A cross in a circle—hardly bigger than a lentil. Numbering in the thousands, elegant, activated carbon particles such as these ensure that no gasoline vapors can escape from the fuel tank. MAHLE’s high-tech solution in a carbon canister is called macroporous activated carbon. From the outside, the canister looks like a black box with random openings. Nothing out of the ordinary, at first glance. But without it, no vehicle would be granted type approval in the United States. “At least 80 percent of all Japanese vehicles sold in the United States today are fitted with our activated carbon canisters,” notes Keiichi Maekawa, Head of the MAHLE research and development center in Kawagoe/Japan.
The think tank located just over an hour north of Tokyo focuses primarily on filtration and air supply systems for vehicles. Their latest development is a flap system to optimize the engine air supply on demand. “Before, there were two settings: open and closed. Today, we can finely tune the system to dispense the just amount needed, and even save fuel,” explains R&D engineer Junichi Matsuzaki. As he speaks, his colleagues are pushing a new van into the soundproof test workshop. Soundproof? That’s typical for the Tokyo metropolitan area, where open spaces are rare and people live and work in close proximity. In the workshop, the flap solution will undergo countless intensive tests before it will be presented to customers. But the testing is not just taking place in the vehicle. Engineers are also running tests in a cold chamber, for instance, to determine whether the flaps will continue to operate properly even if the system is subjected to icy temperatures of minus 30 degrees Celsius.