Why 2030 Isn’t Going to Be All That Different from 2020

Yes, there will be more electric vehicles. But not all EVs. So internal combustion engines need improvement.

By Gary S. Vasilash

Bosch, Sujit Jain, president, Powertrain Solutions for Passenger Cars, Commercial & Off-Road, and Electric Vehicles at the company’s North American operations, points out, has been advancing—and producing—technologies for the auto industry essentially for as long as there has been an auto industry.

And today isn’t any different.

The company is not only making massive investments for developing and utilizing Industry 4.0 capabilities, but it is investing heavily in the development and production of everything from microprocessors and fuel cells in order to advance the functionalities and performance in the auto industry.

It is committed to the electrification of vehicles, whether this makes the form of hybrids, full battery electrics or fuel cell powered vehicles.

But while Jain says company projections have it that the number of battery electric vehicles in the U.S. will grow from about 2% of the market in 2020 to 30% by 2030, that still leaves 70%, the large percentage of being combustion engines. Yes, they may be hybrids, but there is still gasoline or diesel being burned.

So one of the things that Jain and his colleagues are doing is developing the ways and means to increase the efficiency of those engines, both in terms of performance and emissions reduction.

Some of the things that they are pursing, Jain says on this edition of “Autoline After Hours,” include synthetic fuels, electrically heated catalysts to reduce cold-start emissions, and hydrogen fuel injection (i.e., instead of a hydrogen fuel cell, this would be a combustion engine running on hydrogen).

Jain talks with “Autoline’s” John McElroy, Kelsey Mays of Cars.com, and me on this show.

After Jain’s segment, the three of us talk about a variety of subjects, including former Nikola head Trevor Milton being charged with three counts of criminal fraud related to the company he founded; Tesla’s Q2 financials ($1.14-billion in GAAP net income), the possible consequences of it opening up its charging network to other brands, and the move from upscale-shopping districts for its stores and galleries to lower-end real estate; Magna’s growth and technological breadth; and more.

And you can see it all here.

More on Hydrogen

Hyundai has a big slice of the market

By Gary S. Vasilash

Although the bullishness of Hyundai is something that yesterday’s piece on the XCIENT big-rig noted, we didn’t realize the magnitude of that commitment until we saw this pie chart from a research firm, Information Trends :

(Image: Information Trends)

Yes, that’s right, Hyundai has about 75% of the entire pie.

However, the pie needs to be put into some context:

According to the firm, approximately 8,500 passenger fuel cell vehicles (not big-rigs) were sold in 2020.

To put that into some context: Toyota sells more Camrys in a week in the U.S. than that total number of global fuel cell sales, so there is a way to go. Quite a way.

Can Hydrogen Carry the Freight (and Commuters)?

One of the things that people probably don’t think too much about is the extent of the U.S. freight rail network: approximately 140,000 miles of track, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Also according to the US DOT, as of 2016 (its most recent number) there were 26,716 Class 1 freight locomotives hauling 315,227 Class 1 freight cars. And Amtrak had 434 locomotives and 1,402 cars.

As for transit rail, 7,190 vehicles for commuter rail, 10,775 for heavy rail, and 2,553 for light rail.

All of which is to say that there are a lot of goods and people being transported by rail.

2021 Toyota Mirai. It is powered by hydrogen. Can trains be, too? (Image: Toyota)

So it was interesting to note that two firms have announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding in which NextGenPropulsion (NGP) is going to be purchasing solid-oxide fuel cell (SOFC) systems from Fuel Cell Enabling Technologies (FCET), which developed the system.

Odd are you have not heard of NGP or FCET. We hadn’t.

But it is interesting to know that on the NGP team there are people who had worked with people at the University of Birmingham and the University of Warwick in the U.K.—and as you may recall, the steam locomotive had its start in the U.K., as George Stephenson is credited with developing the world’s first successful locomotive. Apparently there are prototype hydrogen-powered trains on the rails in the U.K.

However, those locomotives are using PEM fuel cells and the NGP tech is SOFC, which, according to Dr. Keith Baarson, a founder and a chief engineer of NGP, says represents “a high-efficiency ell at a price point that will make the commercialization of hydrogen-powered rail not only a possibility, but an obvious replacement for current, century-old technology.”

Sure, fuel-cell powered Toyota Mirais and Hyundai Nexos may be sexier, but things like this is where there can be return-on-investment for users, so it is undoubtedly an area where hydrogen is going to achieve a significant presence.