Auto Experts Plead for ICE in Battle Against Global Warming

A growing number of players in the automotive industry are making the case for the pivotal role of next-generation ICE technology in the drive against global warming.

Some even go so far as to suggest that an over-dependence on BEVs will only accelerate greenhouse gas emissions until the sources of their electricity comes for sustainable energy as opposed to inefficient coal and gas power stations, which currently dominate the planet’s electricity production. The importance of ICE’s role in reducing greenhouse gases is supported by a recent study by German automotive engineering outfit IAV, which developed research models to assess the whole life-cycle of variously powered vehicles in European fleets from now until 2035.

As Marc Sens, senior vice-president advanced development powertrain and sustainability in mobility at IAV, explains, the study sought to deepen understanding of a number of things. These include: how the CO2 footprint of the light-duty vehicle transport sector in Europe will be affected by the ramp-up of battery electric mobility over the next fifteen years; how best the maximum overall CO2 footprint reduction can be achieved; how effective CO2 neutral drop-in fuels can be; and the impact of employing alternative energy consumption assessment strategies on overall fleet assessment. “The study is confined to the 15-year period until 2035 since our aim was to work with possible assumptions that are as accurate as possible.  It’s fair to say that the more we would have extended the assessment period, the more speculative it would have been,” says Sens.

A key finding of the report is that that the introduction of drop-in fuels is the best way to achieve what Sens describes as the fastest and highest CO2 intensity reduction to the transport sector.  Another key conclusion is that, if the CO2 burden of the European (and German) electricity mix is not significantly reduced as quickly as possible, and no other technology is introduced in parallel to the electro mobility, CO2 emissions caused by the transport sector, at least from a life-cycle perspective, could rise rather than fall over the next 10 to 15 years. “If the aim is to achieve a maximum CO2 reduction in the transport sector, it is not sufficient to rely on just one technology, namely electro mobility.  What is needed instead is a plurality of technologies.  That is absolutely essential,” says Sens.

“As soon as electricity is produced in a fully renewable way and widely available, electro mobility would be a great solution to reduce the CO2 footprint of the transport sector as soon as possible.  However, it is important to bear in mind that the results of such a comprehensive study are bound to change if boundaries or assumptions change,” he adds.


For Sens, the key implications of the findings are that industry should not just focus on one specific single technology, particularly if the entire eco system is not yet ready or available, and that biobased and synthetic fuels with a close to zero CO2 footprint should be brought into the market as quickly as possible, at least as a drop-in solution and regulation must be adapted to allow these considerations within fleet CO2 assessment. “The transition to electro-mobility could and should be aligned to the maturity of the technology, availability of the eco-system and, most importantly, to the acceptance of the technology from a customer-user perspective,” he says.

Crucially, Sens stresses that, although there are around 270M vehicles on Europe’s roads, there are around 1.4Bn worldwide.  He also points out that the transition to mainly electro-mobility will be very complicated in emerging countries and markets. “ICE-based vehicles will still exist quite for a long time and, thus, the need for CO2 neutral fuels is an absolute must, at least if the target is a fast and sustainable reduction of the transport sectors’ CO2 footprint,” he says.

“In terms of the best mix of engine types, it’s not possible to give a straight answer.  It really depends on the fleet mix, on available boundary conditions and other factors.  Generally speaking, however … the fastest and best way to reduce CO2 is to promote the production of CO2-neutral synthetic fuels in regions where renewable electricity potential is extensively available, for instance the MENA region or South America, as quickly as possible,” he adds.

Climate neutrality

Elsewhere, Nicolai Wacker, vice-president product management passenger cars at Bosch Powertrain Solutions, observes that analysis of the most effective approaches to reduce the overall CO2 emissions of the global vehicle fleet is not a simple question.

“This is because, in many public discussions, the so-called tank-to-wheel ‘energy efficiency’ is used to benchmark propulsion technologies.  However, when we talk about effectiveness, we favor cost-efficiency towards CO2 reductions in a cradle-to-grave view,” he says.

Moreover, although Bosch maps the CO2-cost efficiency of different applications under a variety of environmental conditions, it has not found a one-size-fits-all solution, prompting the company to adopt a position of technology neutrality to develop a variety of solutions.

“Long-term, we expect that electric vehicles will become mainstream. However, in coexistence with other innovative solutions like hybrids, fuel-cell drivetrains, hydrogen combustion engines and CO2-neutral fuel engines,” says Wacker. “For climate protection, the only thing that matters is that all necessary energy sources – electricity, H2, fuel – are climate neutral and still affordable for the customer.  Our engineers are excited about the huge innovation potential in all mentioned propulsion concepts,” he adds.

Moving forward, Wacker observes believes that the optimum powertrain mix to reduce overall CO2 emissions from the automotive industry depends on a time-dependent, intelligent composition of environmental, social and economic aspects as well as on infrastructure progress and the availability of CO2-neutral energy carriers.  In recognition of these factors, he reveals that the Bosch’s mobility vision for 2050 is zero CO2 and zero emissions, based on affordable and exciting technologies.

“The bridge to 2050 includes all powertrain concepts. We assume that the mid-term powertrain mixes are looking very different from region to region.  That is the reason why we want to provide CO2-friendly innovations for all concepts,” he says. “Basically, we believe in technology neutrality and the efficiency of markets.  Under these aspects, Bosch argues for ‘cradle-to-grave’ considerations instead of ‘tank-to-wheel.’  We believe that an adequate, timely phased CO2 price would be the most effective regulatory guiding principle.  Only holistic and global approaches will truly address the climate challenge.  We welcome incentives to help overcome the huge initial hurdles to ramp-up innovative technologies,” he adds.

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