ICE: Reports of its Death are Greatly Exaggerated

Whilst considerable attention has been given to the electrification of all modes of transport there is still considerable life  in the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE).

This is partly because the quickest way to decarbonise the current vehicle park would be to maintain these vehicles but use a lower carbon fuel e.g. bio-fuels, hydrogen gas, eFuels etc.

But it is also because for several markets and segments it will be a long time before an electrified powertrain can rival the power density, up-time, ease of refuel, ease of service and price of an ICE. For example agricultural and construction equipment in developing markets.

As a result OEMs and tier1s will continue to have to develop their ICE powertrains to meet the developing attribute requirements of customers and legal requirements of the markets they serve.


1. Where have all the ICE engineers gone?

The main issue that may bring the life of ICEs to an earlier end may not therefore be a lack of demand or even edicts of governments. It may in fact be that there are simply not enough ICE experienced engineers to do the work.

This is because of the following employment trends:

  • Graduate engineers do not see a 40 year career in ICE so are choosing to go into other disciplines
  • Junior and mid-level engineers are swapping to other disciplines as a) they don’t see being able to finish their career in ICE, b) the salaries being offered for low and zero carbon powertrain engineering are higher, and c) it is seen as a faster career development path.
  • Experienced engineers will continue to reach retirement.
  • OEMs are pushing a greater proportion of their budget to non-ICE development. Greater visibility, money and visibility of engineering in those roles.
  • The traditional powertrain engineering consulting firms which are largely headquartered in Europe are rebalancing their resources away from ICE capability to meet the project requirements of their typically developed market clients where the income levels, infrastructure development and government incentives make electrification more viable.

2. How to Allocate a Limited Budget with so many Options and an Uncertain Development Path?

Engineering Directors today are faced with a bewildering range of fuel options for their future ICE programmes. As well as the traditional diesel and gasoline there are possibilities for LNG, CNG, Bio-fuels, synthetic fuels, and hydrogen.

The question then is how to allocate their limited R&D budget.

Despite the proliferation of online “futurists” and consulting companies selling technology roadmaps the future is very difficult to predict. This is because of the following reasons:

a) the various technologies to utilise these fuels are developing at different rates with unforeseen breakthroughs significantly changing the viability and therefore attractiveness of a particular energy source in a short period.

b) Governments change legislation and incentives based on the prevailing sentiment of the electorate. This could be balancing demands for climate change and the cost of living or planning permission for the installation of low-carbon power generators.

As a result the demand for certain technologies changes quickly and companies want to be able to respond to that demand as quickly as possible to maximise profits and maintain or grow market share. To do this they need to develop capabilities and products for multiple fuel solutions.

Maintaining such a capability is expensive as each has specific tools, techniques and specialised engineering resource requirements.


Expert Engine Engineering Resource as a Variable and Affordable Cost

Caepro has broad and deep capability and experience in ICE engineering.

Our team have experience working on over 120 engine programmes including approximately 30 clean sheet designs over the last 40+ years.

These include all engine types from Formula1 to tanks and all attributes from emissions and performance to durability and NVH.

We have experience delivering complete engine engineering programmes from market research and QFD, through benchmarking and target setting, design and simulation, sourcing and systems engineering, prototype build, testing and mechanical development, homologation and SOP support.

Caepro is also the technical partner to a number of engine component tier1s enabling them to deliver value engineering to their OEM end customers.

Caepro is currently engaged on several ICE related projects including:

  • Virtual validation of a single-cylinder motorcycle engine (durability and lightweighting)
  • Development of a silencer for a V12 sportscar (NVH and performance)
  • Emissions development for a tractor (NVH and fuel economy)
  • Design and development support of a tank engine (design, systems engineering, mechanical development)
  • Racing car powertrain cracking resolution (durability)

Caepro can support clients with their engine engineering programmes either on a turnkey basis or as an extension of the client team.

Partnering with Caepro as an engineering partner allows our clients to maintain a sustainable resource level and still meet peaks of demand during intermittent programme development requirements.


John Roebuck

Managing Director E: