ICE is on fire

Written by Arun Jaura | Updated: May 31 2009, 05:03am hrs
Many thought and still think that the internal combustion engine (ICE) era will be history with the advent of alternative energy propulsion systems. The ICE is hygiene in our day to day mobility life. There is testimony of tremendous amount of time and energy that has been spent in advancing ICE to make it more fuel efficient, enhance power density, improve combustion techniques and material options, and make it compact so they can be used in smaller automobiles.

Designing and developing engines that are modular and flexible to adapt to various fuels with minimal changes to the vehicles architecture, control systems, exhaust systems and above all seamless to the customer when it comes to cost of ownership will help leapfrog most of the alternate fuels. Though there is a lot of talk about electric, hybrids, CNG, LPG, hydrogen and bio-fuels becoming game changers, there is a small percentage of these deployed in mass market mobility solutions worldwide. The paradigm shift is in having a menu of flexible fuel and modular ICE solutions for customers, as they walk into a dealership. The technology savvy customer should, by the click of a button on the internet or in a conversation with the sales agent, be able to order an ICE that is relevant to the fuel availability in the region, meet emissions standards, personal driving habits and above all, affordable. With a globally mobile world, when a customer changes a work location or residence, the flexibility to swap the ICE from under the hood depending on the local emissions/CO2 regulations and fuel availabilityis a winning idea.

Going forward, to maximise on the benefits of advanced ICE, integrate it with an electric powertrain (EP). The EP will become the heart of mobility solutionsexperts and analysts have predicted that with battery costs and technology options expanding on a larger canvass, the battery costs will reduce, and with reduction of copper quantity in highly efficient electric drives and controllers, it will exponentially propel economies of scale resulting in affordable EPs. That will in turn accelerate investment in infrastructure and customer interest. Fast forward holistically, integrate and synergise the flexible ICE that will work on any fuel, with EP as mainstay, offering a smorgasbord to customers (private and public), environmentalists, energy providers, carbon trading businesses and the policy makers. Some may argue that this effort needs an impetus from the larger ecosystem stakeholderssuch as investors, governments, OEM strategic partnerships, IPR sharing platforms and PPP programmes. It is only prudent to step out of the box and think with a different mindset to ensure synergy in deployment of such offerings at a sustainable level. There is a need to change the wave since an ICE and support infrastructure will very much be a part of our everyday life for a foreseeable future. The energy nirvana for our future generations is in deploying engine ingenuity to meet customer aspirations via integrated but flexible solutions that are scalable.

The author is vice-president technology & head, Eaton India Engineering Centre, Eaton Corporation