Special Coverage

SAE World Congress

DETROIT – Auto makers will need a “complex portfolio of technologies and powertrains” to meet global fuel-economy requirements and respond to what could be changing customer preferences, analysts from Roland Berger Strategy Consultants say.

Speaking to an Original Equipment Suppliers Assn. conference held here in conjunction with the SAE World Congress, Juergen Reers, a Roland Berger partner, says by 2028 vehicles with conventional internal-combustion diesel engines will comprise just 35% of the European market, up from 49% today, with conventional gasoline engines falling to 18% penetration from 41% in 2008.

Filling in the blanks will be advanced gas and diesel engines, which will combine for 24% share of the market, followed by hybrids (10%), electric and fuel-cell vehicles (6%) and alternative-fueled cars and trucks (7%).

But in addition to such sweeping powertrain changes, there will be a number of other advanced technologies auto makers will need to employ in order to eke out reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions and improve fuel economy.

“There’s a huge portfolio of opportunities available in powertrain technology,” Reers says.

Variable valve timing and lift has potential to cut CO2 3%-7%, he says, while direct-injection can improve mileage up to 10%.

Other gains can be had by reducing engine friction (3%-5%); downsizing displacement (9%-12%); adding cylinder deactivation (4%-8%) and start/stop systems (4%-7%); and reducing vehicle weight (up to 7%).

Electrical power steering can cut fuel consumption another 3%, Roland Berger data indicate, while dual-clutch transmission can save up to 5% and optimized gear ratios in conventional transmissions can trim CO2 up to 2%.

OEs will have to shift their focus away from base engine development and develop core competencies in more critical areas, such as fuel injection/combustion technology, turbocharging, aftertreatment and electric-drive systems, Reers says.

Growth opportunities for suppliers will come in those technologies, while there will be a decline in business in such components at alternators, starters, cam-actuated valves and belt-driven auxiliaries, he says.

Suppliers under threat should diversify their product portfolios, migrate to new technologies or prepare for possible downsizing, Reers warns.

Auto makers will need a variety of powertrain technologies to meet various regulations and optimize efficiency to driver behavior, the consultant says.

Customers who do a lot of city driving may find hybrids a good value, while buyers with primarily freeway commutes would be better off with a conventional 4-cyl. vehicle, says Wim van Acker, managing partner at Roland Berger.

Buyers who frequent big cities may want EVs, he says, as more governments follow London’s lead in proposing road taxes on everything but zero-emissions models.

New business models also could emerge when it comes to EVs, Reers says, pointing to the mobile-phone industry as an example. Electricity providers could become the conduit between auto makers and car buyers, providing vehicles free as part of electricity service contracts, he says.

Reers cites a similar proposal for a program in Israel involving Project Better Place, Renault SA and The Israeli Electric Corp. to provide EV buyers with quick-charge stations and battery replacement under long-term service contracts.

“How important this business model will be in the future remains to be seen,” he says. “However, it will change the industry. Electrical utilities are interested in the concept – they see it as a huge growth opportunity.”

Roland Berger does not foresee hydrogen-powered vehicles playing a significant role before 2020, advising OEs and suppliers alike to focus energies on other more promising technologies.

dzoia@wardsauto.com