The SAE panel discussion, titled “Not Dead Yet – The Ever-Evolving ICE Powertrain,” also covered a wide range of topics from the growing potential for diesel engines in light-duty trucks and SUVs in the U.S. to the limits of transmission gear ratios.

Diesel offerings are increasing in light trucks, including in the Ford F-150 due this summer and GM’s newest Silverado and Sierra that arrive this fall to join the Ram 1500 EcoDiesel in the market.

Panelist Jeff Lux, FCA head of transmission powertrain, says while 11- and 12-speed automatic transmissions are possible, he believes the current crop of gearboxes in the 7.5- to 10-speed range are optimal, especially given increasing electrification.

“With the advances in ICEs, you likely can get by with fewer (gears) rather than more,” Lux says.

Nicholson and Filipe say they’re happy with the 9- and 10-speed transmissions the two automakers jointly developed. Nicholson says the next step for GM is offering “infinity” – a continuously variable transmission in the Malibu this year.

As for the rumored death of ICEs, all the panelists see traditional engines gaining efficiency and becoming electrified, but still existing under the hoods of American cars and trucks for decades to come.

“The ICE is not dead yet – we’re now in peaceful coexistence with electrification,” Nicholson says. “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

“Higher octane is the cheapest way to get more efficiency and we should do that right away,” he concludes.

Niizato adds the ICE “will never die,” even as Honda projects building 1 million EVs by 2030. @bobgritzinger