The End of the Powertrain Bias
Internal Combustion Engine vs. Electric Machine, this seems a famous game these days. Media, politicians, OEMs, car owners – all of them have their arguments and for one or the other reasons, they have their vision of where they place themselves in this fight. There is a lot of emotion and mistrust, misinformation and the claim of misinformation, aggression, and response. Diesel bashing here, pointing to insufficient range, burning batteries and recharging of plugin battery-electric vehicles with mobile ICE devices there.
The worrying thing to me is that even in our engineering world you get the impression that you have to choose and you have to choose apriori. It seems that even the world of powertrain engineers has become bipolar, you can either be pro-ICE or pro-E, you can either hug your internal combustion engine or tell the people ICE is dead, you can either tell people there is not enough Lithium on earth or oil, you say a V8 is music or it’s noise, you say too much NOx, Soot or CO2 stems from traffic or from power plants, there’s nothing in between. ICE engineers seem to fear someone takes away their beloved baby, E-guy seem to claim the work of thousands of engineers should go to the trash bin right away.
I call this the powertrain bias!
Now, honestly, like with many topics I have faced in my life I don’t know who is right and I would claim it’s not easy to tell that for anyone. We live in an increasingly complex world and there are many forces at work, legislation, customer expectation, politics, financial interests and finally human emotions. So, as an engineer, you try to rely on something that should give you the answer: pure science. Then you realize: even numbers can be bend, misinterpreted, miscommunicated. It’s clear that oil won’t last forever and that Lithium doesn’t. It’s clear that some may love the sound of an engine and others love the sound of silence. It’s like with anything – even in science – any party will come up with their study of proving they are right.
I truly believe it is this powertrain bias that is the most dangerous thing an engineer can jump onto in a world of incredibly fast-paced change.
That said, as powertrain engineers, we should share only one common goal and that is, make the move of a person from A to B as efficient, comfortable and – not to forget – enjoyable as possible thereby minimizing the negative impact on other people.
I understand there are multiple trade-offs in this performance function and the weighting of the individual performance factors is a highly individual thing. Yet, we all should agree on one minimum consensus: As engineers, it is our job to push the limits of efficient, healthy, enjoyable and comfortable movement as far forward as we can without limiting ourselves in the design space by a-priori (bias) decisions.
Therefore here’s my call to all of you: Don’t get caught in that romantic vs. progressive powertrain trap! ICE guys, get over it and hug an electric machine, it won’t hurt. E-guys, step back and look at the amazing piece of engineering an IC engine effectively is. Let’s stay engineers in first place, push the Pareto front forward and make the best we can within the range of our expertise. Stay cool and fair when doing so. Get in touch with the other side and understand their reasoning. This is not a call for becoming emotionless, but it’s a call to reconsider what we should be emotional about: And that is creating great engineering value with our powertrain solutions. Here is my scientific study on the topic: In all times, 100% of all cars will have a powertrain!
With a stunning list of speakers from an impressive list of major OEMs around the globe we got together at the Simcenter Conference in Amsterdam at the end of last year to celebrate the beginning of the end of the powertrain bias. I witnessed two days of powertrain presentations from ICE to E, from system- through CFD simulation to test.
A major takeaway from the event is as simple as this: Siemens PLM offers simulation- and test solutions on the ICE AND the E, there is no either-or in our portfolio, and hey, for those that are already in the middle of it, we have a solution for all you hybrids as well!
With that, I leave it with a
the first powertrain-hippie on earth
 study by the first powertrain hippie on earth