How Brendan is leading the charge in worldwide search for motoring's Holy Grail
Published 09/12/2015 | 02:30
Dr Brendan P (for Patrick) Carberry is from County Antrim. He is technical leader in after-treatment systems at Ford's Research and Advanced Engineering, Europe.
We last met here in the early Noughties. He hasn't changed much. He's still keenly enthusiastic.
Only now the talk is all about NOx whereas back then it was about catalytic converters.
As we lunch we smile at the memory of how everyone was caught up in the 'Big Thing' then. It was a revolution of sorts. There is a plaque on the wall of the big open-plan reception area of Ford's RIC building in Aachen, Germany, proclaiming his virtuosity in developing an Advanced Catalysed diesel particulate filter in 2006.
But he's not one to rest on his laurels. The focus of our conversation shifts forward.
Much of what has gone before somehow seems simple compared to the challenge of ridding our tailpipes of more pernicious, noxious gases.
"We are looking at the next level. How can we get greater efficiency in our vehicles without impinging on their performance?"
He asks if people want 20-litre tanks of ADBLUE in their cars of the future. One litre of urea (ADBLU) is a kilogramme. If you have 20 litres then that's a lot of extra weight. It's just a question to highlight how inter-related it is all becoming: power, cleanliness, weight, performance, platforms . . . the list goes on.
So experts are devoting a lot of time in trying to develop something that won't impact heavily on another area of the car. There is a need for some 'unique' technologically that is compatible with the platforms on which the cars are built. "We have to be able to achieve emission control under all conditions," he says. That's a tall order.
Brendan is looking way beyond 2020; in stages of five and 10 years. The "Holy Grail', he says, is something that will seamlessly fit on platforms across the brand. "Over the years we've said: 'We can't go any further.' But we have."
A big challenge now is to 'separate' the emissions. He gives the example of how they have managed soot and hydrocarbons. "Now we have NOx."
The dilemma is "how we cascade the gases" - in other words at what stage does what gas get dealt with?
"Maybe we should be saying let's review the NOx first or maybe at the same time as the hydrocarbon.
"It is going to be about the sequence (of negating the gas) - that's the important part".
It all sounds good and feasible but there is no underestimating the task of grappling with the complexities of demands from regulators, manufacturers (Ford in his case) and, of course, drivers.
It is a stiff reminder of just how broad the scope of endeavour has become.
Holy Grails are like that.