Research, Innovation and Sustainable Mobility

FCA is committed to meeting the mobility needs of customers, while reducing the environmental and social impact of vehicles over their entire life cycle. The Group’s global research and innovation activities are focused on developing solutions for increasingly sustainable mobility, by reducing fuel consumption and emissions, improving vehicle recyclability and safety, and developing new models of mobility. Continuous innovation is essential to development of products that are environmentally and socially sustainable, as well as affordable.

Innovating for Sustainable Products and Processes

All innovation activities worldwide are coordinated through a common framework, the FCA Global Innovation Process (GIP). Developed in collaboration with, and on the basis of, input from the Group’s four operating regions, the GIP covers all phases of the innovation process, from idea generation to pre-competitive development. As part of that process, guidelines and targets are then formalized in the Strategic Agenda.

During 2014, the process was further enhanced through improved integration of the four regions in several aspects of project definition and management. As a result, achievements for current projects were optimized and proposals for new initiatives were harmonized on the global level.

The process is coordinated centrally by the Chief Technology Officer who, as a member of the Group Executive Council, ensures alignment of the innovation process with the Group’s strategic objectives, and enables synergies and the transfer of new solutions across the Group’s global product portfolio.

At year-end 2014, the Group’s research and innovation activities involved approximately 20,000 individuals at 85 centers worldwide.

During the year, the Group invested approximately €3.7 billion in R&D (Includes capitalized R&D and R&D charged directly to the income statement), representing around 3.9% of net revenues from Industrial Activities.

The Group’s innovation activities have generated a significant intellectual property portfolio over the years and, at year- end 2014, FCA had a total of 8,311 registered patent applications and 3,719 protected product designs.

Patents - FCA worldwide
Total patents registered at December 31, 2014 8,311
of which: registered in 2014 596
Patents pending at December 31, 2014 3,410
of which: new patent applications filed in 2014 414

Designs - FCA worldwide
Design rights registered at 31 December 2014 3,719
of which: registered in 2014 294

Centers of Excellence

CRF, headquartered in Orbassano (Turin, Italy) with additional sites across Italy, was established in 1978 as a focal point for the Company’s research and innovation activities. It is a recognized center of excellence at the international level.

The mission of CRF is to:

  • develop and transfer innovative systems and features, materials, processes with innovation expertise in order to improve the competitiveness of FCA products;
  • represent FCA in European collaborative research programs, joining pre-competitive projects and promoting networking actions;
  • support FCA in the protection and enhancement of intellectual property.

CRF draws on technical skills and knowledge covering the full spectrum of automotive engineering disciplines and is equipped with state-of-the-art laboratories for testing powertrain systems, analyzing materials and electromagnetic compatibility, and conducting noise and vibration analysis and driving simulations. All research activities are conducted in coordination with the technical areas and operating regions of FCA.

Located in Windsor, Canada, the FCA Automotive Research and Development Centre (ARDC) opened in May 1996 in partnership with the University of Windsor and serves as an illustration of what can be achieved when industry, academia and government work together. The ARDC is equipped with six road-test simulators and a range of research and development support facilities, including the Automotive Coatings Research Facility, the Automotive Lighting Research Facility and the Vehicle Recycling Laboratory.

Dedication to innovation in numbers (no.)2014
CRF employees at year end 914
Collaborative research projects, running at the end of 2014 264
of which: approved in 2014 17

Strategy to Minimize Emissions

The Group’s sustainable product strategy is based on reducing the environmental impact of vehicles over their entire life cycle and addressing emissions challenges on several fronts. Key elements in this strategy include optimizing the efficiency of conventional engines, offering a full range of alternative fuel vehicles, developing alternative propulsion and emission reduction systems, reducing the energy requirements of vehicles, promoting driver behavior that contributes to reducing emissions and introducing new mobility services and solutions.

Immediate and tangible results can best be achieved by combining conventional and alternative technologies, while recognizing and accommodating the different economic, geographic and fuel requirements of each market.
Affordability is also a key consideration: even the most effective technologies cannot have a significant impact on the environment if they are too expensive to reach a sufficiently large number of people.

The Group’s commitment to increasingly sustainable mobility is particularly focused on the EMEA and NAFTA regions, where approximately 73% of Group revenues were generated in 2014.

In the European Union, the Group’s Mass-Market brands (Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Lancia, Abarth, Chrysler and Jeep) have reduced average CO2 emissions per vehicle sold by 24% over the past 14 years. In addition, approximately 73% of Group cars sold in 2014 had CO2 emissions at or below 120 g/km, and 82% at or below 130 g/km.

New registrations by CO2 emissions level in European Union for Mass-Market Brands (g/km)(*)
up to 100 12%
from 101 to 110 15%
from 111 to 120 46%
from 121 to 130 9%
above 130 18%
Total 100%

(*) CO2 data based on New European Driving Cycle (NEDC) measurement standard.

