For over 50 years, KST Motorenversuch GmbH & Co. KG in Bad Dürkheim has worked as an independent development service provider and test field operator for automobile manufacturers, manufacturers of vehicle drive assemblies and components, manufacturers of heavy duty engines and vehicle fuels, and also their suppliers.

As a service provider to the vehicle and supplier industry and also to manufacturers of fuels, the engineers and experts at KST provide testing and assessment services for the entire spectrum of electric and combustion engines as well as hybrid and hydrogen engines. In many respects, the knowledge gained through this puts into perspective discussions held in the media and politics relating to the end of combustion engines.

If we in the transport sector want to come anywhere close to achieving our demanding climate policy goals, there is, without a doubt, a need for a fundamental transformation in drive technology. However, the battery-electric engine is only part of the solution. Its climate efficiency is first and foremost dependent on the availability of green electricity, which, in the short to mid-term, will obviously not be available to the planned extent. The charging infrastructure represents a further problem. It is being upgraded with intensity and with state support, however, it is far from being sufficiently available everywhere. Even in the most important automotive market of China or other markets outside of Europe, the development of a charging infrastructure will take years. What’s more, electric engines are only at the start of a long, application-based technological development process and the result is expected to be the realisation of even more significant efficiency potential.

For all these reasons, the existence of other climate-friendly engines as an alternative to electric engines should not be denied.

Hydrogen fuel cell technologies and the further development of synthetic fuels are the main contenders.

Synthetic fuels – known as E-fuels – or even hydrogen have the advantage that they could be used on the basis of existing and highly developed combustion technology. The argument that synthetic fuels would be far less efficient than the electric engine is put into perspective by looking at the complete value creation chain. E-fuels do not require a charging infrastructure nor expensive battery technology – from their development to their disposal.

This all demands a prosaic view of combustion technology, one which is not influenced by political prejudices. The hidden potential for development potential has most recently been proven with the diesel engine, which, when fitted with modern Euro 6d exhaust technology, has achieved significant advances to become more environmentally friendly, even though this realisation has not yet gained ground in public discussions.

The stigmatisation of the combustion engine fully overlooks the fact that the use of non-carbon-based fuels can also make a significant contribution to achieving climate goals. And this means that our industry risks losing its international top position in combustion technology.

For all of these reasons, it is hoped that the further development of drive technologies moves in the direction of openness to technologies with the aim of being able to provide more environmentally-friendly, targeted engine alternatives.

Author: By Prof. Dr. Gerhard Reiff, Chairman of the Executive Board,
KST-Motorenversuch GmbH & Co. KG