SAE WCX 2022: ICE Won’t Melt amid Shift to EVs

Supply chain will do double duty in short term to support hybrid and combustion-engine powertrains.

According to a Ford spokesperson, 67% of the orders taken for the 2022 Maverick are for the standard hybrid powertrain. (Ford)

The transition to electrified vehicles in OEM portfolios is progressing, but internal combustion engines (ICE) will continue to power millions of new vehicles for a still undetermined period, according to top powertrain executives. “Let’s just say that by the end of the decade, it’s a 50/50 mix of ICE and BEV [battery electric vehicles]. But that 50 percent ICE is going to be heavily influenced by the hybrids,” David Filipe, VP of vehicle hardware modules at Ford Motor Company, said during the April 7 “The Future Powertrain-Propulsion Portfolio Challenge” panel session at SAE’s WCX 2022.

Filipe offered this statistic: Of the orders taken to date for the 2022 Ford Maverick, 67% are for the compact pickup’s standard hybrid powertrain, a 2.5-L Atkinson-cycle 4-cylinder SAE-rated at 191 hp (142 kW) when combined with the electric motor. Maverick’s optional engine is a 2.0-L EcoBoost 250-hp (186-kW) gasoline engine. Ford will launch more hybrids in the future, Filipe confirmed.

One-quarter of vehicle sales last year for Toyota were electrified vehicles, the vast majority hybrids. The automaker’s future includes BEVs, hybrid- and plug-in hybrid vehicles and fuel cell EVs. “We don’t believe a one-size-fits-all approach will work,” Dante Boutell, VP of powertrain design for Toyota North America, told the SAE audience. “There are customers out there that have specific needs that require multiple technologies and systems.”

Top powertrain experts discuss the ICE + electrifed future at SAE WCX 2022. From left: Moderator and veteran AVL exec Ray Corbin at podium; GM’s Dan Nicholson; Dante Boutell with Toyota; Denso’s Andrew Clemence, and Dave Filipe with Ford. (Adam Isovitsch/SAE)

General Motors’ road to zero emissions includes 30 new EVs by 2025. The automaker is investing $35 billion through 2025 for its EV and autonomous-vehicle portfolios. “We intend to be the electric-vehicle market leader in the U.S. market by the end of decade,” asserted Dan Nicholson, GM’s VP of global electrification, controls, software and electronics. Even though electrified vehicles are making significant inroads, Ford’s Filipe predicts that ICEs will be in-play for another 10, 15, possibly 20 years. Said GM’s Nicholson, “I don’t know of any OEM that has made its last [IC] engine or is done with [ICE].”

Supporting ICEs

The protracted shift from ICE-powered to electrified vehicles is keeping the supply chain very busy. “There’s going to remain a market for ICE, and the supply base is going to be challenged with the diversity of technologies required,” said Andrew Clemence, senior VP of green technology and the electrification business unit leader at Denso North America.

The progression to electrified vehicles requires a balance with ICE. Ford’s Filipe noted that in the past decade, conventional powertrains were typically upgraded every three to five years – “a very quick rate of updates in technology,” Filipe said. “We’re going to slow that down. But we still need to make the updates” to meet ongoing emission requirements.

According to Toyota’s Boutell, whether ICE technology updates are compliance-related, performance-related or cost-related, there likely will be opportunities to commoditize and simplify things. “Although a lot of money and a lot of manpower are going to be funneled toward electrification, we still have to pay attention to the engines we have in the market and will have in the market for many years,” he said.

Denso’s Clemence said that while suppliers follow the lead of their OEM customers, “we do have to choose and focus where we think we can bring the most value to our customers,” he said. Denso is “very focused” on electrification technology, but “we’re not going to leave our customers without a choice in the ICE area, so we’ll continue to support that,” Clemence declared.

Workforce impact

Providing technology for ICE-powered vehicles and electrified vehicles has prompted Denso to prepare its workforce and share resources across different product groups. “So that we don’t get stuck in silos, we allow the opportunity for associates to rotate, up-skill, re-skill, so we can repurpose them in these new areas that are going to be important for our success in the future,” he explained.

On the EV front, grabbing buyers beyond the early adopters means the industry must find ways to alleviate concerns over range anxiety and other so-called grief points. EV drivers need to find reliable, ready-to-use fast charging en route. “Our development fleets feel the pain that customers feel,” said GM’s Nicholson. Added Toyota’s Boutell, “To get to mass adoption of BEVs, we need to address the values to the customer, and one of the values is convenience.”