In the United States, vehicle efficiency is measured by fuel economy (Data is reported to the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and provided by model year, meaning the year used to designate a discrete vehicle model, irrespective of the calendar year in which the vehicle was actually produced, provided that the production period does not exceed 24 months. CAFE standards from NHTSA are set independently for passenger cars and light duty trucks. Fuel economy is based on the most recent NHTSA required submission, which for 2014 reflects mid-model year data. Previous year data is adjusted to reflect final EPA/NHTSA reports) expressed in miles per gallon (mpg). Actual fleet performance is dependent on many factors, including the vehicles and technologies FCA offers, as well as the mix of vehicles consumers choose to buy.

In 2014, trucks, including SUVs, pickup trucks and minivans, accounted for approximately three quarters of FCA sales in the United States. FCA light duty truck fuel economy improved 6% from 2013 to 2014, increasing from 24.5 mpg in 2013 to 26.0. Due to consumer preference for FCA large cars and larger displacement engines in 2014, FCA domestic passenger car mpg declined, from 32.3 in 2013 to 31.1.

The Group introduced a number of new solutions in 2014 to improve the eco-performance of our products.

Innovative Powertrains

The latest addition to the FIRE family of gasoline engines - the 140 hp, 1.4-liter Turbo MultiAir II - was launched in Europe on the new Jeep Renegade in late 2014 and is now also available on the Fiat 500X. This second generation MultiAir technology brings further improvements in fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions (up to 2% based on the New European Driving Cycle), building on the advantages of the first generation MultiAir engines that delivered reductions of up to 10% compared with a conventional gasoline engine of the same displacement.

The new high-performance 1.8-liter Turbo GDI (Euro 6) was introduced on the Alfa Romeo Giulietta for the European market in combination with the 6-speed TCT (twin clutch) sequential automatic transmission. The aluminum engine block, electronically-controlled thermostat, variable displacement oil pump and other features all contribute to the engine’s best-in-class CO2 emissions performance.

The Start&Stop system was introduced on the 8-valve, 1.2-liter versions of the Fiat 500 and Lancia Ypsilon, further improving average CO2 emissions for our vehicle fleet in Europe.

With respect to new diesel engines in Europe, availability of the second-generation 120 hp, 1.6-liter MultiJet II and 140 hp, 2.0-liter MultiJet II, both Euro 6 compliant, has been extended to the Fiat 500X. Equipped with the 1.6-liter engine, the 500X delivers fuel consumption as low as 4.1 liters/100 km and CO2 emissions of 109 g/km (combined cycle). Other eco-friendly technologies on the 500X include: a smart alternator, which modulates energy output based on current energy demand and battery charge level; optimization of the engine cooling circuit to reduce warm-up time; and a variable displacement oil pump that improves energy efficiency by regulating oil pressure based on actual operating conditions.

In the NAFTA region, FCA’s 3.0-liter EcoDiesel engine on the Ram 1500 delivers the highest fuel economy among all full-size truck competitors - 12% higher than the next-closest competitor. In 2014, in response to strong consumer demand, FCA increased the EcoDiesel mix to 20% of Ram 1500 production. This engine is also available on the Jeep Grand Cherokee, delivering 30 miles per gallon with a driving range of more than 730 miles.

During 2014, FCA continued to expand availability of the Group’s advanced technology transmissions. The new Jeep Renegade became the world’s first small SUV with a nine-speed automatic transmission. This transmission delivers a smooth driving experience and improved fuel efficiency. The nine-speed transmission is also available on the new Fiat 500X.

In addition, the Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X are equipped with rear-axle disconnect, which reduces energy loss when 4x4 capability isn’t needed and, as a consequence, improves overall fuel efficiency. This technology seamlessly and automatically switches between two- and four-wheel drive for full-time torque management under all driving conditions.

FCA’s highly efficient TorqueFlite eight-speed automatic transmission is now powering more than one million vehicles, with availability expanded to include all versions of the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger and Challenger. The TorqueFlite was already available on the Ram 1500 pickup, Lancia Thema, Dodge Durango and Jeep Grand Cherokee. Depending on the application, this transmission contributes to fuel economy improvements of up to 12%, compared with the previous five-speed and six speed transmissions it replaces.

Research activities on gasoline engines have been devoted to the continuous evolution of the MultiAir system capabilities. The aim is to maintain the highest thermal efficiency over the entire engine operating field. Smart auxiliaries, lightweight materials and low friction components are being assessed for future engine platforms to further reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Research activities on diesel engines have been focused on both the combustion process and after-treatment technologies. The aim of the combustion research has been to mitigate pollutant formation and enhance fuel consumption.

Research on after-treatment systems have been focused mainly on passive and active NOx reduction technologies to address real driving conditions.

