Hybrid ICE-Electric Powertrains

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

Hybrid ICE-electric powertrains combine an internal combustion engine (ICE) with an electric motor and a battery pack to power a vehicle. This integrated system strategically utilizes both power sources to optimize efficiency and reduce emissions, leveraging the advantages of each technology in various driving scenarios.

Impact on climate action

The integration of Hybrid ICE-Electric Powertrains significantly reduces emissions from traditional Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles. By blending electric propulsion with ICE technology, it promotes fuel efficiency and decreases greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to the transition towards a low-carbon transportation sector, essential for combating climate change.


  • Regenerative Braking: Hybrid powertrains harness the energy typically lost during braking by using the electric motor as a generator. This regenerative braking system captures kinetic energy and converts it into electricity to recharge the battery pack.
  • Electric Motor Assist: The electric motor provides additional power to assist the ICE during acceleration, reducing the load on the engine and improving fuel efficiency, especially in stop-and-go traffic and during initial acceleration.
  • Engine Start-Stop: The ICE can be automatically shut off when the vehicle is stationary, eliminating idling time and its associated fuel consumption and emissions. The electric motor seamlessly restarts the engine when needed.
  • Power Split Devices: Sophisticated power split devices, such as planetary gearsets or continuously variable transmissions (CVTs), manage the flow of power between the ICE, electric motor, and wheels. This enables the system to optimize power delivery based on driving conditions, using the most efficient power source at any given moment.
  • Battery Management Systems: Advanced battery management systems monitor and control the charging and discharging of the battery pack, ensuring optimal performance, safety, and longevity of the battery.

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Prominent Innovation themes

  • 48V Mild Hybrid Systems: These systems utilize a 48-volt electrical architecture, enabling more powerful electric motors and enhanced energy recovery during braking. They offer a cost-effective way to boost fuel efficiency in conventional ICE vehicles.
  • Predictive Hybrid Control: Leveraging navigation data, GPS information, and real-time traffic conditions, advanced control algorithms can anticipate upcoming driving conditions and proactively optimize the power split between the ICE and electric motor, maximizing efficiency and minimizing fuel consumption.
  • Multi-Mode Hybrid Systems: Hybrid powertrains with multiple operating modes, such as electric-only mode, hybrid mode, and engine-only mode, provide greater flexibility and allow the system to adapt to different driving scenarios.
  • Plug-in Hybrids with Extended Electric Range: Increasing the capacity of battery packs in plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) allows for longer all-electric driving ranges, further reducing reliance on the ICE and minimizing emissions.

