator to the water cooling system, the oil-cooling system and the lubrication system and we thought we could do it by making them lighter,” explained Seong Hwa Choo. Hanil Tube wanted to switch some of those hoses from metal and rubber to plastic, which would also make them more durable and less prone to corrosion.

However, the task was challenging. Developing a durable new plastic tube required investment and expertise. “We knew that coming up with the concept design, validating it, producing prototypes, engine durability tests, simulations and optimising the product would mean we wouldn’t be able to sell it for 3 to 5 years,” said Seong Hwa Choo.

Great expectations

Hanil asked plastics specialist Arkema if it could develop a plastic resin to withstand extremely high temperatures of 160 degrees Celsius and Fränkische, experts in bellows tubes, to help make it flexible enough to do the job. Plastic was already used in part of the car’s cooling system but this hose needed to withstand heat and be flexible. Hanil oversaw the whole design and how it would connect in cars and the trio secured funding in their respective countries for a total of 4.1 million euros. “Without Hanil’s financing we would never have been able to do the project,” said Marc Audenaert, R&D Partnerships Manager at Arkema.

’We began commercialising the tube in 2015. We’re expecting our sales figures to get better and better as a result of this product over the next 1-2 years, – Seong Hwa Choo, R&D director at Hanil Tube

The tube developed is heat and pressure resistant. It improves fuel efficiency by being 50-60 percent lighter than previous hoses, an attractive improvement for car manufacturers who began buying it from Hanil in 2015, using it in vehicles that meet clean diesel regulations like Euro-6 in Europe, Japan’s Post New Long Term Target and the United States’ strict Tier2/Bin5 standard. “We’re expecting our sales figures to get better and better as a result of this project over the next 1-2 years,” said Seong Hwa Choo.

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