Defossilizing the Transport Sector with a Mix of Technologies

International Engine Congress discusses prospects for the combustion engine and advocates coexistence of drive concepts

The 11th International Engine Congress took place in Baden-Baden on February 27 and 28, 2024. (Source: VDI Wissensforum)

(Duesseldorf, March 5, 2024)
Everyone agrees on the goal to defossilize the transport sector as quickly and efficiently as possible. The best way to achieve this remains to be discussed: Instead of an either-or approach, the international motor community is in favor of an intelligent coexistence of different technologies, from battery-electric drives to combustion engines. With this quintessence, the 11th International Engine Congress came to an end in Baden-Baden on February 27 and 28, 2024. Over 350 participants, both on site and online, clearly demonstrated the high international relevance of the topic.

Electrification alone will not lead to the defossilization of transport in the foreseeable future, and existing fleets in particular must also be taken into account, as conference chair Prof. Dr.-Ing. Peter Gutzmer made clear. In an international context, the relevance of the combustion engine is assessed very differently than in Europe. But even here in Germany, it is clear that the sole path to battery electric drives is not accepted by customers: "No technology has ever prevailed because it was forced on people."

Combustion Engine has Great Relevance Worldwide

Prof. Uwe Dieter Grebe, Managing Director of AVL List, confirmed this assessment in his keynote speech. The combustion engine remains highly relevant, particularly in the global energy mix. However, opportunities for emission-reducing measures are not being used consistently enough, for example in the area of synthetic fuels: "Even with the use of E20, CO2 emissions could be reduced by 10 percent by 2030," said Prof. Grebe. In a global comparison, Europe is currently in a very isolated position with its sole focus on BEVs. Japan, for example, considers all possible drive technologies with a high degree of technological openness.

Dr. Monika Griefahn, Chairwoman of the eFuel Alliance, focused on the total global fleet of 1.3 to 1.4 billion vehicles, which must be operated in a more climate-friendly manner: "Every liter of eFuel is a direct contribution here. We hope that the new EU Commission will immediately reopen the discussion on a cradle-to-cradle approach," said Dr. Griefahn. Although e-mobility is an important factor, it cannot be used everywhere.

"Do Not Rely on Electrification Alone"

In his impulse lecture, Benjamin Krieger, Secretary General, CLEPA – European Association of Automotive Suppliers, also addressed strategies for efficient CO2 reduction. He also emphasized that a longer-term perspective for the combustion engine – especially as a hybrid – is desirable. "It is legitimate and sensible to consider which other technical options can complement electrification, such as eFuels and biofuels," emphasized Krieger: "We would therefore like to see more openness to technology from the political side and significantly more flexibility."

A Collaboration of Technologies

The panel discussion entitled "No combustion engine, no climate protection" was also characterized by a consensus on the issues currently occupying the international engine community. The participants from science and industry concluded that it was not a question of "either electric drives or combustion engines", but rather a targeted and sustainable coexistence of all technologies.

This year's International Engine Congress therefore provided plenty of current topics for discussion. Other key topics included the technological possibilities of CO2 recycling as a key issue for reFuels as well as the prospects for hydrogen and other sustainable energy sources. The lecture and discussion program was rounded off by an accompanying trade exhibition and numerous networking opportunities, for example at the popular engine community evening.


The 12th International Engine Congress will take place on February 25 and 26, 2025.
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