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Graphic element Research > Growth > Research projects > Land & marine transport projects > A cleaner future with advanced vehicles
Graphic element A cleaner future with advanced vehicles

The European transport sector is growing rapidly, with far-reaching implications for policy-makers. In the next eight years, passenger transport on European roads is forecast to increase by 19%, with the volume of road haulage set to go up by 50%. Currently, transport accounts for 32% of Europe's energy consumption and 28% of total CO2 emissions. However, it is expected to account for 90% of the forecast increase in CO2 emissions between 1990 and 2010. Unless radical changes are made rapidly, transport, particularly by road, will be the main reason for Europe's failure to meet the commitments made at Kyoto .

In its Green Paper on the Security of Energy Supply , the European Commission sounded the alarm on Europe's dependency on imported fossil fuels, a third of which are used by transport. The EU also has deep concerns about the environment. As a signatory to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, it is committed to reduce emissions of six greenhouse gases by 8% of the 1990 level by 2008-2012. However, if current trends continue, emissions will instead go up by 40% compared to 1990 levels, due to increased road traffic. The Transport White Paper makes rationalising the use of conventional private cars in town and city centres a priority and proposes initiatives for promoting the commercialisation of zero- or low-polluting vehicles for private and commercial use. The development of a new generation of electric and hybrid cars (electric and thermal motors combined), and cars powered by gas or fuel cells is another promising area of research.

Most Europeans drive small or medium-sized cars. In 1998, for instance, there were nearly 8 million new registrations for vehicles with engine capacities of under 2.0 litres, compared to less than half a million with over 3.0 litres. It is clear that although larger engines produce higher CO2 emissions, the sheer volume of emissions from smaller vehicles is far more significant. The Work Programme for RTD actions in support of Competitive and Sustainable Growth under the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5) (1998-2002) highlights the need to reduce pollution from motor vehicles. The European Commission is therefore supporting a number of research actions involving the development of cleaner small engines.

GET-CO2 - designing a greener small car

GET-CO2 aims to apply a new technology for increasing power while downsizing engine size and reducing emissions from small petrol engines. The research focuses on turbo charging, which was originally introduced in the 1970s to give cars extra acceleration and speed. The early turbochargers used more fuel and produced higher emissions than normal cars. Modern turbochargers, formerly used in diesel cars, have displayed an excellent capacity to reduce emissions. GET-CO2 is tackling the main drawbacks of petrol turbocharged engines, namely severe knocking and low-end torque, in its quest for increased fuel efficiency.

Partners are examining several technologies, including variable turbocharger geometry, twin scroll turbochargers and electrically assisted turbochargers, to see which gives optimal performance in small engines. Ordinary turbochargers can produce knocking and poor performance at slow speeds in small engines. One solution could be to use the high-pressure turbocharged engine with variable effective compression ratio known as the Miller-cycle. This engine uses pistons, valves, and spark plugs just like an Otto-cycle engine but with variable valve timing and turbocharging. The effect is increased efficiency, at a level of about 15%.

GET-CO2 is being carried out by Renault , Volkswagen and PSA Peugeot Citroen in partnership with Honeywell Garrett and the University of Leeds. "The main challenge is driveability," says coordinator Dr Afif Ahmed of Renault. "We must develop a car the consumer wants to buy, not just something that is less polluting." Cost is another important factor. The cleaner cars will be more expensive so we are also looking at the cost effectiveness of introducing the new technology. "One of our partners is Honeywell Garrett , the biggest supplier of turbochargers," says Dr Ahmed. "This means GET-CO2 is not just an academic exercise. It is also a commercial one. The support from the European Commission is invaluable because research into new technologies is risky and expensive. The good thing is that if we come up with a solution it will benefit everyone, not just individual manufacturers."

EUDIESEL - cleaner diesels that are good to drive

Building a new generation diesel engine that will combine high fuel efficiency and low emissions is the aim of EUDIESEL. Traditionally, when CO2 emissions are reduced in diesel engines, the trade-off is higher fuel consumption. Another problem is that although the direct injection (DI) diesel engine can achieve very low CO2 emission levels, it has the drawback of producing high levels of NOx and soot, giving rise to health concerns. A breakthrough technology able to overcome this could have a very positive effect on the future of the diesel engine.

In the year 2000, diesel passenger cars garnered an estimated 39% share of the European market, although varying fuel taxes lead to variations from country to country. The goal of EUDIESEL is to develop DI diesel passenger cars as clean as gasoline cars in the year 2005, but with lower CO2 emissions than today's DI models.

Development of the cleaner diesel will require the use of a combination of advanced technologies in the fields of fuel injection and combustion, air and exhaust gas recirculation management, and exhaust gas aftertreatment for NOx and particle emission reduction. These technologies include very high-pressure fuel injection, based on piezo-electric actuators, electronic valve control (electro-hydraulic variable valve actuation) and homogeneous charge compression ignition which can reduce emissions of NOx and soot.

EUDIESEL is being undertaken by DaimlerChrysler and the Centro Richerce Fiat, together with automotive parts manufacturer Bosch and partners in universities in Belgium and the UK. "With EUDIESEL, we are exploring a new way of working together," says coordinator Rainer Aust of DaimlerChrysler, "bringing together a variety of related research actions in which different solutions are being validated. The support of the European Commission has been very important and we hope that all of this will eventually lead to better, cleaner cars and an increased market for diesel engines."

SUVA - the hybrid car of the future

Hybrid vehicles, which combine electric power and petrol, are likely to be the first 'alternative' cars to be commercialised. The SUVA project, which brings together manufacturers DaimlerChrysler, Volkswagen and Fiat as well as research institutes in Germany and Italy, aims to produce the prototype of a marketable hybrid car within three years. Other alternative approaches, such as fuel cell cars are unlikely to be available for average customers before 2025, according to SUVA project leader Dr Manfred Crampen, of the Institut fur Kraftfahwesen in Aachen.

The hybrid car will have an electric battery that will be used to boost acceleration and take over in slow conditions such as traffic jams, thereby economising on fuel. The electric battery will be self-sustaining and will be recharged during driving. It will also make use of the braking energy generated by the electric motor during deceleration. The hybrid car is expected to produce energy savings of 20-25%. "This is an opportunity to reduce pollution and save energy," says Dr Crampen, "but it also represents the development of a new technology that could be good for European employment and competitiveness. In addition to providing funding, the European Commission has been very supportive in promoting information exchange and networking. The effort required for cross-border co-operation is greater, but the results are worth it."

For more information on SUVA, see the project's website at

GET-CO2 - designing a greener small car
EUDIESEL - cleaner diesels that are good to drive
SUVA - the hybrid car of the future

Key data

Much of the research carried out in the EU's effort to reduce environmental pollution from cars is supported under the Growth Programme's Land transport and marine technologies generic activity.


- GET-CO2 - Reducing fuel consumption in petrol cars (G3RD-2000-00364);

- EUDIESEL - Reduced emission diesel engines (G3RD-2000-00291 and -00362);

- SUVA - Hybrid electric/petrol vehicles (G3RD-2000-03001).


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