• Apr 8th 2006 at 9:03AM
  • 5
At the annual Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) World Congress this week, speakers and members outlined what powertrains and alternative fuel sources will move tomorrow's vehicles.

All agreed the gasoline engine will continue to dominate the North American market, the world's largest, until at least 2020. However, with technologies such as direct injection and turbocharging, the future gasoline engine may scarcely be recognizable as it delivers fuel economies nearly equal to today's best diesel. As for diesel, panelists noted such engines, which already dominate in Europe, will constitute around 25-percent of cars sold in the U.S. within 15 to 20 years.

Interestingly, everyone was in agreement that hybrids such as the Toyota Prius would probably never go fully mainstream in the market. Even Toyota representative Dave Hermance stated that a 25-percent share would be 'optimistic.'

Other powertrain technologies discussed were BMW's lean-burn engines and hybrid types. 

Where do you see future powertrains? Fire away in Comments.

[Source: The Car Connection]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 9 Years Ago
      What about all of hybrid-lite cars?
      The Accord hybrid-helper motor with regular automatic.
      Insight-helper motor with CVT or 5 speed manual.
      Hybrid GM pickups-helper motor with 4 SPEED automatic.
      Saturn VUE-4 speed automatic and external belt driven helper motor

      Seeing as most gasoline engines are at 25% thermally efficient, and the most practical limit would be 50% we have a long way to go.
      At least it is a goal

      • 9 Years Ago
      There's a sleeper coming. Something that's been on the sidelines for 30 years now - a new biodegradabe fuel - something that can be synthesized through GTL methods for less than 50 per gallon - before any applicable tax credits. Something which seamlessly blends with any flavor of petroleum-based float-on-water oils. Something that also works as a neat fuel into itself within gasoline, diesel & jet turbine engines. Something that citizens are gonna want to invest in. Something that converts waste carbon of society (like garbage or sewer sludges) vs: converting renewable carbon grown/harvested annually with diesel tractors going over the fields 11 times per annum. Stay tuned.

      • 9 Years Ago
      I'd like to think that real need would drive powertrain preference, but we all know that oil companies make billions and sink tens of millions of dollars into lobbying efforts. Add that to a Bush administration that has three oil company current or former board members(Bush, Cheney, Rice)at the helm, and I don't see anything changing until we are almost out of oil.

      Ethanol, although it doesn't have the BTU of gas or diesel, has potential because it is a renewable resource. The prairies of the US, China, Russia, Canada can be planted with a huge supply. But he oil companies will hold Ethanol development down until their money and influence are trumped by another market force.
      • 9 Years Ago
      I see powertrains continuing to use the internal combustion engine, far into the future. The major change is likely to be a shift in fuels. I believe the only real thing that could buck this trend would be vastly more usable/safe/light batteries.

      Despite the much lower efficiencies of the ICE (only 20-30% of the power available in the fuel is converted to mechanical energy in a gasoline engine), a well tuned engine with a clean burning fuel produces only three things: heat, noise, and work. There are possibilities in the future for making engines more thermally efficient, including the addition of thermal engines, or cooler burning fuels (like ethanol).

      The only real 'free' and unlimited source of power we have access to is solar - either directly, or indirectly. Directly would be, say, using solar panels to directly drive electric motors or charge batteries. The best solar panels are only 20% efficient, though the batteries and electric motors are about 95% efficient. Essentially this means that unless cars get a lot larger, and lighter, direct solar's not going to be a viable option.

      Indirectly though, plants are very efficient at converting solar into condensed chemical energy in multiple forms, which can be extracted (by some new, not-yet-prolific methods) to either an oil, or ethanol. You end up getting a similar overall efficiency for both the direct (pure electric) and indirect (burnable) methods.

      ICE has some nice advantages though - very high fuel energy density (far more power per pound of fuel or energy storage compared to batteries), easily and quickly refillable, and the power isn't generated by a coal-burning power plant somewhere. No batteries or rare-metal fuel cells to break or dispose of either.

      Plus, who doesn't like the nice purr of a well tuned motor? :)
      • 9 Years Ago
      Apparently the "Big Oil Companies" don't have a problem with ethanol in Australia (BP/Amoco and Shell)...

      http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,18673061-30417,00.html (Hmmmm... Pork fat rules?)


      And in the US, ChevronTexaco are working with ethanol:


      Remember that when ethanol was first added to gasoline (in small quantities) a lot of consumers refused to buy it because they were afraid it would harm their vehicles. So the oil companies backed off in their promotion of ethanol. But it'll be coming back more and more... The elimination of MTBE from gasoline will help speed this up, too.