“Combustion engines can become slightly more efficient, but no more than 30 percent,” says Auke Hoekstra, researcher at Eindhoven University of Technology and specialist in electric driving.

Hoekstra is responding to the interview we have previously held with Daan de Cloe, managing director of TNO Automotive in Helmond. Astonishingly, de Cloe, the head of the research institute, encourages further development of the combustion engine, which would still be around for the next 30 years to make the energy transition possible. De Cloe literally says: “We will not succeed to electrifying everything in a short period of time. The industry has proven not to be ready for that yet. To work on our climate objectives, we must continue to also develop the current track we’re on. And that is the one of the combustion engine.”

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According to Hoekstra, further development of the combustion engine is absurd. “That’s like marketing an improved incandescent lamp.” He explains: “Sometimes, biofuel is presented as an option with fewer emissions. However, this allegedly ‘good fuel’ is very limited and if you want more than a few percent of traffic to run on biofuel, then unfortunately, you end up with solutions that are worse for the environment than oil. So, let me be clear: while using fuel engines, we are not going to be able to reduce CO2 emissions by approximately 90%, which is essential for the climate agreement. One could state that the climate agreement is flights of fancy and they are not participating in it, but I believe one should be honest about it.”

Hoekstra believes that electric traction is the best alternative. “If you look at its lifespan and take the greening of the electricity grid and the manufacture of batteries into account, this already accounts for, at least, 60% less CO2 emissions. In comparison, this results in twice as much decrease as the combustion engine would achieve in 2050. Also, using this green electricity, you can easily achieve the 90 percent emission reduction. I think combustion engines are just a dead end that we have to get rid of as quickly as possible.”

DESPERATE TIMES NEED DESPERATE MEASURES

“Evidently it can be stated that the industry is not ready, but I believe we should give it a push in the right direction. We are losing the battle against China, who has dared to set out a clear policy. My motto would be: ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’ so let’s stop putting paper over the cracks and choose the technology with a clear future: electric traction.”

“The price of the battery and its weight was always problematic. However, nowadays, cars with a huge range are hardly any heavier and they will become even lighter because of the weight saving through the powertrain. Then the price. If the battery price drops below 200 euros per kWh, with my calculations, the fuel engine will no longer be able to compete. For trucks, this limit has reached even earlier. So, the grant eligibility phase we are currently in is coming to an end. All the more reason to stop perfecting the exceeded fuel engine.”

HYDROGEN INCLUDED

“However, I would like to emphasise that if you combine electric traction with fuel cells, it can also run on synthetic fuels, such as hydrogen. The efficiency then, is still much higher than with a combustion engine. I expect that this will probably only breakthrough in niche applications, however, when I discuss electric this does not only include battery electric.”

 

 

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About the author

Author profile picture Arjan Paans is editor-in-chief of Innovation Origins. Between 2003 and 2008 he worked in Berlin as a foreign correspondent. Aftewards he was a news manager for several Dutch newspapers. Arjan is married and has one son.