TDCi - History

History

The common rail system prototype was developed in the late 1960s by Robert Huber of Switzerland and the technology further developed by Dr. Marco Ganser at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, later of Ganser-Hydromag AG (est.1995) in Oberägeri.

The first successful usage in a production vehicle began in Japan by the mid-1990s. Dr. Shohei Itoh and Masahiko Miyaki of the Denso Corporation, a Japanese automotive parts manufacturer, developed the common rail fuel system for heavy duty vehicles and turned it into practical use on their ECD-U2 common-rail system mounted on the Hino Rising Ranger truck and sold for general use in 1995. Denso claims the first commercial high pressure common rail system in 1995.

Modern common rail systems, whilst working on the same principle, are governed by an engine control unit (ECU) which opens each injector electronically rather than mechanically. This was extensively prototyped in the 1990s with collaboration between Magneti Marelli, Centro Ricerche Fiat and Elasis. After research and development by the Fiat Group, the design was acquired by the German company Robert Bosch GmbH for completion of development and refinement for mass-production. In hindsight, the sale appeared to be a tactical error for Fiat, as the new technology proved to be highly profitable. The company had little choice but to sell, however, as it was in a poor financial state at the time and lacked the resources to complete development on its own. In 1997 they extended its use for passenger cars. The first passenger car that used the common rail system was the 1997 model Alfa Romeo 156 2.4 JTD, and later on that same year Mercedes-Benz C 220 CDI.

Common rail engines have been used in marine and locomotive applications for some time. The Cooper-Bessemer GN-8 (circa 1942) is an example of a hydraulically operated common rail diesel engine, also known as a modified common rail.

Vickers used common rail systems in submarine engines circa 1916. Doxford Engines Ltd. (opposed-piston heavy marine engines) used a common rail system (from 1921 to 1980) whereby a multi-cylinder reciprocating fuel pump generated a pressure of approximately 600 bar, with the fuel being stored in accumulator bottles. Pressure control was achieved by means of an adjustable pump discharge stroke and a "spill valve". Camshaft-operated mechanical timing valves were used to supply the spring-loaded Brice/CAV/Lucas injectors, which injected through the side of the cylinder into the chamber formed between the pistons. Early engines had a pair of timing cams, one for ahead running and one for astern. Later engines had two injectors per cylinder, and the final series of constant-pressure turbocharged engines were fitted with four injectors per cylinder. This system was used for the injection of both diesel oil and heavy fuel oil (600cSt heated to a temperature of approximately 130 °C).

The common rail system is suitable for all types of road cars with diesel engines, ranging from city cars such as the Fiat Nuova Panda to executive cars such as the Audi A6.

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