Remy International Inc. is North America’s largest manufacturer of electric motors for hybrid and electric vehicle applications. In addition, Remy is a global manufacturer and remanufacturer of automotive, heavy duty, and construction starters and alternators for markets in North and South America, Europe and Asia. David Soyka examines how Remy builds on a powerful century-long legacy to engineer a more fuel-efficient, environmentally-conscious future.
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, there was a lot of talk about reducing dependency on fossil fuel consumption. While on the one hand there have been technological advancements in fuel efficiencies since then, a lot of the talk was just that: talk. We’re hearing much the same thing again, but this time the talk is resulting in substantive action for a number of reasons.
“There are a variety of factors today that weren’t part of the oil crisis 30 years ago,” notes Jay Pittas, president of Remy Inc., a company with a long history of technological achievement in products improving transportation efficiency. “Today there is government fuel efficiency regulations in place, a continued instability amongst America’s largest oil suppliers, and a struggling automotive industry and U.S. economy. Government is taking a more active role in creating a demand for greater fuel efficiency and calling for significant reductions in America’s use of fossil fuels. The government is also heavily investing in the commercialization of new transportation technologies aimed at freeing the U.S. from uncertainties existing with many of our politically unstable foreign fuel suppliers. And perhaps this movement has most of all been speeded up by the deep U.S. and global recession. As America’s economy has retracted, auto manufacturers have been reorganized by government bailouts and the shift in consumer demand for more fuel efficient vehicles. All of these factors are now quickly changing the American transportation industry that for decades has talked about but done little to change.”
Indeed, Remy, a leading global manufacturer, remanufacturer and distributor of high efficiency Remy brand starters, alternators and High Voltage Hairpin (HVH) electric motors/generators and Delco Remy brand heavy-duty starters and alternators, recently was selected for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative for a $60.2 million grant award intended to accelerate the commercialization of hybrid motors for the medium- and heavy-duty commercial transportation market. Pittas contends this market has a greater impact on the environment than the light-duty consumer market where hybrid technology has received the most attention.
“Today, the average life expectancy of a car is 150,000 to 200,000 miles and it maybe travels on average 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year,” he points out. “Compare that to a commercial medium-duty vehicle like a FedEx truck that is on the road for 500,000 to 600,000 miles, and drives 12,000 to 15,000 miles in just one month, frequently in stop and go traffic. If you’re looking to make a dramatic change in CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, tackling the medium to heavy duty vehicle market is extremely critical and a good place to focus resources.”
Moreover, Pittas notes that even while hybrids are becoming more popular among consumers, “there are approximately 100,000 Prius cars sold annually in the U.S. compared to 55 to 65 million conventional gas or diesel powered cars produced globally. So, as the demand for hybrid vehicles continues growing, we see the potential to make the greatest difference in the medium- to heavy-duty commercial market.” In fact, according to the Center on Globalization Governance and Competitiveness, if U.S. hybrid commercial vehicles reach 4,850 units by 2010, four to 10 million gallons of fuel can be saved with an estimated CO2 reduction of between 47,000 to 116,000 tons.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) selected Remy and its co-applicant, Phoenix International, for a grant project to fund capital and human resource investments to produce a full line of standard electric motors and power electronics. According to a company press release, “This investment will create or protect nearly 1,000 highly skilled jobs in the United States for Remy, its partners and its supply base. It will also establish a strong domestic manufacturing base for electric drive motor technology and accelerate the use of electric drive vehicles with higher fuel efficiency.” Also in the release, John Weber, president and CEO, states, “This is outstanding news as it accelerates our growth strategy…This reconfirms Remy’s technology in hybrid electric motors and will accelerate our leadership position in the market.”
SETTING HYBRID STANDARDS
Pittas says, “The proposed grant helps us standardize the tooling for component manufacturing, eliminate non-recurring engineering, and improve speed-to-market so hybrid technology becomes more cost effective and consequently more widely adopted in the emerging hybrid marketplace. Even in the light-duty consumer sector, our core HVH hybrid technology is already in use for both General Motors’ line of hybrid SUVs and Daimler’s line of hybrid CUVs. SUVs have gotten a lot of bad press of late, but the fact is that a large number of American consumers prefer these vehicles to small cars. The HVH Platform in GM’s line of hybrid SUVs and trucks realize 40 percent better gas mileage in city driving. Further standardization and greater affordability of hybrid technology allows consumers to get the type of vehicle they want with the greater fuel efficiency, performance and reduced emissions they need to have.”
