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The Globe from the Powertrain Perspective

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Although there are some who think that the internal combustion engine (ICE) is doomed, that it is gasping its last intake sequence and will soon be completely exhausted, James Martin, Senior Research Analyst, Powertrain and Compliance, IHS Markit, is not one of them. And given what he does—and what he did earlier in his career, when he worked at General Motors in product planning for propulsion systems—he knows more than the average person about the future of powertrain in automotive.

And he shares many of those insights on this edition of “Autoline After Hours” with Autoline’s John McElroy, Lindsay Brooke of SAE Automotive Engineering and me.

However, while the ICE isn’t going away in Martin’s analysis, he does explain that engines are going to continue to be smaller than has historically been the case. For example, he points out that on a global basis the size engine with the second-largest volume is a three-cylinder. “It is almost non-existent in the North American market,” Martin says. It is a six in the U.S.

HEMI engine


The 1,000-hp Hellephant HEMI. You can buy your very own from Mopar. (Image:FCA)

From the point of view of powertrain, Martin says, “North America almost looks like a separate island,” off on its own in the world. On a global basis, he says, six cylinder engines are declining in number.

What’s more, the architecture of the six, especially in Europe and Asia, is going from a V to an in-line configuration: this allows the automakers to more readily reduce the number of cylinders without having a big impact on their engineering and manufacturing investments.

GM, he says, is putting out a new family of ICEs that, by the time it is mature, will account for the production of four-million engines per year. “That doesn’t sound like dying,” Martin observes.

While he acknowledges that there is the potential for battery-electric vehicles to gain market share, the type of technology that their research finds will have increasingly wide acceptance is the mild hybrid, such as 48-volt based systems. This helps supplement the performance of the ICE while reducing emissions, which is a cost-effective win for the OEM.

However, while he acknowledges the trend on a global basis that sets North America apart from the rest of the world—for example, IHS Markit estimates that by 2030 66% of the vehicles in North America will be ICEs and in Europe just 28%--the fact that things like mild, full and plug-in hybrids require ICEs means that the technology will continue on a global basis.

Of course, for many people much of this sounds like spinach. So it is worth noting that Martin admits that when he retired from GM in 2017 he bought himself a retirement present: a 2017 50th Anniversary Camaro convertible with a V8.

In fact, much of the powertrain discussion is centered around high-performance engines, such as the Ford 5.2-liter supercharged V8 and the Dodge HEMI (those that exist and those that may).

And you can see it all here.

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