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  • Toyota:
    • Technology Focus: Toyota has been a pioneer in hybrid technology with its Prius lineup. Their hybrid powertrains typically consist of a combination of an internal combustion engine (ICE) and one or more electric motors, with a focus on seamless integration and efficient operation.
    • Uniqueness: Toyota’s hybrid systems are known for their reliability, fuel efficiency, and smooth transition between electric and gasoline modes. They have continuously refined their hybrid technology over the years, resulting in vehicles with impressive fuel economy and reduced emissions.
    • End-User Segments: Toyota’s hybrid vehicles appeal to a wide range of consumers, from eco-conscious individuals seeking fuel efficiency to families looking for reliable and practical transportation options.
  • Honda:
    • Technology Focus: Honda has also invested heavily in hybrid powertrain technology, offering models like the Accord Hybrid and Insight. Their approach typically involves a parallel hybrid system, where the electric motor assists the gasoline engine during acceleration and provides regenerative braking.
    • Uniqueness: Honda focuses on delivering a balance of performance and efficiency with its hybrid powertrains. Their systems are designed to enhance driving dynamics while minimizing fuel consumption and emissions.
    • End-User Segments: Honda’s hybrid vehicles are popular among consumers looking for a blend of performance, reliability, and fuel efficiency. They appeal to a diverse customer base, including urban commuters, families, and environmentally conscious drivers.
  • Ford:
    • Technology Focus: Ford has developed hybrid powertrains for various vehicle segments, including SUVs, trucks, and passenger cars. Their hybrid systems often feature a combination of a gasoline engine, electric motor, and battery pack, with a focus on optimizing power delivery and efficiency.
    • Uniqueness: Ford’s approach to hybrid technology emphasizes versatility and capability, with hybrid variants available across their lineup, including popular models like the Ford Escape Hybrid and F-150 PowerBoost. They offer options for both urban driving and off-road adventures.
    • End-User Segments: Ford’s hybrid vehicles cater to a diverse range of customers, from outdoor enthusiasts seeking efficient off-road capability to urban commuters looking for eco-friendly transportation options. Their hybrid offerings span different vehicle types and sizes to meet various lifestyle needs.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Technical University of Munich (TUM):
    • Technology Enhancements: TUM researchers are at the forefront of developing advanced hybrid powertrain technologies for low-carbon ICE vehicles. They are integrating innovative components such as regenerative braking systems, energy-efficient transmissions, and smart engine management systems to optimize the performance and efficiency of hybrid vehicles.
    • Uniqueness of Research: TUM’s approach involves a holistic optimization of the entire powertrain system, including the combustion engine, electric motor, battery, and control algorithms. They are leveraging state-of-the-art simulation tools and experimental techniques to design powertrains that maximize fuel efficiency and minimize emissions under real-world driving conditions.
    • End-use Applications: The research at TUM has direct implications for the automotive industry, particularly in the development of next-generation hybrid vehicles. By improving the efficiency of ICE vehicles through hybridization, TUM aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and dependence on fossil fuels while maintaining the performance and driving range expected by consumers.
  2. University of Michigan:
    • Technology Enhancements: Researchers at the University of Michigan are focusing on advancing hybrid powertrain technologies through innovations in energy storage, power electronics, and control systems. They are developing lightweight and compact battery packs, high-efficiency electric motors, and sophisticated power management strategies to maximize the overall efficiency of hybrid ICE vehicles.
    • Uniqueness of Research: The University of Michigan’s research emphasizes the integration of hybrid powertrains into existing vehicle platforms without compromising performance or safety. They are exploring novel architectures and design methodologies to seamlessly integrate electric and combustion power sources while maintaining vehicle dynamics and reliability.
    • End-use Applications: The research at the University of Michigan addresses the urgent need to decarbonize the transportation sector by making hybrid ICE vehicles more practical and accessible to consumers. By enhancing the efficiency and affordability of hybrid powertrains, they aim to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon transportation system while meeting the growing demand for clean and sustainable mobility solutions.
  3. Imperial College London:
    • Technology Enhancements: Imperial College London is conducting cutting-edge research on hybrid powertrain technologies, focusing on optimizing the energy flow between the combustion engine, electric motor, and energy storage system. They are developing advanced control algorithms and predictive modeling techniques to maximize the efficiency and performance of hybrid ICE vehicles in real-world driving scenarios.
    • Uniqueness of Research: Imperial College London’s research is distinguished by its interdisciplinary approach, integrating expertise from mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, and computer science to address the complex challenges of hybrid powertrain design and optimization. They are exploring innovative solutions such as predictive energy management and adaptive control strategies to optimize the operation of hybrid vehicles under varying driving conditions.
    • End-use Applications: The research at Imperial College London has broad implications for the automotive industry, including the development of more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles. By advancing hybrid powertrain technologies, they aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve air quality, and enhance energy security while maintaining the performance and affordability of conventional vehicles.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Hybrid ICE-electric powertrains are widely implemented in commercial vehicles across various segments, from compact cars to SUVs and even pickup trucks. The popularity of hybrid vehicles is growing as consumers seek more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly options. Plug-in hybrid vehicles, with their extended electric range, are becoming increasingly common, further reducing reliance on gasoline and lowering emissions.