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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Land & marine transport projects > The PREMTECH 2001 Conference: designing the car of the future
Graphic element The PREMTECH 2001 Conference: designing the car of the future
    17-09-2001
 

Traffic pollution is widely considered to be one of the most serious environmental problems facing the European Union today. Now, the EU-sponsored PREMTECH network, set up in 1997, is trying to change all of that, bringing together researchers working in the field of cleaner car engines from across the European Union.

Over 100 researchers and industry experts took part in PREMTECH's two-day annual review conference, held near Paris on 12 and 13 February 2001. Many of Europe's largest carmakers were present, including Daimler Benz and Volkswagen from Germany, Renault and PSA Peugeot CitroŽn from France, Italian auto giant Fiat and Sweden's Volvo. On the academic side, researchers from institutions in nearly all of the Union's 15 Member States took part along with experts from a number of national authorities such as the UK's Department of Trade and Industry and the Irish agency, Enterprise Ireland.

Hunting the emissions
 
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Delegates at the PREMTECH conference examine newer cleaner cars
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"The cars being described here today are the vehicles you will be seeing on the road in four or five years' time. It really is very exciting," said Daniel Chiron, a European Commission expert on engine design and scientific officer for PREMTECH. PREMTECH's aims are simple - to help create cleaner, safer cars. As socialist Member of the European Parliament Bernd Lange put it in his opening speech, "The mission is hunting the emissions."

In more concrete terms, PREMTECH has established a network linking Community-funded projects aimed at the development of energy efficient, near zero emission internal combustion engines running on conventional or cleaner fuels.

The network intends to ensure that the development of advanced engines and after-treatment reduction technologies is well defined and suited to industry objectives. The network also ensures efficient project integration, optimisation of different technologies, and that new needs and requirements dictated by the future evolution of fuel consumption and emissions standards are properly taken into account.

PREMTECH has identified four major areas of development:

  • Advanced propulsion systems for Otto cycle engines;
  • Advanced propulsion systems for Diesel cycle engines;
  • Control systems;
  • After-treatment systems.
 
Co-ordinated diversity
 

Researchers taking part in PREMTECH projects work in groups known as 'clusters', each one looking at a different element of car design. For example, one of the current cluster projects is looking at ways of developing 'hybrid' cars, which would run on a mixture of conventional fuels and battery power. Another is working on the question of cleaner engines that would produce lower emissions of sulphur and other harmful gases. A third is looking at the possibility of building a new generation of lightweight cars that would consume less petrol than current models.

One thing that all PREMTECH projects have in common is that they bring together researchers from the academic world and the automotive industry from across the European Union. As Christos Tokamanis, head of the Inland Transport and Marine Technology unit at the Commission's Research Directorate-General explains, PREMTECH really offers "a flavour of the European Research Area ."

The European Research Area (ERA), now being championed by EU Research Commissioner, Philippe Busquin, is intended to close the current 'R&D gap' between the EU and its competitors in the United States and Japan by creating a Union-wide research community. If the recent PREMTECH meeting was anything to go by, the ERA certainly seems to have got off to a good start.

 
   Widening the call
 

One of the more innovative elements of this year's PREMTECH meeting was the decision to invite researchers from some of the non-EU countries currently lining up to join the Union. When the current round of funding for PREMTECH projects commenced in June this year, researchers from these 'applicant' countries were able to submit proposals along with their EU counterparts.

While all of the speakers at the meeting were clearly proud of the progress made over the past four years, none of them are resting on their laurels. Everyone agreed there is still a great deal of work to be done before the 'car of the future' becomes a reality. Chiron said the Commission would probably provide partial funding for around 20 new PREMTECH projects this year. He added that his institution would be paying particular attention to the socio-economic aspects of any proposals submitted. In other words, applicants for funding would have to consider issues such as the impact their new cars would have on pedestrians and local residents as well as looking at questions of fuel efficiency.

"The criteria of reducing emissions and increasing safety are the same," he said, "but there is still a lot more to be done, so we are expecting to see some exciting new proposals."

 
Hunting the emissions
Co-ordinated diversity
Widening the call
   

Key data

Work carried out by the PREMTECH thematic network is supported under the Growth Programme's Land transport and marine technologies key action.

Projects

PREMTECH - Propulsion systems and emissions reduction technologies.

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