The e-future of the engine 3 minutes spent reading

The e-future of the engine

Volkmar Held
As a freelance writer, Volkmar Held reports for voestalpine on topics that move people. The content of his stories ranges from archaeometallurgy to future technologies.

The future of modern combustion engines lies in their electrification. This was also confirmed by speakers including Robert Fischer (AVL) at the 11th voestalpine synergy platform.

There shouldn’t be competition where none is necessary: working in symbiosis, electric motors and internal combustion engines (ICE) can be a true powerhouse for the automotive future in coming decades.

His next car: a “hybrid vehicle”. Robert Fischer believes the internal combustion engine and electric motor share a joint automotive future.

New research for old engines

Whether an Otto engine, diesel, 2-stroke or 4-stroke, in over 100 years of its history, the internal combustion engine has been continually improved in all its variations. Although these adaptations were initially focused on increasing operational safety and efficiency, over the past decades environmental protection has become an additional factor. But the increasing focus on electric motors has by no means supplanted the ICE in technical development departments. Quite the opposite, in fact. “The internal combustion engine is heading for dramatic changes,” says Robert Fischer, Member of the Management Board of AVL List GmbH, Graz. What he means is, on the one hand, the radical minimization of emissions, a challenge he believes can be solved. On the other, he sees a merging of the advantages of combustion engines and electric motors: “The future of conventional fuel-based vehicle engines lies in their electrification!”

Electric ICE trends

Examples of current trends demonstrating the joint power of e-motors and ICE:

  • Recuperation, conversion of brake energy into electrical energy;
  • Starter generators function as boosters to the combustion engine when starting;
  • Start-stop function switches the ICE off and on again when needed or if desired;
  • Electric turbochargers increase the performance of the ICE;
  • Range extenders: the mechanical power of an ICE is not directly converted in the power train, but used to generate additional electrical energy reserves.

The combination of recuperation and starter generators should bring fuel savings of 10 to 15% in urban traffic. The prerequisite for the new trend in hybrid motors is conversion of the vehicle power supply to 48 V. This is the only way in which improved auxiliary units can develop their full power output.

Hybrid future

Robert Fischer believes the future of the automobile lies in power train diversity: “The modified, highly effective combustion engine will remain the best solution for travel over long stretches, not least because of fuel availability. Forecasts show we will need around 50-times as many electric charging stations as the current number of filling stations. Unsurprisingly, the purely electric solution will dominate in urban centers and cities.”

According to Fischer, speaking at the 11th voestalpine synergy platform, by the year 2030 there will be hardly any ICE-powered vehicles remaining which are not electrified.

"The future of conventional fuel-based vehicle engines lies in their electrification!"
Robert Fischer, Member of the Management Board for Power Train Engineering and Technology, AVL List GmbH
Volkmar Held