engine technology

The future of engine technology

Motoring journalist Luke Edwards analyses the available options with a particular focus on UK manufacturer, Jaguar Land Rover.

The internal combustion engine has been the dominant automotive propulsion technology for over 100 years. During this time, the UK has grown a world-class research-to-manufacture capability – circa 2.4 million engines are produced per year, many exported across the globe, while around 1.6 million vehicles are produced annually, according to SMMT figures.

A Lex Autolease survey revealed approximately 70% of drivers felt we are entering a new age of the car – and reports and insight produced by Lex Autolease certainly shows this to be true. This could mean the UK sector needing to restart its engine research and enhance its manufacturing capabilities in order to remain significant in the global market.


The days of the combustion engine are certainly not over; smaller petrol engines can provide an affordable path to long-range zero emissions capable vehicles through an electric hybrid mix and range-extendable powertrains.

Already we are seeing a trend for road car manufacturers boosting smaller petrol engines with turbochargers or superchargers to match the equivalent power of a larger naturally aspirated engine. This move also improves vehicle efficiency and reduces its CO2 output.

However, the engine technologies have certainly developed over the past ten years. Road car users can now choose from an additional three major types of vehicle engine should they seek to lower emissions and/or support environmental concerns:

• Full battery electric, which has no combustion engine, but an electrical power unit which stores electrical energy in battery packs and provides a true zero emission capability.

• Mild or strong hybrids, which couples a combustion engine to an electric motor allowing the powertrain to recover energy under braking, coasting or when stopped in traffic.

• Plug-in hybrids, which again couples a combustion engine to an electric motor, but allows the battery packs to be charged at any time through external sources, such as a charge point at the drivers home.


For any engine technology to be taken seriously in the marketplace it has to be capable of matching the mileage range of its combustion engine equivalent. Only then will businesses and consumers be able to totally commit to greener vehicle choices to support their driving needs or business operations.

Mileage capabilities continue to improve year-on-year. Many fully electric cars, such as the forthcoming Jaguar I-Pace, now have a range of over 300 miles on one charge and can be fully re-charged, or very close to it, in two hours. This is making them an even more suitable option for business use.


For many businesses, the desire to take on any new or developing technology is the fear that a costly investment or leasing agreement may be quickly superseded by more powerful, more efficient and cheaper options. To combat this, forward thinking manufacturers such as Jaguar Land Rover are focusing on the production of adaptable lightweight, low carbon engines which can be potentially retrofitted with electrical units / powertrains / boosters in the future.

As emission targets become more stringent and proposed clean air zone charging becomes wider in cities (such as the zone planned for London by 2020), a Fleet Manager will have the flexibility to meet those requirements during a vehicle's lifetime. Jaguar Land Rover's technology, explained above, is called Ingenium. It also features the ability to upgrade vehicles from 2 or 4 wheel drive systems to allow vehicles to match variable weather conditions / climates.


A Fleet Manager will require vehicles of the future to be adaptable, cost effective, environmentally friendly and more efficient, with better fuel economy with fewer servicing intervals.

Engine technology must therefore also be coupled with a lightweight car for increased efficiency and this has also been recognised by Jaguar Land Rover. The company has invested £400m in their Castle Bromwich facility to manufacture aluminium body structures and they also possess a number of patents in aluminium monocoque structures. These lightweight bodies and components now feature in almost the all the Jaguar Land Rover range of vehicles.


In an article about engine technology, motorsport has to be mentioned as it has always provided an innovative test bed for vehicle manufacturers.

Jaguar, for example, are now part of the Formula E (Electric) racing series, providing the organisation with valuable lessons in electrical technology. It's also giving them important working partnerships which we will gradually see moving across to road vehicles, such as the company's new I-Pace fully electric vehicle launching soon.


Heavy duty vehicles on the road will continue to rely on efficient combustion engines to haul heavy payloads over demanding duty cycles. However, many large vehicles, such as buses and coaches, are using kinetic energy recovery solutions - known as KERS, which is very much like the energy recovery systems on a racing car - and electrical energy storage technology.

The requirement for Heavy Duty vehicles to meet worldwide ultra-low emissions demands in urban areas will soon become a major focus. Their extra power required by these vehicles could mean a move in the future towards the use of alternative fuels such as Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), Dimethyl Ether (DME) or Hydrogen.

All of these new technologies will rely heavily on a successful intertwined global energy system; the availability of energy carriers (such as Hydrogen, Biofuels and Battery packs), storage and delivery infrastructure (electrical charging / refuelling networks) and dedicated investment from many parties to ensure global emissions standards are met in the future.