Remy is already the largest North American manufacturer of electric motors for hybrid systems, having the largest hybrid motor testing facility with Hybrid Dynamometer Stands that manage 160 kW (kilowatts) peak power and replicate 15,000 rpm (revolutions per minute) at peak speed to address the rigorous demands of original equipment quality.
Its HVH hybrid motor platform provides superior power density and higher torque density in comparison to other motors, resulting in higher output using less space and lower weight, which results in more efficient operation and easy integration into vehicle transmission systems. In fact, the HVH platform not only exceeds existing DOE targets for electric power density, it already exceeds published 2020 targets by 200 percent. The HVH platform also is capable of withstanding much higher temperatures and voltage than traditional motor technologies, resulting in a more durable system to offer the highest levels of reliability and system efficiency. Improved cooling enables a more level and continuous electric torque and power output, compared to other hybrids that can provide it only for short bursts.
Remy’s hybrid motors are also being used in conjunction with diesel powered transit buses in major cities such as Seattle and Chicago. “Right now, we’re in about 2,000 transit buses,” Pittas says. “Of course, one of the great advantages of hybrid technology is that it relies solely on electric power instead of fossil fuel for stop and go traffic. That’s largely what a city transit bus is doing all day long; think of the fuel and emissions reductions you achieve with that.”
LEADING ALTERNATOR/STARTER PROVIDER
While hybrid represents a promising product line that builds on its core competencies, Remy has long been one of the leaders in the manufacture and remanufacture of rotating electrical components, specifically alternators and starters, dating from the start of the automotive industry when brothers Frank and Perry Remy developed the Remy Magneto to power the first “horseless carriages.” A former division of GM’s DELCO (Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company), Remy was spun off as an independent company in 1994, and in 2004 changed its corporate name from Delco Remy to Remy International, Inc. Today, it is headquartered in Pendleton, Ind., near Indianapolis, and employs approximately 5,400 with global facilities in 11 countries, and manufacturing plants in Brazil, China, Hungary, Korea, Mexico and Tunisia. It is the largest North American supplier of rotating electricals, with $1.2 billion in global revenues.
REMY IS ORGANIZED INTO FOUR DISTINCT BUSINESS UNITS:
The Original Equipment business unit serves two primary channels: automotive (a major supplier for original equipment manufacturers such as Ford, GM, Daimler, Chrysler, and Hyundai/Kia) and heavy duty vehicles (leading North American supplier of OEM and aftermarket starters and alternators for Daimler Trucks, CAT, Navistar, Cummins, and Volvo, among others).
Remy Power Products is one of the largest producers of remanufactured starters and alternators for the automobile, light- and heavy-duty truck and other heavy duty vehicles aftermarket. In the automotive segment Remy is a major supplier to large automotive parts retailers such as Advance Auto Parts, Autozone, CarQuest, and O’Reilly.
Remy’s European operations supply new and remanufactured starters, alternators, and electric motors for the original equipment market (light duty and heavy duty) and aftermarket.
Remy’s Locomotive business unit remanufactures locomotive power, marine and industrial engine components. Remy has two main locomotive facilities in North America.
“There is no one panacea to our energy and pollution problems, but certainly we can make a significant contribution towards addressing the general challenges to move towards reaching our overall goals. We’ve been at this long before getting into hybrid technology. We’ve constantly worked to improve the energy efficiency of our alternators and starters,” Pittas stated.
Another example of environmental conservation taking place at Remy is the remanufacturing of starters and alternators. “That’s always been a core part of our business,” Pittas says. “By remanufacturing a starter, we’re recycling metals such as aluminum that house the electrical components and keep these materials out of the waste stream. Additionally, it takes a fraction of the energy to remanufacture a starter compared to building a new one. What is good for the environment isn’t just new technologies, but the sort of things we’ve been doing all along.”
Despite the challenges facing the global automotive market, Pittas still sees a lot of opportunities, particularly in places that rely more on public transportation systems, such as China and Brazil, which have expressed interest in hybrid technologies for their transit buses. “We’ll continue to focus on our core competencies and grow organically. However, should the opportunity present itself to obtain complementary technologies that add or enhance to our existing markets, particularly in areas such as off-road or marine, we’d certainly consider that,” Pittas says.