Article By Kerr & Smith

Vauxhall/Opel’s Engineering Centre in Rüsselsheim, Germany has taken on an important role within Groupe PSA, utilising its expertise in the global development network, including experience in sporty chassis design, US market federalisation and ergonomic seats certified by “Aktion Gesunder Rücken” (AGR).

With Vauxhall, Opel, Peugeot, Citroën, and DS Automobiles all under one roof in Groupe PSA, the group is now pooling its strengths, creating synergies and releasing the full potential of its brands.

“We want to build first-class automobiles and also excite our customers through compelling quality,” said Vauxhall/Opel’s CEO Michael Lohscheller. “As we announced at the presentation of our PACE! strategic plan in November 2017, we will develop all new Vauxhall/Opel vehicles in Rüsselsheim in future. Furthermore, the Engineering Centre will play a key role in the implementation of Groupe PSA’s growth strategy.”

Modular multi-energy platforms

Currently the keyword in the automobile business is efficiency. In order to manufacture efficient, economic and climate-friendly cars, the base design is key. This is why all Groupe PSA’s passenger cars and most light commercial vehicles (LCVs) are currently derived from two multi-energy modular platforms – the Common Modular Platform (CMP) and the Efficient Modular Platform (EMP2). A modular platform consists primarily of the floor assembly, the chassis and various powertrains, as well as the base electric/electronic architecture. The platform is therefore the decisive factor for cost-efficient automobile manufacturing and represents 60 per cent of the material costs. The Groupe PSA platforms are complemented with modules for engines, seats, restraints, cockpits and infotainment systems that can be used in various carlines.

“Thanks to the jointly used platforms, we will – depending on the programmes – save between 20 per cent and 50 per cent of the development costs of every new Vauxhall/Opel model compared to its predecessor,” said Lohscheller.

Different variants for various segments and international markets can be developed on these modular platforms: four and five-door hatchbacks, estates, vans, SUVs, convertibles and coupés are possible. The Groupe PSA platform dedicated to vehicles in the B and C segments is called CMP. The new Corsa, which will debut next year, is currently being developed on this very compact platform. The Grandland X SUV and the family-friendly Combo Life leisure vehicle are based on the EMP2, which is used for the passenger car C and D segments.

In addition, EMP2 also provides each individual Groupe PSA brand with the option of personalising each car to perfectly match the respective brand character. This flexibility ensures that a Vauxhall model is distinctively different to the Peugeot, Citroën or DS Automobiles model based on the same platform. “Hardware, software, the choice of modules, different set-ups, calibration – all this helps us create a brand-specific character for each and every car. It also permits us to safeguard and further develop the Vauxhall DNA and make sure that a Vauxhall drives like a Vauxhall,” said Christian Müller, Managing Director Engineering.

State-of-the-art powertrains for lowest CO2 emissions

The electrification of the Vauxhall product portfolio is at the core of the PACE! strategic plan. One of the main goals of this plan is to meet the EU’s 95g CO2 limit by 2020. Groupe PSA is looking to take over a leading role on low CO2 emissions – not only because it has been mandated by the authorities but also because the customers expect it. The Vauxhall model range is therefore quickly transitioning to the efficient, flexible and electrified platforms of the Groupe PSA. By 2024, all Vauxhall/Opel’s passenger cars will be based on these so-called multi-energy platforms. The new CMP is the basis both for conventional propulsion systems as well as for a generation of electric vehicles (from urban to SUV). In addition, EMP2 is the basis for the next generation of plug-in hybrid vehicles (SUV, CUV, mid-range and high-end vehicles). These platforms enable a flexible adaptation to the development of the powertrain mix according to future market demands.

Vauxhall will have three electrified model lines on the market by 2020, the Grandland X as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle and the next Corsa generation with a battery electric variant. Moving forward, all European passenger car lines will be electrified, either with a battery electric or plug-in hybrid variant, alongside models powered by highly efficient combustion engines. Vauxhall/Opel will become a leader in emissions reduction and be a fully-electrified European passenger car brand by 2024. The electrification of the LCV portfolio will begin in 2020 to meet customer needs and future requirements of urban areas.