For Magneti Marelli, eco-sustainable products (Includes hybrid engine, Xenon and LED headlights, LED tail lights, GDI injection systems, electronic control modules, automated manual transmissions and components of dual clutch transmissions) contributed €1.7 billion in revenues for 2014, representing an increase of 21% over the prior year (€1.41billion).

Natural gas, electric and hybrid solutions

A key element in Group’s emissions reduction strategy is the development of alternatives to the conventional gasoline engine.

The Group believes that natural gas is currently the most effective and affordable solution available for reducing CO2 emissions and pollution levels, particularly in urban areas. The level of CO2 emissions from a car running on natural gas is 23% lower than for an equivalent gasoline-powered vehicle. In addition, natural gas in the form of biomethane, which is produced from biomass, has significant potential for development as a widely-available renewable energy source. The Group continued as the undisputed leader in this market sector in Europe with over 56,000 natural gas vehicles sold in 2014 (+34% compared with 2011). In North America, FCA remains the only automaker to offer a factory-built natural gas pickup, the Ram 2500 Heavy Duty CNG. The Group continued research and development of technologies that will use natural gas even more efficiently. Advances in engine technology that leverage the properties of natural gas offer significant potential for achieving solutions to meet the CO2 emissions targets being phased in across Europe through 2020.

FCA maintained its long-standing leadership in biofuel vehicles in Brazil with more than 680,000 Flexfuel and TetraFuel vehicles sold in 2014, accounting for approximately 98% of vehicles sold by the Group. Flexfuel technology enables the use of varying blends of gasoline and bioethanol, while the TetraFuel engine is the first in the world capable of running on four different fuels: bioethanol, Brazilian gasoline (refined crude oil and 22% anhydrous ethanol), standard gasoline and natural gas.

The Group is also investing in hybrid and electric vehicle development. The Fiat 500e battery electric vehicle, launched in the U.S. in 2013 delivers a best-in-class 108 highway MPGe (MPGe is the measure devised by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for determining how many miles an electric vehicle can travel on a quantity of battery-generated electricity having the same energy content as a gallon of gasoline) rating and a class-leading 87 miles of combined city/highway driving. In 2014, two new plug-in hybrid electric vehicles were announced in the 2014-2018 FCA Business Plan: a Chrysler Town & Country minivan PHEV for 2016 and a Chrysler Full Size Crossover PHEV. Also included in the Business Plan was the application on a future vehicle of a mild hybrid using belt starter generator (BSG) technology. BSG offers improvement in fuel economy combined with a reduction in CO2 emissions at a relatively low cost.

FCA is focused on researching electric/hybrid solutions that are competitive in terms of both cost and performance. Electric vehicles do not yet offer the same level of advantages for the environment and consumers as natural gas vehicles. Limitations such as cost, range, recharging speed and infrastructure have thus far prevented widespread market penetration of electric vehicles. FCA supports public and private sector pilot projects aimed at overcoming these barriers and testing the market potential for widespread application of electric vehicles. One Group initiative in this area is a car sharing service, established in conjunction with the City of Turin, where FCA has provided a fleet of eight all-electric Fiat 500e vehicles. This represents the first test of the Fiat 500e technology in Europe. The Fiat 500e is also included in the fleet supplied to Expo 2015 by FCA, which is an Official Global Partner for sustainable mobility.

FCA has established partnerships with several government entities, universities and other organizations to develop electric technologies. Among these is a 5-year, €13.7 million partnership with McMaster University, a public research university in Hamilton (Canada), with funding support from the Canadian government. The project will advance FCA’s electrification strategy through the development of multiple prototypes of critical components, platforms and tools designed to strengthen the Company’s future product lines. The first of three phases was completed in 2014, and resulted in the filing of four new patent applications.

Innovative Vehicle Architectures

Solutions for an optimal balance between vehicle safety, comfort and emissions levels are focused on minimizing vehicle weight, aerodynamic drag, rolling resistance and the energy demands of auxiliary systems.

In 2014, the Group introduced the latest architectural solutions on the new Jeep Renegade and Fiat 500X. High- Strength Steels (HSS), which represent more than 70% of the weight of the new Jeep Renegade, ensure a strong, rigid structure. The Renegade was designed with integrated aerodynamic features to reduce drag and contribute to improving fuel economy. These features include fully integrated, aerodynamic-tuned body and fascias; an extensive rear spoiler; integrated underbelly pans; an integrated sill; aerodynamic spats; and a tail lamp designed to kick air off the side of the body.

