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#35. Gautam Kalghatgi: We Still Need the ICEV

10.23.18 | Podcast | By:

Gautam Kalghatgi, visiting professor at both Oxford and Imperial College and just retired from Saudi Aramco, joined the podcast to discuss the future of the internal combustion engine vehicle (ICEV). Gautam wrote a paper that was recently published in Applied Science, “Is it really the end of internal combustion engines and petroleum in transport?” He says it isn’t and concludes in the paper that:

“Transport policy should be based on a balanced approach using all available technologies, taking into account local and global environmental and GHG impacts, security of supply and social, economic, political and ethical impacts. The best chance of significantly mitigating GHG and other impacts of transport lies in improving combustion engines assisted by partial electrification and better control and aftertreatment systems. An even better approach is to develop new fuel/engine combustion systems like gasoline compression ignition (GCI). This will require collaboration between the oil and auto industry and governments. It would be very short sighted indeed not to invest in improving ICEs since they will inevitably be powering the transport sector, particularly the commercial transport sector, to a large extent for decades to come.”

Following are some excerpts from our discussion, which you can listen or download below or listen to it in ITunes.

On the Difficulty in Transforming the Global Transport Energy System:

“The main reason is that the demand for transport energy is incredibly large. What people don’t realize is how large the daily demand for petroleum is. Maybe 99.99% of all transport, if you take road, air, sea, and rail, and everything into account, 99.99% perhaps, is based on combustion engines at the moment. So, 95% of all transport energy comes from petroleum based liquid fuel. Demand for these fuels is extremely large. Every day, the world requires about 4.9 billion liters of gasoline, 4.9 billion liters of diesel, and 1.2 billion liters of jet fuel. We are talking about 11 billion liters of fuel each day. That is about 3 billion gallons each day. This demand is growing roughly around 1% and most of the growth is happening in the non-OECD countries; China and India, if you will. Essentially, it is extremely difficult for any alternative to this system to grow quickly and efficiently to make a very big difference in the short term.”

On the Potential of Electrification

“Transport is very difficult to completely decarbonize. I don’t think it’s possible in the near future. Even if you converted every light duty vehicle to battery electric vehicle, you cannot decarbonize unless, as I said, you decarbonize the electricity generation as well. Therefore, it is absolutely important that if you want to mitigate the effects of transport on greenhouse gas emissions, reduce this impact, you have to improve the efficiency of internal combustion engines. That’s the only way any improvements in sustainability can be done. I don’t think these other approaches will really bring about sufficient degree of change, sufficiently quickly.


In that context, I think I see several stages. In the first stage, we would be looking at improving existing internal combustion engines using known market fuel, diesel and gasoline. There is tremendous amounts of scope for this and in fact, increasing electrification in the form of hybridization will play a very, very big role in this because it will enhance the efficiency of internal combustion engines. This is why I also say in the paper, there will be absolutely no doubt that there will be an increase in electrification of the transport system, but in the form of hybridization — assisting internal combustion engines to become more efficient.”



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