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ABSTRACT

The advent of electronics has allowed designers and engineers to provide

precise control of systems that was not possible with mechanical control. This has

had a large impact on the control of all automobile systems, including electronic

powertrain (the engine and transmission) control, vehicle motion control, and interior

environment/comfort control. This paper focuses on the typical use of control

systems as they pertain to a spark-ignition (SI) engine and an automatic transmission

and the resulting effect on fuel economy and emissions.

1. INTRODUCTION

Two motivations have inspired the use of electronic control on a vehicle’s

powertrain [1]. The first is the desire for more precise ignition timing and better fuel

mixture (resulting in more power and torque delivered by the engine) that were not

possible with mechanical control. The second is the institution of stringent emissions

and fuel economy standards by the federal government.

The control of an engine and transmission is achieved by the use of sensors,

actuators, and a microprocessor or Electronic Control Unit (ECU—used by ignition

system). The assembly of these three components can form either a closed-loop or

an open-loop control system, depending on the application and requirements.

Sensors are input devices located in and on the powertrain and provide the

microprocessor with pertinent inputs. The microprocessor then performs a

comparison by performing a table lookup or by calculating a reference value based on

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the input from other sensors. The microprocessor then compares this quantity with a

reference value and sends an output signal to an actuator. The actuator then

responds to the electrical input from the microprocessor and performs the requested

action in order to correct the difference between the sensed quantity and the

reference value.

A vehicle’s powertrain utilizes both closed-loop and open-loop control

systems, depending on engine operating mode. A closed-loop system is also referred

to as a “feedback” system because input from a sensor is used by the microprocessor

and actuator to control the variable being measured. Conversely, with an open-loop

control system, the microprocessor receives input from several sensors but the

resulting actuator response changes a variable that is not being measured. Figure 1

shows an example of an open-loop and a closed-loop system

Sensor Input Microprocessor Actuator (a) Input Output Microprocessor Actuator Output becomes new input
Sensor Input
Microprocessor
Actuator
(a)
Input
Output
Microprocessor
Actuator
Output becomes new input

(b)

Figure 1 (a) Generic open-loop control system; (b) generic closed-loop control system.

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2. ENGINE CONTROL

Since the requirements of a given engine are maximum power and torque

output with minimum emissions and fuel consumption, the control of an engine’s

fuel system, emissions, and ignition system will be considered. Figure 2 provides a

general overview of the most common engine control sensors and actuators.

of the most common engine control sensors and actuators. Figure 2 Overview of electronic engine and

Figure 2 Overview of electronic engine and transmission control systems

(From http://www.mot-sps.com/automotive/engine.html)

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2.1 FUEL SYSTEM CONTROL

The microprocessor utilizes the input from several different sensors in

determining what commands to provide to the actuators. The specific sensor(s) used

to calculate commands for actuator(s) can actually change, depending upon the

following engine operating modes [3]:

Engine startup

Engine warm-up

Acceleration

Deceleration

Engine Load

Idle

Sections 2.1.1 to 2.1.3 provide an overview of the type of control

instituted (i.e., which sensors and actuators are used) for each engine operating mode.

Each operating mode’s affect on emissions will also be discussed.

2.1.1 Engine Startup and Warm-up

During engine startup and engine warm-up, the fuel control system is

operated in an open-loop mode. This is due to the fact that the output from the

Exhaust Gas Oxygen (EGO) sensor has not yet reached operating temperature and

cannot provide reliable readings [1,3]. Open-loop fuel control means that the output

from the EGO sensor is not used to control the air to fuel (A/F) ratio; however, the

mass flow rate of fuel is computed from the output of the Mass Air Flow (MAF)

sensor.

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Once the EGO sensor reaches operating temperature and can provide

accurate readings, the fuel control system switches to closed-loop mode. The EGO

sensor then begins to output a high or low voltage (depending on lean or rich

operation) to the microprocessor. If the EGO sensor indicates a rich mixture, less

fuel is injected. Conversely, if the EGO sensor indicates a lean mixture, more fuel is

injected. The A/F ratio therefore constantly varies but averages 14.7 over several

cycles.

