Emissions legislation, the rise in motorsport work, and the popularity of niche models are just three reasons why Europe's engine consultants are being kept busy. Although UK-based engine experts - such as Lotus, Janspeed, Tickford, Cosworth and Ricardo, command most of the work, other mainland European companies are enjoying success. Here we profile three of them: Austria's AVL, France's Le Moteur Moderne and Germany's FEV.
GRAZ, Austria - AVL GmbH of Austria the largest independent engine and drivetrain consultancy in the world has - found new way to extend its range of services. Its new generation of test beds can reproduce up to 300 different driving sensations which automakers may want to build into their future models.
AVL claims to be the first research institute to make the subjective feelings and impressions of drivers measurable early on in a car's development program - whether it is a sports car or a luxury sedan. The test beds can reproduce the feelings and sensations demanded by a manufacturer, saving up to 80 percent of the time traditionally spent test driving new vehicles, says AVL.
'Many test prototypes need not be built,' said Helmut List, CEO of the Graz-based company. 'With our test beds, the time taken to apply the drivetrain to the car can be speeded up by 20 percent.'
AVL says the test bed technology is in increasing demand as automakers move to share platforms across brands. Criticism that cars feel too similar because they are based on the same underpinnings has forced manufacturers to defend the individuality of their brands like never before.
Collaboration with the nearby Steyr Fahrzeugtechnik car engineering center in Graz has resulted in the jointly developed Acoustics Competence Center. There the test beds can reproduce, for example, the best sound level or character of sound for each type of car in given circumstances. The manufacturer decides on the most desirable engine or road sound for its car after hundreds of people have been put through the AVL test procedure.
Although based in Graz, AVL has 44 other offices worldwide, employing 2,400 staff. It designs and develops gasoline and diesel engines, as well as powertrains for cars, trucks, tractors and marine transport.
The company was founded in 1948 by diesel expert Hans List, father of the current CEO.
Recently, AVL has won Ford's Q1 award for supplier quality, and has been closely involved in the Volkswagen three-liter Lupo project.
'We squeezed the past few drops of fuel out of the Lupo system,' said Frank Mundorff, head of research and development, passenger cars, at AVL.
Helmut List is leading the family company into new areas, particularly research and development work, calibration instruments, sound engineering, drivability research and the building of test beds for production line testing of engines.
AVL also makes diagnosis machines for automotive repair shops.
Like most automotive consultant businesses, AVL refuses to talk about most clients and current projects. But List said: 'There is hardly any car or truck manufacturer of any repute in the world that has not been or is not a customer of AVL.'
In addition to production car contracts, AVL supplies test beds to several Formula 1 teams. At present, engineers from the new BMW F1 team are working at AVL.
Mundorff said: 'The advance of platform technology for passenger cars, and the continued success we have with commercial vehicle makers, are taxing the capacity of our installations at the moment,' said Mundorff.