Fuel economy and emission norms, coupled with the need for integration of another propelling device for hybridisation, have created ingenious powertrains. The fact that about 30 two-wheelers and around four four-wheelers are being sold every minute in the Indian market calls for a reset in the pace of ingenuity of powertrains to ensure delivery of better fuel efficiency and lower emissions.
The powertrain efficiency, weight and emissions are undoubtedly the most improved attributes over past decades. The resources deployed for research being carried out globally has resulted in this transformation. The outcomes of these endeavours are the innumerable innovations that are continuing to fructify in increased power and energy density by reducing combustion losses and friction in the front-end accessory drives, improved transmission efficiency, utilising more of lightweight materials and reducing the carbon footprint of powertrains. The use of aluminium, magnesium, plastics, and conventional and nano-particles impregnated composites is clearly obvious in 21st century powertrains.
Compact, lightweight powertrains have translated in lowering the overall weight and cost of the vehicle. Powertrain is one of the major weight contributors in the vehicle and influences vehicle efficiency, drive and handling, besides other attributes. The compactness has helped improve the coefficient of drag through better styling. Due to styling of a more aerodynamic lower hood and more crush space between the powertrain and cooling assembly in the bumper zone, safety has improved – both, passive and active, and for pedestrians and vehicle occupants. Low rolling resistance tyres have further enhanced vehicles’ efficiency and lowered the carbon footprint.
Through Life Cycle Analysis and Costing tools and processes, it has been possible to evaluate and improve the recyclability and reusability content, to reduce the carbon footprint. Carbon footprint regulations across different markets have stricter targets for 2020 and beyond. Powertrain manufacturers are incorporating these norms in the initial stages of development and are working with stakeholders to ensure they meet these requirements. However, due to the differing landscape of norms in regional markets, it is becoming important to strike a balance between implementation and costs, in the competitive mobility space.
The advent of electric powertrains has diversified the span of research and innovations between conventional powertrains and xEVs. The approach to design and development, vehicle packaging and integration, and calibration is evolving significantly. The mobilisation of xEV powertrains in several markets is encountering challenges due to lack of regulations and policies, not only for vehicles but also for charging infrastructure, and the lack of skill sets availability. These are of course influencing large scale customer acceptance. Over 100 years of investment in conventional powertrains, corresponding vendor base and trained manpower in design and development, and aftersales service, along with the fuel stations, does not make it easy for xEV acceptance.
The major challenge of battery cost, as per studies in mature markets, indicates that the cost of Li-Ion battery has reduced 65% from approximately 1000 $/kWh to 350 $/kWh, and is expected to be about 100 $/kWh by 2020. This reduction should improve acceptability of xEVs worldwide. The installation of charging stations with guaranteed serviceability, adaptability to chargers’ protocols and availability of replacement parts are other key factors for mass market xEV acceptance.
Mobilising powertrains is a continual journey in the current non-predictable global playing field. The seemingly obvious immediate need is to harness these opportunities by elevating the game that ensures a successful deployment of powertrains that deliver improved fuel efficiency, reduced emissions and lower carbon footprint in the sustainable mass market mobility space.