Going by all the talk around automotive disruptions and transformations, it appears that the life of internal combustion engines is in its last leg. Many countries, including India, and cities worldwide have already pledged to weed out ICEs, starting as early as 2025. Some vehicle manufacturers, too, have outlined their plans to go completely carbon-neutral over the next few decades.
Regardless of the growing clamour to move towards electrified powertrains, experts from the automotive industry almost agree on one thing, that there is no single solution to solve the problems related to efficiency and emissions. There needs to be, and there will be, a wide variety of solutions that will co-exist and help meet the future emission targets.
There are views around the world that companies need to have a healthy mix of drive options in the eventual transition to pure EVs, and that in this period of transition, hybrid drives would play a significant part. It is fairly clear that everything is moving towards electric, and electrification is changing the internal combustion engine – from 48 V mild hybrid systems to the high voltage (plug-in hybrids) systems. Continental recently showcased a new 48 V, 30 kW high power drive system for hybrid vehicles that makes driving long distances possible under electric-only power. From what would typically use up to 800 V, driving a hybrid vehicle in e-mode can now be done using 48 V only.
Within conventional IC engines, we’re witnessing a surge in demand and preference for turbocharged petrol direct injection engines. Consumers are fast appreciating the pleasure of driving vehicles with smaller, downsized, yet powerful and efficient DI engines. Hyundai’s newly introduced 1 l T-GDI engine on its compact SUV Venue is a case in point. Close to 50 % of all of Venue’s bookings is for the T-GDI variant that comes with the dual clutch transmission – yet another technology that is gaining popularity in the Indian context.
Among other alternatives, Toyota believes 10 % of the vehicle mix in 2050 will be that of fuel cells. Natural gas, on the other hand, continues to be a viable alternative for some, including market leaders Maruti Suzuki, who has said it is looking at CNG to fill in the space vacated by small diesel engine cars in future. The company had announced its decision to stop manufacturing diesel vehicles from April 1, 2020, when BS VI emission norms kick-in.
The future is interesting, and it remains anybody’s guess how the overall CO2 scenario will emerge from the different powertrain options between now and 2030, and beyond.
DEEPANGSHU DEV SARMAH
New Delhi, September 2019