The next big thing in engine design

Natural gas engines and dual fuel engines continue to be seen as areas of expected investment and growth.


responses by Michael Franke, Director, LD Diesel and Commercial Engines, FEV North America, Inc.

What advancements does FEV foresee in electric and hybrid propulsion technology within the coming year?

We expect to see a continuous increase in electrification and hybridization of off-highway powertrains.  The market penetration might not be very steep, but continuous. The solutions will be as diverse as off-highway applications considering power ratings from below 56 kW to above 500 kW and applications like agriculture, construction and other industrial machines. However, all aim at improved fuel efficiency to reduce cost of ownership and perhaps future GHG requirements.  Hybridization applies to machines with consistent duty cycles including phases allowing energy recovery. Hydraulic hybrid technology has superior capabilities with regards to fast and highly efficient energy recovery. Good application examples are excavators, wheel loaders and machines with rapid change of vehicle motion as part of the working cycle. Fuel efficiency improvements can also be achieved through electrification technologies. Electrical driven auxiliaries allow parasitic load management (e.g. radiator fan) and short term power boost capability.

The technology options for hybridization and electrification are manifold and so are the duty cycles of off-highway powertrains. Intensive CAE simulations under consideration of the complete load and operation cycle are required to determine the optimized configuration of a particular application. 

Are there certain types of systems or technologies FEV anticipates more of its engineering focus will be placed in the coming year?

Over the past 4+ years, Tier 4 solutions have been developed and are introduced into the off-highway market. The powertrain engineering focus will shift to new targets. Product cost reduction and improvements in fuel and DEF efficiency are on the agenda as well as product globalization strategies. Powertrain modularization is a big theme to tailor global products for regional requirements in an economical way.   

What will be “the next big thing” in engine design?

Yes, we certainly foresee an increase of natural gas engines in off-highway applications, particular for high fuel consumers such as engines driving mechanical pumps, locomotives or power generation. The market penetration is somewhat controlled by the expansion of the fuel supply infrastructure. Dual fuel engines with gas fumigation technology are a transitional solution, as they allow operation with 100% Diesel fuel as well as gas substitution up to approximately 80% to reduce fuel cost. In the more distant future we expect to see a stronger penetration of true gas engine technologies in off-highway machines.  However, besides the fuel supply infrastructure also the on-vehicle fuel energy storage must be considered. Compressed natural gas requires approx. 6 times larger fuel tanks compared to Diesel fuel to carry the same energy. This plus re-fueling cycle requirements may prohibit the introduction of natural gas in some off-highway applications.