Will We Still Need Combustion Engines and Multispeed Transmissions in 2030?
Stricter environmental regulations, e-car quotas and calls for banning combustion engines are driving electrification. Local emission-free mobility will prevail in cities, but for long-distance use it’s less clear whether fully electric drives can replace combustion engines with multi-gear transmissions and CVTs. We asked transmission and engine experts what role combustion engines and multi-gear transmissions or CVTs will play in 2030.
The future of transmissions depends on the propulsion systems. Reading the newspapers, you might almost believe there will only be e-drives after 2030; the German Bundesrat for example is discussing a ban on combustion engines from 2030. The poor air quality in cities due to NOX is a main driver. Although legislated emission limits for the cycles have been reduced to almost one-tenth in the last 20 years, air pollution remains almost unchanged because real-life emissions have hardly been reduced at all. Under RDE legislation, real-life emissions are significantly reduced towards the levels defined for the chassis dyno-based test cycles. By 2030, fleets should have been renewed to such an extent that fleet emissions will be far below today’s values.
“We can still expect a long life for multi-speed transmissions” – Dr. Robert Fischer, Executive Vice President, Engineering and Technology Powertrain Systems, AVL List
So air pollution from car traffic will be reduced dramatically, and from this point of view we can expect the problem of air quality in cities to be solved. Nevertheless, pure electric drives will gain market share – especially in urban scenarios. Non-driving phases must be used to recharge the batteries – for example, overnight. Long-distance traffic has other requirements. Take a traffic hotspot like the Brenner autobahn, for instance: if all vehicles were purely electric, instead of 20 pumps for liquid fuels you would need 1000 charging stations with a 400 MW peak power rating. That may be feasible, but it doesn’t add up. So it can be concluded that in 2030, more than 70 % of powertrains will have an internal combustion engine. They will be electrified to a high degree. 48V systems with mild hybrid functionality (meaning reduced costs compared to 400V systems, not increased costs compared to 12V systems), or hybrid drives with an increasing share of dedicated hybrid transmissions (DHT) will grow their market share. So multi-speed transmissions probably still have a long life expectancy.
“Electrification overcomes the disadvantages of combustion engines” – Dr. Ryozo Hiraku, Engineering Director, Powertrain Engineering Division, Nissan
To achieve high level powertrain system efficiency, electrification is mandatory. So a movement to an e-motor drive system would seem to be a natural transition. However, a battery electric vehicle (BEV) is not a perfect zero-emission solution from a well-to-wheel point of view, even though it achieves locally emission-free mobility. That means that unfortunately the BEV cannot be a technical goal currently. To make a BEV the perfect zero emission solution, a fully fossil fuel-free energy supply is essential; but we are a very long way from being able to achieve this.
On the other hand, internal combustion engine (ICE) based powertrain systems including transmissions, which emit CO2 and other pollutants during operation, have been continuously improved year after year. Ongoing evolution to further reduce emissions can also be expected.
Especially recently, electrification has been overcoming the disadvantages of ICE with regard to inefficient conditions such as low.
“Electrification overcomes the disadvantages of combustion engines” Dr. Ryozo Hiraku, Engineering Director, Powertrain Engineering Division, Nissan load operation and rapid transient load changing. So in combination with electrical devices, ICE based powertrain systems still have huge potential for improvement. In fact, both BEVs and ICE-based powertrains are not perfect solutions today. But both are improving and heading towards the perfect solutions. Therefore, we assume that both BEVs and ICE-based powertrains will be important technologies for sustainable mobility as early as around 2030, and it will not be a question of choosing one of them.
“Bigger changes than anything we have seen in more than a century” – Prof. Dr. Leopold Mikulic, Managing Director, Mikulic Consulting
The fundamental changes that powertrain technology now faces are bigger than anything we have seen in more than a century of evolution in passenger car technology. Driven by environmental and health requirements, regulators are striving for even stricter air quality standards. As a result, OEMs face more challenging emission standards and test methods in future. On top of this, the automotive industry must comply with drastically reduced CO2 emission ceilings on a global basis. As a result, powertrain electrification in passenger cars began with the advent of hybrid technology. In the next few decades, efficient, pure electric powertrains are seen as the game-changer in automotive powertrain technology. It’s not just combustion engines that will undergo massive changes, for example rightsizing and high pressure turbocharging, cylinder cut off and variable compression ratios; transmission technology will also have to adapt to help reduce emissions, yet still provide enough agility and response even with fewer speeds. Electrified powertrains will involve integrating electric motors into stepped automated or dual clutch transmissions, while power split transmissions may cover the high end too. Some markets will appreciate electrified CVT, and AMTs with an integrated electric motor are an affordable solution for volume segments. The rollout of pure electric vehicle technology will also bring highly integrated electric axles to the markets. These will feature reduction transmission concepts with planetary gears, or other technologies.