I have spent 30 years in the auto industry in various functions within powertrain engineering. I still can admit to being just as excited today as I ever have been about what is still ahead for our industry.
What has become clear is that through the competitive nature of our industry, the rewards for bringing game-changing innovation into the marketplace continue to be significant.
I also am convinced no “silver bullet” will solve the world’s challenges for energy efficiency and emissions control based on what we know today. Our customers and end consumers will continue to require a diverse portfolio of technologies and a more dedicated application of these technologies to meet their needs.
At Honeywell Turbo Technologies, this global challenge of energy conservation has evolved from a performance add-on to an enabler of engine downsizing. Automakers have adopted the technology in order to produce more efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles.
The emergence of diesel technology in markets historically not interested, and the growth of turbo-gasoline applications in even mature turbo markets such as Europe, signals the beginning of this next era.
To be fair, there is a pretty stiff tailwind in the form of an increasingly stringent regulatory environment taking shape around the world. As we look to 2025 U.S. CAFE requirements, the EPA specifically has identified turbocharging as a critical technology for meeting those targets. Similar standards such as Euro 6 in Europe, as well as policy development in China, also are driving up demand for downsized turbocharged engines, while high-growth regions such as India, Russia, Turkey and Brazil are trending the same way.
I consider that a big win within our competitive landscape.
The industry as a whole is making changes every day. The internal-combustion engine has plenty of room for further development.
In addition to turbocharging, the next generation of ICEs has the potential to further improve about 30% both efficiency and emissions thanks to technologies such as direct injection, variable valve actuation, low-friction components and high-gear-ratio transmissions.
All currently are available but have not yet been fully deployed. Alternative thermal concepts such as the Miller-cycle engine process will further lift powertrain efficiency.
Advances in other areas will drive even greater benefits as the industry tackles improved aerodynamics, lightweight materials, driver behavior-influencing systems, low-resistance tires and tire-pressure-monitoring systems.
These technologies will contribute to fuel-economy improvements and greenhouse-gas reductions in the years to come. For example, a 20% vehicle weight reduction would bring efficiency benefits of up to 12%.
Clearly, Europe and the rest of the world seeking to emulate its standards for fuel efficiency and emissions reductions are not going backward. As such, I see these global macros demanding an industry sophistication that is transitioning the drive for innovation into more of a team sport. The grouping of these technologies already has become a branding exercise for several automakers.
It only makes sense that, as technology providers, we too must adopt a systems approach to engineering. While there still is a lot of fat to trim from modern engine design, there are physical limits to what downsizing and turbocharging can do to achieve the necessary goals.
In what was once an either/or debate, powertrain development is further blurring the lines of innovation as turbos become a means of optimizing hybrid powertrains. Honeywell is using motorsport activities to further its development of e-boosting turbos that will be transformative for our sector and critical for integration into future electrification developments.
In looking even further forward, what we call a turbo today may have only theoretical connectivity to the physical applications needed to support hydrogen power and fuel-cell development. The game is ever-changing.
Of course, the true judges of this competition are the end consumers. The pursuit of technology for its own sake is but a training activity. The ability to drive value to the end consumer by containing cost is a fundamental rule by which we all must play.
None of this can happen in a development vacuum of our own specialization.