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02-02-2018 | Drivetrain | News | Article

One Powertrain is not Enough

Andreas Burkert

One finding from the conference "The Powertrain of Tomorrow 2018" is that the fuel cell is essential for electric mobility, and a new renewable fuel is proving a sensation. 

The combination of internal combustion engine and electric motor will continue to dominate the automotive industry for a long time to come. Hopefully, one in two vehicles will be powered electrically in 2025. Even if the share of all-electrical drives is only fifteen percent in Schaeffler’s scenario, Dr. Uwe Wagner’s keynote speech, which he gave at the twelfth international MTZ conference “The Powertrain of Tomorrow 2018” in Frankfurt, clearly sets out the aim for the coming years. During his presentation, he outlines the required development steps that will shape the powertrain of the future. "The effects on the entire powertrain are enormous," explains Wagner, who heads Schaeffler’s R&D Automotive and Industry division. So is the car in its present form obsolescent?

However, neither Wagner nor any of the more than 180 attendees at the scientific conference assume that this will be the case. In view of the approximately 1.8 billion vehicles that will be on the road worldwide in 2035, the combustion engine will still remain the first choice for a long time to come. The almost 100 million electric vehicles that BP expects to see at that time are negligible in terms of making a meaningful contribution to the climate targets agreed at the UN conference in Paris. However, this is no reason for automotive developers to give up.

The rush for hydrogen has started

Toyota, for example, is pressing ahead with the fuel cell drive. According to Gerald Killmann, Vice President Toyota Motor Europe, the Japanese-based company was able to reduce the costs for major parts of the fuel cell technology by one-fifth compared to the Mirai prototype from 2008. "We believe that fuel cells have the potential to shape the mobility of the future," says Tillmann. He is also optimistic because many "components that are available from the mass production of hybrid cars have already been optimised in terms of costs".

Dr. Wolfgang Warnecke, Shell Global Solutions, Germany, praises Toyota’s commitment. Anyone who talks about electric cars should not ignore fuel cells, warns Warnecke. He believes that the fuel hydrogen has a bright future. Not least because this can be produced by renewable electricity and usefully stored for a long time using metal hydride technology, for example. However, this requires even longer-term research activities. This offers battery-electric mobility an opportunity. With its small car called Meet, Mahle is also seizing this opportunity to provide urban mobility. 20 kW is sufficient to accelerate the vehicle to a top speed of 100 km/h.

Achieving climate change targets with renewable fuels

Volkswagen is also committed to electric mobility and to renewable fuels to the same extent incidentally. Both have great potential to reduce CO2, explains Professor Dr. Thomas Garbe, a senior manager at Volkswagen AG. He pointed out in his lecture how "greenhouse gases can be reduced with optimised fuels in conventional internal combustion engines" and then created a minor sensation by announcing R33 Blue Diesel.

R33 Blue Diesel is a renewable, residual fuel that burns in conventional engines, emits little NOx, and results in twenty percent less CO2 (well-to-wheel). Here, it should be noted that the fuel is currently only available at the company petrol station in Wolfsburg, Germany. Shell also sees research into renewable fuels as an effective means of achieving the CO2 targets. In view of the fact that only five percent of Germany’s cars are renewed every year, this is an absolutely necessary step.

The two-day event "The Powertrain of Tomorrow 2018", held at the Gesellschaftshaus Palmengarten in Frankfurt am Main finished on 1 February. Car manufacturers, suppliers and engineering service presented numerous lectures showcasing the latest requirements, components and systems, as well as control and regulation technology for hybrid and electric drive systems.

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