Optimisation of classical drive trains should be backed with electric mobility
Over the last ten years the German automotive industry has made huge progress in reducing CO2 emissions. In 2004 newly registered German-branded passenger cars still had an average CO2 value of 175.8 grams per kilometre, but in the first ten months of the year 2014 the figure was only 133.4 grams. This represents a decrease of around one quarter (24.1 per cent).
“As the proportion of alternative drive trains among new registrations is still low at present, this increase in efficiency is due almost totally to optimisation of classical petrol and diesel propulsion systems,” stressed Matthias Wissmann, President of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA).
Lower CO2 emissions per kilometre mean lower fuel consumption too, Wissmann added. For example, consumption by newly registered passenger cars from German group brands has fallen from 7.1 l/100 km (in 2004) to today’s 5.4 l/100 km – which is also a drop of 24 per cent. Wissmann said, “The research and development departments at our manufacturers and suppliers have exploited all possible parameters to make cars more efficient: lower engine capacity, supercharging, direct injection, and lightweight construction are the keywords here.”
Despite the smaller engines, performance (in hp or kW) has increased. The factors at work here are supercharging, the minimisation of friction losses in the drive train, and the most advanced eight and nine-speed automatic transmission systems. These developments pushed up the average performance of newly registered passenger cars from 129 hp (95 kW) in the year 2004 to 147 hp (108 kW) in 2014 (January to October) – i.e. by 14 per cent. The old adage that “larger engines have greater performance” became obsolete long ago. By adjusting the supercharging it is now possible, for instance, to offer the same two-litre, four-cylinder engine with different performance levels, varying by one third – with practically identical consumption.
Furthermore, safety and comfort features are being fitted in more vehicles than ever before. For example today, according to the DAT (German Car Trust Agency) report, 100 per cent of all new vehicles have ABS, 97 per cent have power steering, 93 per cent have air conditioning, 93 per cent have electric windows, 87 per cent have ESP, 86 per cent have side airbags, 45 per cent have heated seats, and 24 per cent have electric seat adjustment.
“Our companies’ excellent engineering work is demonstrated by the fact that consistent lightweight construction and downsizing has resulted in lower vehicle weights even in new generations of models – along with lower fuel consumption. Today the German group brands offer 739 models that consume less than 5 litres to travel 100 km. In 2011 there were only 251, so the range of available models has trebled within three years. The world-wide market success of the German automotive industry, which has a global share of around 80 per cent in the premium segment, confirms this intelligent strategy: people do not want austerity on wheels. Cars also have to be sexy,” Wissmann underlined.
However, the VDA president pointed out that the successful reductions seen to date could not simply be continued to the same degree in the future. “We have already worked through the conventional technologies. If the internal combustion engine is to be even more efficient, every additional gram of CO2 that we save will become more and more costly. We will come up against the technical and economic limits. All the experts know that we will only meet the CO2 target for the year 2020 if a considerable proportion of vehicles have alternative propulsion systems – that is, all-electric cars, plug-in hybrids, and range extenders. This makes it so important that politicians should now create the right overall conditions for electric mobility,” Wissmann emphasised.