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Groupe PSA and Centrale Nantes working together on digital simulation

Groupe PSA and Centrale Nantes launch a €4 million R&D programme dedicated to digital simulation techniques for powertrain design. The programme aims to bring low-emission vehicles to market faster.

on May 17, 2018

Groupe PSA and Centrale Nantes today announced the launch of an R&D partnership to optimise powertrain design processes for the group’s future vehicles.

Aim of the partnership: accelerate the roll-out of digital simulation

The aim of the partnership is to accelerate the use of digital simulation techniques in powertrain design, development and testing, and increase model predictability. In the long term, it could be possible to develop a new engine using virtual testing only, without the need for laboratory tests and prototypes.

Digital simulation offers numerous benefits:
  • development time saved: due to the speed at which digital models can be configured versus the process of building and testing multiple iterations of prototypes 
  • cost reductions: Digital simulation as a design method is less expensive than prototyping, which requires substantial tooling costs. The goal is to reduce the number of prototypes required by more than 70% versus the conventional design approach. 
  • higher quality and more robust: digitally simulated designs can be tested against a greater number of customer scenarios.

A comprehensive programme

Centrale Nantes combines simulation and testing capabilities within a single team of teaching and research staff specialising in modelling and state-of-the-art experimental resources, including engine and vehicle test benches equipped with the most powerful supercomputer available on a university campus in France.

  • €4M cofinanced by the two parties
  • 5 years
  • project scope: all types of internal combustion engines for the development of hybrid vehicles and may also be extended to electric vehicles
  • a team of around ten people focussing on:
    • digital modelling of petrol engines,
    • “smart” automatic calibration processes to shorten the testing phase
    • electric powertrain design.


A pioneering partnership

Groupe PSA is already pioneering the digital design approach. Plans for limiting the quantity of prototypes produced for design purposes were put in place back in 2015 for the development of the 1.5l BlueHDi engine, shrinking the number required by around 40%. Through this new partnership, prototyping and testing requirements can be further reduced.

At Centrale Nantes, the partnership will be coordinated by Alain Maiboom, lecturer and research supervisor at the Research Laboratory in Hydrodynamics, Energetics and Atmospheric Environment (LHEEA), a CNRS research unit. His research activities focus primarily on combustion and the reduction of pollutant emissions from internal combustion engines at source, as well as heat transfers in the engine and throughout the powertrain (experimental characterisation using test benches and phenomenological modelling).

Commenting on the partnership, Mr Maiboom said:
Our objective is to enhance the ability of the models to simulate the different physical phenomena at play and the various situations encountered over the lifetime of a powertrain, as well as to develop calibration methodologies. In a way, we’re developing a digital test bench capable of replacing a physical bench, at least in part.

Alain Raposo, Senior Vice President, Powertrain and Chassis Engineering at Groupe PSA, said:
Through our partnership with Centrale Nantes, we aim to boost the development of digital simulation processes with a view to permanently reducing CO2 emissions. The key innovation lies in decreasing industrial design turnaround time. For a manufacturing group and a leading school of engineering to be working together on this type of R&D project is a real boon for the growth of French industry around the world.

Arnaud Poitou, Director of Ecole Centrale de Nantes, said:
At Centrale Nantes, we’re very proud to be partnering with a major name in French manufacturing like Groupe PSA. This partnership is a testament to the unique positioning of Centrale Nantes, which combines outstanding digital expertise with large-scale experimental platforms, including vehicle and engine test benches and a supercomputer.
Published on May 17, 2018 Updated on May 28, 2018