Delphi Wants Your Old Car Engine to Become a Hybrid

Global fuel efficiency and air quality standards are tighter, so automakers must find a way to generate more power despite smaller and cleaner engines that must operate a growing array of electronic and safety features.

Battery-powered electric vehicles are efficient and don't emit pollution but consumers aren't flocking to them so far in Nissan's  (NSANY) Leaf, Tesla's (TSLA) Model S and Model X or General Motors'  (GM) Chevrolet Volt.

That's why Delphi Automotive  (DLPH) is working on software that will give your conventional engine more of a boost by making it into a sort of hybrid that works with 48-volt lithium ion batteries to replace some of the lost horsepower.

Delphi says it two vehicles soon will be introduced with these batteries, but declines to be more specific. Later this year, Volkswagen's (VLKAY) Audi luxury brand will begin selling a SQ7 crossover with a mild hybrid system that delivers additional power.

So-called "mild hybrid" systems that join a battery-powered electric motor to a conventional gasoline engine for additional power have been tried before but largely were overshadowed by gas-electric hybrids such as Toyota Motor's (TM)  . But tougher government standards are forcing automakers to consider giving mild hybrids another try.

Delphi, which specializes in the software that controls the system rather than the battery or the associated components, could see a lot of revenue from this switch. Each hybrid system would cost automakers $1,000 to $1,200, with the software comprising a significant portion of that.

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