“Conditions have become extremely strict”

The type of a vehicle’s propulsion system plays an increasingly important role both for the consumer and for vehicle development. Electric mobility and hybrid vehicles have long been the focus of public attention, not least due to the discussions about diesel engines or new emissions regulations. We therefore asked our powertrain specialists Jochen Petters and Dr. Christian Donn about their take on current challenges and discovered which topics they will present at the upcoming Open House.


Sustainable driving has long been at the core of public debate. There are ambitions to only permit electric cars in a few years, and many governments set new CO2 limits. What is next?

Jochen: In my opinion, the key question is how much time those involved will have before the subjects you mentioned will have to be realized. In order to be able to stay within the CO2 limits, there is, sooner or later, no way around the electrification of every powertrain, at least as a 48 V mild hybrid. Some manufacturers have already announced that they will exclusively offer hybrid variants in the future. Many changes are taking place.

Christian: Sustainable mobility, in my opinion, is a central social responsibility and I am glad that this issue has now reached the general public. In many countries, politics is in the process of defining lower limits for CO2 and pollutant emissions of vehicles. However, making a specific technology compulsory to fulfil the objectives is a mistake in my view. But one thing is clear: One can hardly comply with the ambitious limits that are currently discussed with conventional powertrains alone.

“There no longer is a conventional test cycle; we therefore need new methods to be able to manage the test effort.”

— Jochen Petters


So we are definitely on the way to electric mobility, then?

Christian: Yes and no. For many people, electric vehicles certainly are a great solution on their daily commutes, especially for shorter distances or for passing through cities with high levels of air pollution. On the other hand, there definitely are more sustainable drive concepts for those who travel longer distances. After all, the production of large batteries not only requires a high energy input but also the use of rare earth elements, for example, which are often extracted under unacceptable conditions. I am sure that, irrespective of the political discussion, there will be a greater variety of available drive concepts in the future and that vehicles will be used more flexibly, for instance in the context of car sharing.

Which changes does this entail for vehicle manufacturers?

Jochen: Conditions have become extremely strict. In Europe, for instance, there has been a new legislation as of September 1, 2017. Before, the emission limit values were in place from an ambient temperature of 20 degrees Celsius; now, they apply down to 0 degrees and starting in 2020 even down to -7 degrees. This is a real challenge with regard to the durability of powertrain components and their tests. I am sure that there will be an even sharper increase in the test effort as a result. Christian: The challenge is the evaluation, calibration, and test of the various propulsion systems and variants with increasing levels of complexity according to their use in real-world operation. OEMs will therefore continue to shift their focus away from rigid test cycles onto real test scenarios for development and testing.

In conversation with colleagues: Questions for our powertrain expert Jochen Petters (left) and our Manager Business Development Dr. Christian Donn (center)

Jochen Petters is convinced that more significance will have to be given to virtual test methods for powertrain development.

Which other challenges do you anticipate for the development of powertrains in the future?

Jochen: I have to repeat myself: RDE without a doubt. Due to new regulations and test cycles, an infinite number of tests needs to be conducted, and each newly developed function needs to be tested in every conceivable scenario, despite the fact that the hardware and data version keep evolving. There no longer is a conventional test cycle; we therefore need new methods to be able to manage the test effort. At this precise point, model-based testing and virtual test driving come into play. They allow the efficiency of powertrain development to increase enormously compared to on-road testing.

Christian: A key challenge is, of course, the ability to offer powertrains that are clean and energy-efficient under any real driving conditions and, at the same time, at reasonable costs. In addition, manufacturers need to advance the increasing networking of vehicles and to use the available data for powertrain optimization as well. There are many interesting approaches to this, for example, by using data from the vehicle’s environment for lower emissions and more energy-efficient driving.

Could you outline a specific example of the data that may be used and to what extent this affects the powertrain?

Christian: Something that every one of us is familiar with: live traffic data. A vehicle with a hybrid drive and knowledge of the traffic conditions can use this information beyond selecting the route and estimating the time of arrival. For instance, it is also possible to adjust the operating strategy accordingly. The battery can be deliberately recharged when there is stop-and-go traffic ahead, for example. Driving through the traffic jam can thus be managed on electric power alone and a huge amount of emissions can be avoided.

Will all these topics feature at the industry meeting Open House on March 20, 2018?

Christian: The focus on the topics obviously doesn’t change completely from one year to the next. Open House 2017 already showed that the powertrain field is clearly concerned with the issues of pollutant emissions and consumption as well as diversification and electrification. As every year, we have again prepared a broad range of examples for these issues and plan to show exciting new developments. This year, the focus will be on realistic test scenario generation for powertrain developers.

Jochen: In addition to the subjects mentioned, the driver model also plays a key role for me. Its importance relates to the fact that the driver has a significant impact on the powertrain load. The driver directly influences emissions and consumption. It is therefore important for the development to be able to model a realistic driver.

“I am sure that, irrespective of the political discussion, there will be a greater variety of available drive concepts in the future.”

— Christian Donn

So our customers can already look forward to many topics and specific use cases.

Jochen: We want the issue of real driving conditions to be reflected in the product as well. That is what we will focus our attention on at Open House. With our products, we support users in the robust validation of the new variety and the development of clean cars.

Christian: We also want to take a step back: Where are we generally headed in vehicle development? Which technologies and processes will catch on? At IPG Automotive, it is our goal to be a partner for OEMs and suppliers to provide them with the ideal solutions for the current challenges in their development processes.


“That is why there is a trend towards a more efficient development for which the use of virtual test driving and virtual tests on the test bench play a major part.”

— Jochen Petters


Is virtual testing as a subject already established across the entire powertrain field?

Jochen: I can say from personal experience that the field of powertrain development is rather traditional. In my view, an increasing test effort has so far emerged as a response to the new boundary conditions, which, however, cannot continue on this scale. That is why there is a trend towards a more efficient development for which the use of virtual test driving and virtual tests on the test bench play a major part.


“In recent years, there have already been significant changes in the powertrain field. But especially with regard to virtual testing, the potential is not yet explored in many cases.”

— Christian Donn

Christian: In recent years, there have already been significant changes. But especially with regard to virtual and semi-virtual testing, it can be said that the industry is still at the beginning of the development and that, currently, the potential is not yet explored in many cases. We are very glad that we are able to contribute our share and support our customers in establishing new methods in their development processes.

Jochen: Exactly, challenges like reproducibility call for new responses. In my opinion, nobody will be able to get around virtualization and model-based testing in the future.

Thank you very much for the interview.

Everyone agrees that there will be many changes with regard to powertrains in the future.

You want to read more about solutions for the development of powertrains? Then take a look at our application area Powertrain.