Herculean Effort, Real Science

SOooooooo proud of my husband Rolf– he initiated & put together an editorial,  collecting input from 37 of the world’s most prominent engine engineers (his field) on the impact of the internal combustion (IC) engine on global warming, and on the future of IC engines. 
Real and honest science, with recommendations for future directions. See the full editorial in the International Journal of Engine Research entitled The Future of the Internal Combustion Engine
After only a short time up online, the editorial has already had thousands of downloads.  It comes out in print in the January 2020 issue of the Journal.  

In a Hurry?

The “Executive Summary” and “Closure” at the end of the editorial are great for those in a hurry, and are posted just below. The rest of the article supplies enough details and data to satisfy the most discerning of scientists.

Oh No! Not Politics? 

The article is not at all political, and does not take sides with climate “alarmists” or climate “deniers,” as the opposing political camps have often been called.
It simply presents pertinent powerful facts, which lead logical people to make their own inescapable conclusions.
For example, IC engines provide 25% of global power, while producing only 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. Also, research of the last several decades has reduced pollution by IC engines by a thousand fold.
We are now at the point where more pollution is caused by the wear of automobile tires on the road than by the vehicle’s emissions. This makes the modern day IC engine vehicle equivalent to electric vehicles in terms of pollution. In fact, vehicles with catalytic air cleaners will actually exhaust cleaner air than they take in, in cities such as Los Angeles.


IJER editorial: The future of the internal combustion engine


Below is the Executive Summary and the Closure — 
(Entire Editorial at: 

IJER editorial: The future of the internal combustion engine )


Internal combustion (IC) engines operating on fossil fuel oil provide about 25% of the world’s power (about 3000 out of 13,000 million tons oil equivalent per year—see Figure 1), and in doing so, they produce about 10% of the world’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (Figure 2). Reducing fuel consumption and emissions has been the goal of engine researchers and manufacturers for years, as can be seen in the two decades of ground-breaking peer-reviewed articles published in this International Journal of Engine Research (IJER). Indeed, major advances have been made, making today’s IC engine a technological marvel. However, recently, the reputation of IC engines has been dealt a severe blow by emission scandals that threaten the ability of this technology to make significant and further contributions to the reduction of transportation sector emissions. In response, there have been proposals to replace vehicle IC engines with electric-drives with the intended goals of further reducing fuel consumption and emissions, and to decrease vehicle GHG emissions.

Figure 1. World energy consumption by source (millions of petroleum equivalent) in the last 25 years.1 About 70% of fossil oil (i.e. about 3000 Mtoe) is consumed in IC engines.


Figure 2. Global warming potential (GWP) in CO2 equivalent tons by sector.2 Transportation contributes about 10%.

Indeed, some potential students and researchers are being dissuaded from seeking careers in IC engine research due to disparaging statements made in the popular press and elsewhere that disproportionately blame IC engines for increasing atmospheric GHGs. Without a continuous influx of enthusiastic, well-trained engineers into the profession, the potential further benefits that improved IC engines can still provide will not be realized. As responsible automotive engineers and as stewards of the environment for future generations, it is up to our community to make an honest assessment of the progress made in the development of IC engines over the past century, with their almost universal adoption to meet the world’s mobility and power generation needs. Considering that the maturity of IC engine technology is something that many other technologies/possibilities do not have, we also need to assess the potential for future progress, as well as to assess the benefits offered by competitor technologies, in order to make responsible recommendations for future directions.

Factors impacting that future are discussed in this editorial and include the following:

  • - The fact that affordable energy has been instrumental in raising the standard of living in the world dramatically, particularly in poor countries, and the fact that so far in the history of humanity, the burning of fossil or bio-derived fuels has been the only reliable source of energy;
  • - The fact that the entire planet is linked by a massive transportation infrastructure that is largely based on the IC engine and that would require decades and tremendous expense to replace;
  • - The dramatic advancements in IC engine technology that have brought pollutant levels down a 1000-fold in past decades, and which now make particulate emissions from tire and brake wear a larger problem than engine emissions (in both IC engine powered and electric vehicles);
  • - The obstacles still faced by proposed alternatives, such as electric vehicles powered by batteries, which have tremendous cost, weight and other limitations, and which are hoped to be fuelled by renewables, such as wind and solar that currently represent only a miniscule fraction of the world’s energy supply;
  • - And the fact that concerns about the impact of IC engines on climate change have become politically charged, even as they need to be assessed impartially. There is need for informed, data and science-driven government policies that promote a managed, realistic transition to sustainable future energy systems.

The vast majority of automotive engineers, including IJER editorial board members, are optimistic about the continuing importance of the IC engine to meet the world’s mobility and power generation needs. Certainly, exploring new and competing engine technologies, as well as new fuels, is important for a sustainable future for our planet. The inescapable conclusion reached in this editorial is that, for the foreseeable future, road and off-road transport will be characterized by a mix of solutions involving internal combustion engines (ICEs), battery and hybrid powertrains, as well as conventional vehicles powered by IC engines. Thus, there is a pressing need for recruiting the brightest young minds to engage in this effort.

(Aside: Here we skip the bulk of the detailed article and skip to “Closure;”  for the entire article, go to The Future of the Internal Combustion Engine )

In summary, the ICE, and IC engine research have a bright future, in contrast with some widely distributed media reports (e.g. The Economist19). The power generation and the vehicle and fuel industries are huge, representing trillions of dollars (US) per year in turnover, with a massive infrastructure. We are certainly in revolutionary times, but it is clear that power generation sources will not become fully renewable and transport will not become fully electric for several decades, if ever. However, research to improve efficiency and methods to reduce dependence on fossil fuels are exciting directions for future IC engine research. It is very likely that highly efficient “fully flexible” engines with hybridized solutions will be a big part of sought-after efficiency improvements, as well as emission/GHG reductions.20 Finally, it must be acknowledged that, in practice, people select their choice of powertrain based on numerous factors, including cost. Consumer preference is not decided by politicians, nor by car-makers, nor academia. Policy unilaterally favoring one technology solution may be deeply inefficient and perhaps even the wrong eventual solution. A better approach is to use real-world data to allow competing technologies to flourish; if they evidence efficiency improvements and emission reductions, and they then need to be delivered as soon as possible. Continued progress requires that we recruit the brightest young minds to engage in this effort to deliver a vibrant and sustainable future for the ICE.

(Entire Editorial at: 

IJER editorial: The future of the internal combustion engine )