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DEMISE OF INTERNAL COMBUSTION—YET AGAIN?

PLENTY OF SAVVY people have predicted the swift death of the internal-combustion engine. T. Rowe Price, for example, made an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) prediction for 2025: “… only 10-15 percent of consumers will want to buy a combustion engine car at that time.”

Even the people who actually design, engineer, and build these cars are actively into replacing internal combustion by various options: hybrid electric vehicles (HEVS) and zero electric vehicles (ZEVS).

However, as suggested on the cover of SAE International’s Automotive Engineering magazine, July/August 2019, “Not Dead Yet: Engineering the ICE toward 2050.”

Automotive Engineering Editor-in-Chief Lindsay Brooke and his colleagues title their analysis “Extending the ICE Age.” They say, “Future vehicle propulsion is not a single-solution challenge. Top engineers take Automotive Engineering into the next combustion-engine frontier.” Here are tidbits from their analysis.

Inevitable, But When? “Mass electrification is coming. By now, most of the mobility-engineering community accepts that. EVs will, at some point in time, emerge as the ubiquitous propulsion source for light vehicles—and potentially for larger ones as well.”

They note, though, “But until that future arrives—maybe three decades hence—billions of new internal-combustion engines of various types will be produced.”

This and the following images are from Automotive Engineering, July/August 2019.

Where to Get EV Pieces? One aspect of an ICE/EV transition is the auto industry’s vast supplier network. One specialist told Automotive Engineering “… electrification present a tremendous pressure for suppliers, who must carefully balance their investments between ‘pay the bills’ legacy products and new technologies that may take years to build scale and earn a profit.”

Companies must be profitable to exist. Society has little benefit in theoretically ideal mobility that only a tiny fraction can afford.

ICE Lean Combustion and Boost. A Hyundai powertrain specialist told Automotive Engineering, “In advanced combustion engines there are two main areas that we’re involved in. One is furthering the traditional boosted SI [Spark Ignited] engines. The other is lean-burn engines, and within that space are two branches: Spark-ignited, which looks at dilution with EGR [Exhaust Gas Recirculation, to cool combustion for reduced nitrogen oxides] and advanced ignition systems, and lean-burn compression ignition [finessing diesels for cleaner operation].”

Turbocharging is one option. Automotive Engineering cites Mercedes-Benz claim that its turbocharged 1.9-liter M139 engine is the world’s most powerful four-cylinder engine. Output is 421 hp at 6750 rpm and 369 lb-ft of torque at 5000 to 5250.

Government Support. Automotive Engineering notes significant involvement of the U.S. Department of Energy: From 2011 to 2018, it funded research in GDCI, Gasoline-fueled Diesel Compression-Ignition, a mixed ICE strategy that optimizes benefits of each combustion concept.

Launched in January 2019 and running to 2021, DOE’s followup program is Co-Optima, short for “Co-optimized Fuel and Multi-Mode Gasoline Compression-Ignition Engine Meeting Future Emission Standards.” Nine U.S. National Labs are collaborating on the project. Also involved are Hyundai, Michigan Technological University, and Phillips 66.

These projects are far more than whistling at an ICE wake. Any propulsion option, ICE, HEV, ZEV, has evolving tradeoffs. And engineers sense important synergies of all three. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2019

2 comments on “DEMISE OF INTERNAL COMBUSTION—YET AGAIN?

  1. MikeB
    August 19, 2019

    Has anybody come up with an effective and affordable mild-hybrid retrofit for conventional ICE? Some of us have old (but still working OK and passing smog; not ready for overhaul yet) gasoline cars that need a good cleaning, chassis fixup, and something to improve the gas mileage a tad (at least into the high 20s rather than low).

    The problem with electrics is that they are still where ICE cars were before the Model T. Truly practical ones (with performance and solidly 200+ mile range that lets them do most of what a ICE car can) still cost too much to be useful for the unwashed masses. We need a Model T (or maybe Model A) EV that the people making them (figuratively) can afford to buy without excessive gimmicks. Namely, new at Corolla or even Yaris prices, in CUV or tall-car (like the Bolt and Kona EVs, but affordable at $25Kish – something you can pay off in 5 years at $500/mo.), and small pickup truck (like a Tacoma EV?), formats.

    • Bill Urbabn
      August 20, 2019

      Mike,
      Your comment about 100 year old electrics reminds me of this comment (published in 2010, posted here before), about some UPS electric vans only 60 years ago, the joy of maximum torque at zero rpm, and what might have been:
      “. . . our discussion of the trucks brought back happy memories of my childhood in New York City in the late 1940s and ’50s when we would look forward to the passing of the all-electric United Parcel Service trucks that plied the streets. We were fascinated by their smooth, silent and powerful acceleration. Occasionally, the driver would allow us to step into the cab and ride along to the next stop, usually just up the street. Why is there never any mention of the long ago [40’s and 50’s] use of electric delivery vans? Why was that technology just allowed to die, and why are we just now “discovering” that all-electric city vans are a great innovation?

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