Mercedes-Benz 2.0-liter four-cylinder diesel engine (OM 654)Enlarge Photo
Continual improvements in alternative technologies coupled with environmental mandates that spur their growth may lead to automakers starting to abandon internal combustion engine development in as little as six years.
That’s the word of major automotive supplier Continental’s CFO, Wolfgang Schaefer, who spoke recently with Reuters. Speaking specifically about German automakers, Schaefer explained that we’re likely to see one more generation of ICE development before automakers focus fully on alternatives.
“A new generation of combustion engines will again be developed but after that [around 2023], a further development will no longer be economically justifiable because more and more work will switch into electric mobility,” Schaefer said.
Continental supplies many automakers with exhaust filtering systems for ICE powertrains.
German automakers, which have relied heavily on diesel engines to curb carbon dioxide emissions, may end up leading the charge due to the Volkswagen Group’s cheating scandal. Since the cheating surfaced two years ago, regulators have started cracking down on nitrogen oxide emissions caused by diesel engines. This has forced fellow German firms Daimler and the BMW Group to also clean up their diesel engines.
But it’s not just diesel that’s facing pressure. Already we’ve seen nations like France and the United Kingdom come out with pledges to ban the sale of cars powered purely by diesel and gasoline engines by 2040. China, which has surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest market for new cars and is expected to grow for many more years, is also introducing quotas for zero- and low-emission vehicles to curb air pollution.
The last breath for ICE technology may come in the form of Homogeneous Charge Compression Ignition (HCCI) technology. The sparkless combustion process for gasoline engines is expected to curb fuel consumption by around 30 percent, though so far we haven’t seen any automakers announce it for production. That may change soon as Mazda is rumored to be preparing an HCCI engine for its redesigned Mazda 3 due in the coming year.