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.
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
- designing a greener small car
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
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%.
being carried out by Renault
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
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
EUDIESEL is being undertaken by DaimlerChrysler
and the Centro Richerce Fiat, together with automotive parts manufacturer
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
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
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
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 http://www.suva-project.org/.
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.
- 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).