2.1.2

Acceleration, High Load, and Deceleration

Acceleration and high loads are detected by the throttle angle or Manifold Air

Pressure (MAP) sensors (or both). When detected, the fuel control system exits from

closed-loop operation and provides a richer mixture so that higher torque can be

produced.

Deceleration is detected by a sudden decrease in throttle angle or MAP (or

both), and the fuel control system again exits closed-loop operation. Deceleration is

not only caused by shifting from park into drive or switching the air conditioner

compressor on. During deceleration, a lean A/F ratio is provided to the engine since

torque is not as important and in an attempt to lower HC and CO emissions caused

by unburned fuel.

2.1.3

Idle

Idle speed control is selected when the throttle reaches the zero position, the

engine speed falls below a minimum level, and the vehicle is not in motion. During

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idle, the engine speed is kept at a relatively constant optimal level in order to keep the

engine running smoothly while maximizing economy and preventing stalling.

The Idle Speed Control Valve (ISCV) controls this process and can actually

account for the aging of an engine by calculating the optimal engine idle speed and

controlling the amount of air that passes through the throttle bypass valve. During

engine startup and warm-up, the ISCV calculates optimum engine speed from the

input of the coolant temperature sensor. After the engine reaches operating

temperature, the ISCV utilizes a feedback system by taking signals from the automatic

transmission’s neutral signal and the air conditioner compressor on signal. The

system is able to take in these inputs and calculate a new target idle speed. The

feedback system then changes the amount of air allowed through the throttle bypass

valve in order to attain the engine’s target idle speed.

2.1.4 Fuel Metering Control

The fuel metering control system determines exactly how much fuel is

supplied to the A/F mixture.

The fuel pumped from the tank is unregulated until it

reaches the fuel pressure regulator assembly, where it is pressurized to approximately

10 psi and delivered to the injectors [3]. The exact amount of fuel delivered to the

system is depends on the control current applied by the microprocessor (Figure 3),

since injector geometry and fuel pressure keeps the flow rate constant. The control

current is applied in an on-off switching manner. The length of time the fuel is

injected divided by the period of the pulse is defined as the duty cycle of the injector.

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A higher duty cycle corresponds to a richer mixture, and a lower duty cycle

corresponds to a leaner mixture.

The duty cycle of the injector is controlled differently in open-loop and

closed-loop modes. In open-loop mode, the duty cycle is calculated and fixed by the

electronic controller. In closed-loop mode, the duty cycle is controlled in response to

the error signal provided by the EGO.

in response to the error signal provided by the EGO. Figure 3 Fuel metering schematic (From

Figure 3 Fuel metering schematic

(From Understanding Automotive Electronics; Texas Instruments Learning Center; Texas Instruments Incorporated, 1982)

2.1.5 Control of Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) and the Charcoal Canister

The EGR valve controls when and how much exhaust gas is recirculated into

the fresh combustion mixture. Engine speed, coolant temperature, and engine load

(throttle position) determine how much exhaust gas is recirculated to the intake

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manifold [3]. EGR is turned off during engine startup and warm-up, idle, and during

acceleration or other conditions requiring high torque.

The charcoal canister collects evaporated fuel from the fuel system. The fuel

is then released back into the fuel system when it is operating in closed-loop mode.

The fuel is not released into the fuel system during open-loop mode because it would

require the microprocessor to perform complex operations to determine how much

fuel should be allowed in from the canister.

2.2 IGNITION CONTROL

With an electronic ignition system, the control of the spark timing is much

more accurate than was possible with the prior mechanical and vacuum advance

ignition systems because the electronic system (in the open-loop mode) can take

several variables into account when computing the optimum spark timing (Figures 4

and 5). As a result (and with the addition of a knock sensor—closed-loop mode), the

engine can be run as closely as possible to the knock threshold. The control of the

ignition system is less involved than the control of the fuel system, however, the

system requires input from several different sensors to time the spark precisely (see

Figure 4).

