Could it be that five engineers spent two hours discussing the future of vehicle powertrains and the word 'horsepower' was never uttered?
Yes. But 'emissions' and 'fuel economy' were used plenty.
The future of automotive powertrains is clean, green and efficient, according to a panel on the subject at the Automotive News World Congress.
The diverse assortment of specialists in engines, transmissions, batteries and fuel cells agreed that conventional internal combustion engines will dominate at least through 2010.
But no consensus was reached as to which alternatives eventually will creep into the mainstream.
'Even as far as 2010 I don't think we'll have a million (units sold) of any technology we don't already have a lot of now,' said David Hermance, executive engineer for regulatory affairs at Toyota Tech-nical Center U.S.A. Inc.
'But by 2005 we'll be in mass production of hybrid electric vehicles, and (the market) may have a few hundred thousand perhaps of electric drive or fuel cell vehicles.'
In the meantime, expect these other developments, said the panelists:
New gasoline and diesel direct-injection technology, cleaner fuels, electronic valve trains and improved exhaust catalysts will improve the internal combustion engine, said Don Runkle, president of Delphi Automotive Systems' Energy and Engine Management Systems.
'Our goal will be to get the power density up of the ICE (internal combustion engine) using some of these relatively inexpensive technologies,' he said. 'We've always improved the internal combustion engine at a much lower cost than the alternatives.'
Up-and-coming technologies will allow the mass production of compact fuel cells approaching the $30 per kilowatt cost bogey, said Firoz Rasul, president and CEO of Ballard Power Systems. The company has established a fuel cell pilot assembly line with joint-venture partners DaimlerChrysler AG and Ford Motor Co.
'We are incorporating a number of new materials and new processes that use those materials and also looking at higher volume processes with the manufacturing engineers from DaimlerChrysler and Ford.'
Pure electric vehicles and hybrids will go farther on a charge, thanks to a new generation of nickel-metal hydride batteries that are less expensive and more hardy, said Robert Stempel, chairman of Energy Con-version Devices Inc., which makes electric vehicle batteries under the GM-Ovonic joint venture.
'As we continue to make progress in increasing the specific energy or range and lowering the costs of advanced batteries, the electric vehicle should become cost competitive with its ICE-powered competitors,' he said.
Belt-driven continuously variable transmissions and six-speed automatics will become popular as ways to improve fuel economy and performance, said Gordon Willis, chief engineer of automatic transmissions at Ford Motor Co.'s powertrain operations.
'With CVTs you can have relatively large fuel economy gains of 10 percent at a relatively low incremental cost over what we do today,' he said. Current size is appropriate up to 3.0-liter engines with 190 pounds-feet of torque, he said, 'but there's a lot of industry activity increasing the torque capacity of these drive systems.'