By September 22, 2017 Read More →

Mild hybrids quick fix for carmakers squeezed by CO2 cuts

Mild hybrids

Car makers looking to meet tougher government emissions regulations are offering customers mild hybrids which reduce CO2 emissions.  

Mild hybrids add electric power to gasoline engines, without costly redesign

Automakers looking to cut carbon emissions are turning to mild hybrids, which add some electric power to existing gasoline-powered engines without a costly redesign and cut CO2 emissions.

Stricter government regulations as well as dieselgate, VW’s test-cheating scandal, have been a major drivers for mass electrification.

“Electrified” can refer to fully electric battery-powered vehicles, as well as hybrids.  There is a spectrum of hybrids. There are plug-in hybrids, strong or full hybrid or mild hybrids.

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Mild hybrids are conventional ICE vehicles equipped with a 48 volt electric motor that allows the engine to shut down when the vehicle is stopped at traffic lights, braking or cruising.  A mild hybrid could power auxiliary systems as well as offer better acceleration.

“Our view is that 48 volts on a gasoline engine is an alternative to diesel,” Karin Thorn, vice president for vehicle propulsion at Volvo told Reuters. “If and when the diesel market is dropping, something else needs to take its place.”

Programs chief, Patrice Lucas of the French automaker PSA Group told Reuters his company had previously ignored 48V hybrids, but now plans to introduce them “across the board” as diesel-powered vehicles become less popular.

With total manufacturing costs of mild hybrids coming in between $600-$1,200 below those of an equivalent diesel car, “it’s the most interesting enabling technology and will comfortably replace diesel,” Evercore ISI analyst Arndt Ellinghorst told Reuters.

“It can do the job and it’s already cheaper – you don’t have to be an early adopter to buy one.”

Evercore ISI says it expects 48V cars to outpace sales of full hybrids in Europe.  By 2025, the firm predicts 55 per cent of all cars sold will be mild hybrids.

According to Reuters, VW’s development chief Frank Welsch says the beleaguered automaker’s 2019 Gulf model will be equipped with 48V electrics, and other models will follow.

 “The technology has a lot of potential and will make hybrids more affordable for the masses,” Welsch told Reuters.

The mild hybrid could be a bridge between the ICE and the adoption of fully electrified vehicles.  Currently, there are concerns that charging station infrastructure and the power grid itself are not prepared to handle a mass switch over to EVs.

As well, the popularity of diesel cars is waning.  Diesels emit 15-20 per cent less CO2 than gasoline alternatives and mild hybrids deliver CO2 reductions similar to diesel engines.

For automakers, the simplicity of shifting to mild hybrids will help them adjust their fleet emissions faster than typical time frames for redeveloping drivetrains.  The CO2 savings achieved by moving to mild hybrids may help carmakers avoid harsh EU fines of 95 euros per excess gramme of CO2, per vehicle sold.

“These solutions will become market standards,” Guillaume Devauchelle, innovation director at Valeo told Reuters.


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