On the path to zero emission
AS SUPPLIERS OF VEHICLES AND MACHINERY, ENGINE MANUFACTURERS PLAY AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN CLIMATE PROTECTION. AN OVERVIEW.
Eighty-two percent of the world’s population is exposed to harmful particulate matter pollution according to the WHO. In addition, the German Federal Environment Agency claims that 40 percent of the urban, traffic related NO2 measurements in Germany were above the limit value in 2018. Furthermore, CO2 emissions from road transport are now 20 percent higher than in 1995. The numbers speak for themselves. For a better climate, mobility must change.
Electromobility on the Rise
The automotive industry is primarily focusing on the advancement of electromobility. In the USA and China in particular, the corresponding markets have grown enormously over the past year. Each country experienced growth of around 80 percent, but Europe also showed growth of 76 percent, which illustrates how much potential electric motors currently have. The German Engineering Federation (VDMA) expects equal demand for electric and conventional drives as early as 2023. Many manufacturers are therefore investing heavily in the advancement of electric motors and battery technologies. The government is also providing stimuli, especially for the expansion of the charging infrastructure. The result is steadily increasing acceptance due to improved technology and falling prices, but also because of the worsening climate crisis.
The Challenge of Complexity
The good news is that it is already possible to equip commercial vehicles with purely electric drives or plug-in hybrid drives without any problems. However, occasionally higher complexity engines and adverse operating conditions such as high temperatures, strong vibrations, heavy shocks, high loads, or dusty tracks make it difficult to ensure the required reliability and service life. Engine manufacturers are tasked to develop the optimum drive for every situation, for example through diversified system approaches, a modular product strategy and a roadmap without limitation to specific technologies. All this has to happen without losing sight of sustainability requirements.
From Electric to Power-to-X
To make this complex field of innovation more tangible, engineers are increasingly talking about “Power-to-X” technologies. The objective is to convert electricity from renewable sources into other forms of energy and store it in this way. In some cases, this even produces conventional, but synthetic and thus non-fossil fuels. This method can be particularly useful for applications in which direct electrification is not yet foreseeable or beneficial. For example, conversion of green energy into thermal or chemical energy makes high-temperature industrial processes or air traffic much more resource-efficient.
"The array of drive technologies for tomorrow’s mobility is greater than many think. Synthetic fuels from renewable energies offer completely new possibilities." Hartmut Rauen, CEO of VDMA
Nobody right now knows which technological solutions will ultimately prevail. However, one thing is clear: engine manufacturers, as innovative solution providers, hold the key. And a substantial business in combustion engines will remain – for example, there is no alternative for heavy commercial vehicles in the foreseeable future. The developmental focus here is on continuously increasing efficiency, and that contributes to several goals at once: less noise, lower operating costs, and less air pollution.
82% of the world’s population is
exposed to harmful particulate
matter pollution according
to the WHO:
40% of the urban, traffic-related NO2
measurements in Germany were
above the limit value in 2018.
20% more CO2 is emitted by today’s
road transport than in 1995.
1 WHO “Global Ambient Air Quality Database” (2018).
2 German Federal Environment Agency “Air quality 2018 – preliminary evaluation” (2019).
3 German Federal Environment Agency “Emissions from transport” (2019).