Sustainable Materials

Research and innovation for materials used in Group vehicles are concentrated in three areas:

  • research on new materials and structures to reduce vehicle weight (e.g., high-strength steels, new light alloys, composite plastic materials)
  • analysis of biomaterials suitable for automotive applications (e.g., recycled polypropylene reinforced with natural fibers for use in vehicle interiors, and bioplastics from renewable sources)
  • identification of alternative uses for materials recovered at end of vehicle life (e.g., use of scrap tires to produce rubberized asphalt)

Promoting Eco-Sustainable Driving

Driving behavior is a significant contributing factor to the environmental impact of vehicles. Aware of the substantial difference drivers can make, FCA has continued to invest in the eco:Drive system, which provides personalized tips to help drivers improve their driving style and, as a consequence, reduce fuel consumption and vehicle emissions. The eco:Drive system is now available on nearly all Fiat and Fiat Professional models sold in Europe, Brazil, the U.S. and Canada.

An analysis of the best drivers revealed that the system can contribute to reducing fuel consumption by as much as 16%. By the end of 2014, eco:Drive had been used by more than 98,400 customers and contributed to annual avoidance of more than -6,000 tons per year of CO2 emissions.

On the Fiat 500L, 500L and 500X, the latest version of this application, eco:Drive Live, allows drivers to see tips and suggestions via the new Uconnect multimedia system. Real-time feedback on driving style enables immediate reductions in fuel consumption and emissions.

Mobility Models

The Group’s innovation activities also focus on solutions to respond to emerging mobility needs of customers and FCA employees.

One initiative is Enjoy, an innovative car-sharing service launched in Milan, Italy, by the energy company ENI, in collaboration with FCA and Trenitalia. In 2014, Enjoy was extended to include Rome and Florence. Enjoy is designed to address traffic congestion and improve the quality of life for urban residents. FCA supplies the vehicles for this initiative, which represents the largest car-sharing fleet in Italy with more than 1,400 cars. Features of the service include online or smartphone application sign-up and management, as well as the ability to instantly select from a pool of available vehicles parked at locations around the city. Drivers can also leave the vehicle at any of the approved parking facilities within the service coverage area.

Another innovative mobility program, the Fiat 500e Pass, provides alternative transportation to Fiat 500e customers in the U.S. The program offers a flexible solution for situations when a 500e customer needs to drive beyond the vehicle’s range or needs the carrying capability of a larger vehicle. Customers receive up to 12 days of alternate transportation each year for the first three years after the date of purchase.

Mobility options are also available to support employee commuting. One project is easygo, started at Mirafiori, Turin (Italy). Easygo targeted approximately 18,000 employees who commute to and from the complex, and has been implemented in other plants as well. Through a dedicated portal, employees can arrange car-pooling with coworkers and access updated information on public transport and mobility services

In the U.S., a grassroots sustainability program promotes vanpool options for employee commuting. In 2014, over 170 vanpool participants avoided driving individual vehicles an additional 3 million km.

The program advantages include reducing the environmental impact of daily commuting, as well as employee benefits such as reducing commute times, cost, stress and the risk of accidents.

In addition FCA’s Autonomy program provides tailored vehicle solutions for customers with reduced motor abilities. In Italy, revenues from the sale of Autonomy vehicles totaled €117 million in 2014.

Youth have an important part to play in any discussion about the future of mobility. In collaboration with the Italian Departments of Education and the Environment, FCA launched the Fiat Likes U project in 2012 (with students from eight universities across Italy taking part. The project represents the first time in Europe that an automaker has worked with universities on an initiative to promote environmental awareness and the use of eco-friendly cars through the three-pronged approach of Mobility (free car-sharing service for students), Study (eight €5,000 university scholarships and eight seminars conducted by FCA managers) and Work (eight paid internships within the Group).

The initiative has proved extremely successful: more than 1,200 students used the car service in 2014, which includes a fleet of Fiat Pandas and 500Ls totaling more than 250,000 km. The cities involved in 2014 were Turin, Pisa, Padua, Bologna and Rotterdam.

In addition to the expansion of the program in Italy to 10 national universities, the second phase of the Fiat Likes U project extends to five additional countries: Netherlands, Spain, Poland, Denmark and Germany, reaching 785,000 students.

FCA is also a Global Partner of Expo 2015 in Milan, a non-commercial Universal Exposition oriented towards interpreting the collective challenges faced by humanity.

Beginning in 2013, FCA provided a fleet of sustainable cars for use up to and during the Expo. A total of 35 vehicles are already in use, including 21 natural gas-powered Fiat 500Ls. Closer to the opening of the Expo, an additional 50 natural gas/biomethane Fiat 500Ls will be made available for car sharing by visiting delegations from around the world, together with 10 Fiat 500e electric service vehicles.

In the United States, the Group has been heavily engaged in research on future social and technological trends that will affect nearly every aspect of our business - from design to manufacturing, marketing and human resources. In 2014, three research initiatives focused on mobility trends including Global Urban Mobility, U.S. Family Mobility and U.S. demographics. The research provided insight into functional and experiential vehicle needs for new mobility concepts, services and products.