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Conventional diesel and petrol engines will continue to play major roles in the auto industry for some time to come, according to BMW executive Klaas Fröhlich.
Addressing the 26th Aachen Colloquium Automobile and Engine Technology summit last month in Germany, Fröhlich said future mobility needs would require the use of myriad technologies to meet demand. “There will be no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution,” he said.
Though it was likely that internal combustion engines would begin to decline in importance in the medium term, they would continue to play a vital role for an extended period, offering potential that could be tapped into with additional investment.
“A wide spread of evolutionary advances will be needed to meet future requirements with respect to CO2 and other emissions, and 48V energy recuperation systems will play an increasingly important role in this regard,” Fröhlich said.
He added that the proportion of electrified vehicles on roads was growing steadily and would continue to be to be multifaceted in nature, guided by markets. In terms of volumes, BMW’s i and iPerformance brands had notched up global sales of 34 664 units from January to August this year. He expected a surge in demand at the end of the decade, when costs of the vehicles were expected to reduce significantly.
“It will be a few years before the battery electric vehicle (BEV) becomes the all-encompassing solution for customers and model classes across the board. Pure battery-electric drive systems allow customers whose daily journeys don’t generally exceed 100km to enjoy zero-emission electric driving in small to medium-sized vehicles. The i3 exemplifies a possible approach here, and now also offers customers an electric range of over 200km in real-world use,” he said.
In terms of medium-length journeys and mid-size vehicles, consumers had an extremely wide choice of plug-in hybrid models (PHEVs). “These all-rounders offer an entry point into customer-focused e-mobility in many segments,” said Fröhlich.
He maintained that hydrogen-powered fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) offered the ideal combination of zero-emission motoring and everyday practicality when extended ranges and high running resistances were required.
“The key benefit for customers of fuel-cell drive systems is their short re-fuelling time – which is similar to that offered by vehicles with conventional combustion engines. What is lacking here, though, is the requisite hydrogen infrastructure and production set-up, and cross-sector partnerships have been launched to accelerate the process of establishing such an ecosystem,” he said.
According to his reckoning, large-scale manufacture of hydrogen fuel-cell technology would become viable over the next 10 years, putting the energy source firmly on the radar for customer usage.
He said partner networks – such as the one that existed between the BMW Group and Toyota – were an excellent way of arriving at objectives quickly and cost-effectively. However, he believed that broad-based market penetration of hydrogen-powered fuel-cell vehicles would not occur until 2025 at least, due to the sparsity of infrastructure.
“By the time the fundamentals are in place, the BMW Group will have marketable products ready that are attractive to customers,” he promised.