Mixing it up

As hybrid and electric vehicles gain a stronger foothold in the market, Continental is addressing the opportunities and obstacles to further electrification of the powertrain

Electrification of the powertrain used to be little more than a pet project for some in the automotive industry. Not much more than 10 years ago, it was seen as a gimmick that could help to gain attention, but was not considered as something that would ever actually form part of an OEM’s long-term business plans.  

However, with the introduction, and then subsequent tightening, of legislation aimed at curbing vehicle emissions, opinion has completely turned around in the industry. Today, any manufacturer without an electric strategy needs, at the very least, an alternative fuel solution if it is to stay competitive in the future. 

Time is running out, believes Continental’s head of hybrids and electric vehicles, Ralf Schmid.

“I think in the future that electrification will have to be at least part of the solution,” he says. “The traditional internal combustion engine is still doing quite well in coping with emissions legislation, and from various activities on the engine there are benefits being achieved.

“But – and I say this not only because I work in this area of the business – electrification is creating a good team in joining the internal combustion engine and electric motor.

“It drives complexity, but on the other hand we are able to achieve reductions in emissions that are beyond the reach of what is achievable with just a combustion engine.”

Even if the gasoline or diesel engine is capable of complying with emissions legislation now, regulators are intent on steadily cutting the maximum acceptable figure – thereby making compliance even harder. Eventually, it will not be possible to meet the standards without hybrid or full-electric vehicles. 

Regulation phased in two years ago requires all new vehicles released in Europe from 2015 to achieve 130g/km in CO2 emissions, and then 95g/km by 2021. Further down the line, there are suggestions that 70g/km could be the next target, but either way it means the technology will have to continue to develop, if it is to meet the standards of the future. 

tags: October 2014 Continental Hybrids & EVs Powertrain