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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research themes > Land & marine transports > The PREMTECH II thematic network: designing the car of the future
Graphic element The PREMTECH II thematic network: designing the car of the future
Premtech II - Coordinatror Giorgio Cornetti
Premtech II -
Coordinatror Giorgio Cornetti
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Traffic pollution is widely considered to be one of the most serious environmental problems facing Europe today. The PREMTECH II thematic network is trying to change that, bringing together 40 research projects in the field of cleaner car engines from across the European Union. With new and very ambitious CO2 emission limits coming into effect, PREMTECH II is focusing on critical technologies and technology platforms for improving internal combustion engine efficiency.

With the publication of the recent White Paper entitled "European transport policy for 2010: Time to decide", there can be little doubt that the European Commission has its sights set firmly on meeting the needs of citizens in the area of transport. But while the impetus to create better, more efficient vehicles may now be greater than ever, the Commission already has a history of funding co-operative research aimed at reducing transport-related carbon dioxide and pollutant emission under a number of programmes, from Brite-Euram to the ‘Land transport and marine technologies’ key action of the Growth Programme. Now, with the advent of the Sixth Framework Programme , the PREMTECH II thematic network is picking up where the original PREMTECH network left off, continuing to support projects dealing with the development of clean and efficient internal combustion (IC) engines.

The fundamental aim of the PREMTECH networks has been to coordinate research being undertaken under a number of focused projects. That means identifying linkages between projects, encouraging their integration and improving synergy through facilitated technology transfer and faster dissemination of results.

Getting the research right

“The network aims to ensure that the development of advanced engines and after-treatment pollution reduction technologies is well defined and suited to industry objectives,” says network coordinator Giorgio Cornetti of Meta Ricerche in Italy. “Our goal is the optimal development of the most appropriate technologies, taking into account the needs and requirements dictated by the future evolution of fuel consumption and emissions standards”

PREMTECH systematically compares assessments of a variety of network project technologies in order to determine the most profitable approach and the most likely to be accepted by the consumer. The choice of the most promising technological options is carried out jointly, based on their capacity to achieve a series of extremely precise targets in terms of reduced emissions, energy efficiency and safety.

“PREMTECH II is essentially an extension of the original PREMTECH network,” says Cornetti. “The first PREMTECH thematic network (Advanced propulsion systems and emission reduction technologies) was launched in 1997. When it was completed in February, 2001, it had worked to bring together over 30 important projects dealing with the development of clean, efficient, intelligent, near zero emission Internal Combustion (IC) engines.”

Specific objectives

The strategic objective of the network projects is fairly straightforward – to combine high fuel conversion efficiency with low emissions, as opposed to settling for the traditional efficiency-emissions trade-off. Specific targets are reduced emissions of 140 g of CO2 per kilometre driven for passenger cars and 670 g of CO2 per kilometre for heavy-duty engines. Newly developed engines must comply with future emission standards, including 2005+ European emission limits for normal vehicles and EEV targets (Enhanced Environmentally Friendly Vehicles and Engines). At the same time, vehicles must meet customers’ requirements and expectations in terms of performance. Power and responsiveness should be comparable with that of corresponding conventional powertrain systems. This is seen as an essential element for any new engine to stand a chance of succeeding on the consumer market.

Manufacturability is another important element to be considered. Lowest-cost production should always be the goal while maintaining the highest safety and reliability standards of the manufacturing process.

On the technical level, PREMTECH has identified four major areas of development. They include advanced propulsion systems for Otto cycle engines, advanced propulsion systems for Diesel cycle engines, control systems and after-treatment systems.

Coordinated 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 Directorate General for Research 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 recent PREMTECH meetings are any indication, the ERA certainly seems to have got off to a good start.

High-level exchange

PREMTECH researchers and industrial partners take part in regular review conferences. Many of Europe’s largest carmakers were present at last year’s event, held near Paris, including Daimler Benz and Volkswagen from Germany, Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroën 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.

“The cars being described here today are the vehicles you will be seeing on the road in four or five years time,” said Daniel Chiron, a European Commission expert on engine design and a key PREMTECH coordinator. “It really is very exciting.”

PREMTECH’s aims are simple – to help create cleaner, safer cars. As Member of the European Parliament Bernd Lange put it in his opening speech, “The mission is hunting the emissions.”

Taking PREMTECH into the future

While PREMTECH II project participants are clearly proud of the progress that has been made, none of them are resting on their laurels. Everyone agrees 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 continue to actively support PREMTECH projects, adding that his institution would be paying particular attention to the socio-economic aspects of any proposals submitted in the future. 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.”

When the last round of funding for PREMTECH projects commenced, researchers from EU candidate countries were able to submit proposals along with their EU counterparts. Bringing the accession candidate countries into the development of European research is now seen as vital to the future. As the Newly-Associated States of central and eastern Europe prepare for accession to the European Union, opening some of the major EU research programmes to their institutes and companies allows exchange of knowledge and expertise in the period before they become member states.

The current PREMTECH II network replaces the PREMTECH thematic network. While the first network was associated with the Auto-Oil I programme, an intense series of studies and negotiations with the motor manufacturers and oil industry to develop tougher standards for vehicles and fuels, the new network now takes into account the Auto-Oil II programme, under which participation in working groups has been extended to all interested stakeholders. It is also associated with the new ‘Clean Air For Europe’ (CAFE) programme.

Getting the research right
Specific objectives
Coordinated diversity
High-level exchange
Taking PREMTECH into the future

Key data

Research carried out within the PREMTECH thematic network is supported under the Growth Programme’s Land transport and marine technologies key action.


PREMTECH II – Efficient and low emitting propulsion technologies (G3RT-2001-05028).

CORDIS Project database


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