The engineering team in Rüsselsheim is currently making a major contribution to the development of the electric Corsa, a battery-powered variant. Vauxhall/Opel can draw on a wealth of experience with its two electric cars Ampera (premiere Geneva Motor Show 2009) and Ampera-e (Paris 2016). The Opel Ampera-e is fully suitable for everyday use with its range of up to 323 miles according to the New European Driving Cycle. Be it hardware, software, battery-pack or manufacturing, Rüsselsheim’s expertise in all these areas is highly valued by Groupe PSA. The new Corsa, including the electric variant, will be built in Zaragoza, Spain.

Research & development for the entire Groupe PSA in Rüsselsheim

As already announced during the presentation of the PACE! plan on 9th November 2017, all new Vauxhall/Opel vehicles will be developed in Rüsselsheim. At the same time, the Rüsselsheim Engineering Centre shows that it will play an integral part in supporting Groupe PSA’s growth strategy.

The engineering team in Rüsselsheim also leads the development of LCVs of Groupe PSA that are built on a dedicated LCV platform. This global responsibility includes the development of an LCV platform and modules from advanced development to production maturity. The development priorities also include the networking and electrification of LCV along with automated driving. Leading the development in Rüsselsheim is a key component of the Vauxhall/Opel’s LCV offensive. The all-new Combo is already making its debut this year, the next generation Vivaro will follow in 2019.

The Rüsselsheim Engineering Centre will take on the global responsibility for the development of the next generation of high-efficiency petrol engines for all Groupe PSA brands. The next generation of four-cylinder engines will be optimised for operation in combination with electric motors and will be used in the drive train of hybrid systems. Market introduction will begin in 2022. The new generation of engines is designated for use in all Groupe PSA brands in China, Europe and North America, meeting the future emissions standards of these markets. The power units feature state-of-the-art technologies such as direct injection, turbocharging and variable valve control. The engines are highly efficient and will deliver low fuel consumption and low CO2 values.

Another focal point is the continuous advancement of all existing models along with the development of future vehicles and powertrains. For example, this includes the refinement of the Small Gasoline Engine (SGE) and the Mid-size Diesel Engine (MDE) families that are available in the Astra and Insignia and ensuring that these units meet the applicable emissions standards.

Groupe PSA has currently established 15 Centres of Competence in Rüsselsheim. The development teams from France and Germany defined development areas (R&D) within a short period of time in order to unleash the full potential for the entire group. The abilities of the various competence teams complement each other in a global network – to the benefit of all five group brands (Vauxhall, Opel, Peugeot, Citroën and DS Automobiles). These so-called Centres of Competence enable universal technical standards and optimal realisation within Groupe PSA around the globe.

Vauxhall/Opel is now playing to some of the typical company strengths within Groupe PSA. Outstanding seats and sharp shifting of manual transmissions, for example, are just two of the fundamental virtues of every Vauxhall/Opel model. Furthermore, our engineers have extensive experience in fuel cell development and in the area of test automation. They will also bring a wealth of knowledge in US market federalisation to the table and make this available to Groupe PSA. In total, 15 of these dedicated areas have now been brought together in the Centres of Competence to date:

Future technologies:

  • Hydrogen & fuel cells
  • Alternative fuels
  • Vehicle development:
  • Seats
  • ADAS: parking, active safety, danger alert

Restraint systems

  • Manual transmission systems
  • Geometry, dimensions and tolerances
  • Electromagnetic compatibility (EMC)
  • Vehicle fuel function
  • Vehicle material engineering (for many areas)
  • US market federalisation (vehicle and powertrain)

Methodologies:

  • Test automation
  • Software industrialisation
  • Automation of quality checks
  • 3D print of assembly tools