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Combustion engines remain our core specialty

3/18/2019 | Words: Lucie Maluck | Pictures: MTU

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Modern drive plants and power systems like hybrid drives and microgrids combine many different elements. One of them is the combustion engine. This is where MTU has focused its core expertise for more than 100 years. “The combustion engine is the core component in our systems and it will continue to be our great passion. We have always led the world in this field and we will continue to take pride in that role,” emphasized Executive Vice President R&D Dr Martin Teigeler. Engineers at MTU are currently concentrating on three primary areas: continuing to cut fuel consumption, improving emissions and building even tougher engines.

“Fuel consumption is always a major issue,” confirmed Martin Gebhardt who heads new engine construction and integration at MTU. If engines consume less, customers benefit from lower operating costs. At the same time, the engines produce less CO2. And because CO2 is a greenhouse gas and contributes to climate change, its reduction must be the ongoing aim.

Actual emissions are what count
Emissions of other pollutants like diesel particulates and nitrogen oxides continue to give cause for concern. “Right now, in a number of areas we are not really expecting legislators to significantly tighten the limits even further. What is more likely is that other aspects will be highlighted such as actual engine emissions under real engine operating conditions,” said Ulrich Beutke, who monitors the work of environmental bodies for MTU. Until now, in many cases engines have been required to meet emissions regulations on the test stand where they operate under standardized conditions. In some applications, less attention is paid to the emissions that occur afterwards. “We want to ensure that emission levels from our engines are as low as possible under actual working conditions – whether they are operating in the desert, in arctic regions or at 3,000 meters above sea-level,” said Gebhardt, defining his mission.

Engines are getting more robust
Another R&D target is to make engines even tougher. “This is increasingly important for our customers. A few years ago, their primary demand was for high levels of performance. Today, customers want their engines to last as long as possible,” explained Gebhardt. Here, R&D specialists are aided by the increasing use of engines as part of system configurations. Electric motors and integrated batteries can assume some of the work previously performed by combustion engines so that these do not have to be designed to cover the whole spectrum of requirements. In future, emergency gensets may not need to start up so abruptly because it is possible to integrate batteries in the process. All this indicates the possibility that combustion units will become more robust, more efficient, cleaner and more cost-effective.

Digital tools likewise play a pivotal role in the development of more robust engines. Sensors can be used to monitor the operational condition of individual engine elements. “Until now, we had to rely on average values that obviously could not accurately reflect every individual scenario,” explained Gebhardt. Today, digital tools allow much more accurate monitoring and that means customers can expect more durable engines.

For R&D head Dr Martin Teigeler, there can be little doubt that the combustion engine can expect to enjoy a long future. “But not necessarily powered by diesel fuel. With synthetically produced fuels such as hydrogen, the combustion engine will be capable of CO2-neutral delivery of driving power and energy.” he predicted.


The content of the stories reflects the status as of the respective date of publication. They are not updated. Further developments are therefore not taken into account.

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