TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Don't write off the internal combustion engine yet.
Breakthrough technologies could boost fuel economy between 25 percent and 70 percent, reduce emissions by as much as 95 percent and increase performance, powertrain officials said at the Management Briefing Seminars last week.
Automakers should not just focus on fuel cells but also should invest in improving the internal combustion engine, said Helmut List, chairman of AVL List GmbH, a Graz, Austria, powertrain engineering firm.
List compared long-term powertrain research to investing.
"Five years ago, some people invested heavily in Internet stocks," List said. "Our situation today is the same with society's investment in transportation research. "Here, we should take a portfolio approach. Today, in the United States, there is little debate about the preferred technology in the long run."
List said it is a mistake to think that hydrogen fuel for automobiles is the only answer for lowering oil imports and reducing emissions. List thinks hydrogen-powered fuel cell automobiles are at least 15 years away.
Research under way at General Motors could yield improvements in fuel economy of up to 25 percent in gasoline engines, said Hazem Ezzat, director of GM's Powertrain Systems Research Lab.
Those gains will come through the addition of a combination of technologies, including hybrid powertrains, cylinder deactivation, gasoline direct injection, variable valve timing and six-speed transmissions.
List said AVL List is working on technologies for the internal combustion engine that were not possible 10 years ago. He said the company is working on "flexible" engine designs that meld the best traits of gasoline engines and diesels.