When run as an open-loop control system, the variables affecting optimum

spark timing include engine speed, manifold pressure, barometric pressure, and

coolant temperature. The proper spark advance (SA—in degrees before TDC) for

each component is stored in a lookup table in the Electronic Control Unit’s (ECU’s)

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memory. The total spark advance is merely a sum of the components read from the

tables, depending on operating/atmospheric conditions at that time.

depending on operating/atmospheric conditions at that time. Figure 4 Typical digital ignition system (From Automotive

Figure 4 Typical digital ignition system

(From Automotive Electronic Systems; Mallard, Trevor; William Heinemann Ltd, 1987)

Systems ; Mallard, Trevor; William Heinemann Ltd, 1987) Figure 5 Illustrating the limitation of mechanical timing

Figure 5 Illustrating the limitation of mechanical timing vs. the advantage of digital timing with and without a knock sensor

(From Automotive Electronic Systems; Mallard, Trevor; William Heinemann Ltd, 1987)

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With the addition of a knock sensor, the control scheme can be

changed to that of a closed-loop system, and the result is enhanced performance.

With a closed-loop ignition setup, the spark timing can be continually advanced until

knock is detected. Once knock is detected, the ECU retards the spark timing until

knock is no longer detected. The use of feedback control for the ignition system is

superior to the opposing open-loop control system because more performance is

obtained by advancing spark timing, and because the closed-loop system

compensates for changes in engine characteristics that appear with age.

3. ELECTRONIC AUTOMATIC TRANSMISSION CONTROL

Transmission control is not as complicated or in-depth as engine control since

it does not have such an adverse affect on fuel economy and emissions. However,

the transmission does have a slight effect on fuel economy, so controls are

implemented to maximize the total fuel economy.

The transmission control units are designed to optimize selection of a gear

ratio[5]. At higher cruising speeds, the controls can engage higher gear ratios

(overdrive) to help with fuel economy.

Another strategy for maximizing fuel economy is the use of a torque converter

lock-up. Since an automatic transmission utilizes hydraulics to transmit power, there

is a loss in fuel economy that is not present with a manual transmission. This is due

to the fact that a manual transmission uses a nonslip coupling to transmit power. In

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an attempt to attain the fuel economy of a manual transmission, the control system

will apply a lock-up to the torque converter when there is a period of steady cruising.

4. ELECTRONIC CONTROL SYSTEM DIAGNOSTICS

An important addition to the capability of digital engine control is that of a

diagnostic system that detects malfunctions within the system, whether it be

malfunction of a sensor, an actuator, or a break in their physical wiring. Every

digitally controlled engine is equipped with a diagnostic system for the easy location

of problems.

The microcomputer is able to detect a sensor failure by looking at the input

provided by the sensor. If the input from a sensor is outside a conceivable range for

an engine’s current operating characteristics, the microcomputer declares a fault. If

there is a sensor failure, the microcomputer may substitute a reasonable value in place

of the sensor input, allowing the engine to be operated until it can be serviced.

Diagnosis of an actuator failure is made possible by the addition of a failure detection

or monitor circuit to the actuator.

5. CONCLUSION

Electronics has allowed the precise control of engine systems—therefore

allowing the automotive industry to meet and exceed federal regulations on fuel

economy and emissions. Although engine control systems have been shown to be

very in-depth, there are still several engine parameters that are unknown during

operation (there is no sensor available at this time).

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As electronics becomes faster with the use of faster microprocessors, better

sensors with faster voltage switching characteristics, and multiplexing circuits, the

control of engines will advance as well. There are man advances every year in the

area of engine instrumentation and control as the industry searches for the perfect

results.

6. REFERENCES

[1] Understanding Automotive Electronics; Texas Instruments Learning Center,

1982.

[2] Car Electronics; Mizutani, Shuji; Sankaido Co., Ltd., 1992.

[3] Understanding Automotive Electronics; Ribbens, William B.; Howard W. Sams & Company, 1988.

[4] Automotive Computers and Control Systems; Hunter, Claud C.; Weathers, Jr., Tom; Prentice-Hall, 1984.

[5] Automotive Electronic Systems; Mellard, Trevor; Heinemann, 1987.

[6] Automotive Sensory Systems; Nwagboso, Christopher O.; Chapman & Hall,

1993.

[7] Control Systems Engineering; Nise, Norman S.; Addison-Wesley, 1995.

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