There is a measure of panic in several countries, such as Germany, the United Kingdom and France, regarding calls by politicians seeking to ban the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) within the next couple of decades.
However, this will do little to stop or slow down ongoing development of these engines, which will still be the power units of choice for most people in the world.
This came through loud and clear in an absorbing presentation by Vincent Vallette, Export Manager of Mahle, one of the top 20 Tier One component and development suppliers to the global automotive industry. This is a company which is currently very active on the acquisition trail as it seeks to grow potential business by providing more technical solutions.
Vallette was addressing a conference of the recently-named Reman Cluster of the Retail Motor Industry (RMI) organisation at the recent Automechanika Johannesburg trade fair for the automotive aftermarket which was held at the Expo Centre.
The Reman Cluster is made up of four RMI associations, being the SA Diesel Fuel Injection Association (SADFIA), Engine Remanufacturers' Association (ERA), Automotive Component Remanufacturers' Association (ACRA) and the Turbocharger Remanufacturers' Association (TRA).
Mahle, a German-based company which started life as an alloy piston manufacturer in 1920, now provides components for more than half the vehicles made in the world. It has concentrated on supplying Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) in the past, with 92 percent of its business in that sector, but is now looking to grow its share of the aftermarket business, which has been at only eight percent of turnover. This move includes offering a range of garage equipment going forward.
Vallette's topic at the Reman Cluster conference was considering the future of the internal combustion engine. He was very upbeat, saying that electric power may take share in some First World markets, but ICE production would continue to grow as the global vehicle parc is expected to increase from the 74-million units counted in 2010 to an estimated 123-million in 2030.
For this reason, he said that companies such as Mahle will continue to come up with innovative solutions to improving ICE efficiency by cutting both fuel consumption and emissions. Reducing friction was a major challenge and here Mahle was one of the world leaders with its high-tech pistons and rings; Mahle has more than 6 000 engineers working in 15 research and development facilities taking up the challenge of improving overall ICE efficiencies.
Vallette said that Mahle was also a participant in electrification technologies and believed there would be four distinct types of power units soon: downsized internal combustion engines; petrol or diesel/electric hybrids, some with a plug-in facility; pure electric and fuel cell, so the German company was ensuring it was involved in all four of these technologies.
The Mahle representative said that nowadays the big challenge was to cut CO2 emissions as they are seen as major culprits in global warming, with a Euro 6 target of only 95gm/km in 2020.
"It is difficult trying to get a clear picture of the way to go in the future, and there are many obstacles to change, all of which makes life in the automotive world both challenging and demanding," concluded the very experienced motor industry executive.