Kohler Doubles down on ICE Development

The company believes hybridization, alternative fuels and other tech developments will help ICE powertrains reach zero-emissions goals in the coming decades.

Kohler's KSD small-displacement engine line was designed from the group up as a drop-in solution for existing applications. (Kohler)

Kohler announced a new strategy at the Bauma 2022 expo – the company aims to transform itself from a power producer into an energy supplier. “Our business transformation is focused on providing industry-leading electrification, hybrid solutions, alternative fuels and innovative products to our customers,” said Francis Perrin, VP of marketing for Kohler Power.

Kohler displayed two examples of the Kohler Small Displacement engines at Bauma. (SAE media)

The company’s new direction is not out of the ordinary in principle, but what exactly is it going to mean in practice? The likely answer is diversity, both in the form of power generation and in the fuel that creates it. Though Kohler is not blind to the future of electrification in the off-highway sector, the company does not believe it is a one-size-fits-all solution and that ICE still has a lot to offer in various adaptations.

The company stated that it has seen a resurgence in ICE development, thanks to innovations that are improving efficiency and reducing emissions. During its press conference in Munich, the company asserted that “there is still no single solution for all needs” and that “the choice of one solution over another will depend on the machine, as well as factors such as duty cycle, operating environment and location, and market-specific regulations and incentives.”

To that end, Kohler has doubled down on improving the sustainability of ICE powertrains with the goal of decarbonizing their usage for all applications. “Kohler sees the future as a multi-energy landscape, with multiple technological solutions to meet future customer needs and requirements,” said Vincenzo Perrone, president of Kohler Engines. “We will continue to invest in engines and expand their production…In summary, we are investing in a diversified energy future, in which a wide range of power options and multiple technologies will coexist for many years.”

Kohler plans to achieve its ICE decarbonization strategy via investment in alternative fuels, such as HVO (hydrotreated vegetable oil) and hydrogen, as well as hybridization to reduce engine size requirements and operating emissions. The latter path will be assisted by Curtis Instruments (Mount Kisco, New York), which Kohler acquired in January 2022. The acquisition “expanded and diversified Kohler’s product portfolio.”

Kohler expects demand for electrified machines to ramp up in 2025 and anticipates offering working drop-in electrified solutions to increase the performance of ICE powertrains by that timeframe. The company also emphasized that modularity would be a goal of this effort, with hybrid, mild-hybrid and full-electric options to “meet every OEM need.”

The KSD engines are intended to be drop-in solutions to replace existing engines with minimal design changes. (SAE Media)
The KSD engines feature an electronically controlled indirect injection combustion system. (SAE Media)

At Bauma, Kohler displayed the latest evolution in its K-HEM series hybrid unit. The new “versatile-hybrid version,” dubbed the P2, will reportedly achieve zero emissions while in full-electric operation. The diesel engine stands ready to provide additional power on demand and to recharge the battery.

The powertrain has been fitted in CELA’s new DT40 aerial platform with an electric track. When the battery is fully charged, crawling and arm movements can be performed using only electricity. The platform’s hydraulic pump is assembled on the electric machine and can function as either a generator or a motor.

On the alternative-fuel side, Kohler’s two-pronged approach will offer a wide array of options depending on customer needs and local market regulations. This year, Kohler announced HVO compatibility across its entire range of diesel engines in both Europe and the U.S. Kohler also sees hydrogen as a versatile fuel source that is rapidly becoming a viable solution for the off-highway sector.

The company is developing a diesel-derived hydrogen ICE based on the KDI 2504 for commercial off-road applications. The H2-fueled version will provide the same power and torque as the original diesel version and will be a cost-effective drop-in solution adaptable to most existing applications, the company claims. Kohler emphasized that all the fuel systems currently under development will be applicable to hybrid systems, which will blend the strengths of each individual energy source.

Kohler also displayed two examples of the Kohler Small Displacement (KSD) line at its Bauma stand. The KSD engines feature an electronically controlled indirect injection combustion system that reportedly offers a high low-end torque – 95 Nm (70 lb-ft) at 1000 rpm – and better performance at altitude. The KSD engines are intended to be drop-in solutions to replace existing engines with minimal design changes, thanks to options for more than 70 percent of the engines’ core components such as intake manifold configuration and oil filter placement.