The Car Industry - man's best friend or worst enemy?

A report from a journey to 14 of the world leading car manufacturers in Korea, Japan, USA, France and Germany during a three weeks period in February 1998

How does the car industry meet the environmental challenges?

In December 1997, the nations of the world got together in Kyoto, Japan, to discuss climate issues. The industrial countries agreed, after a lot of discussion, to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gasses, particularly CO2. The issue is to slow the "greenhouse effect" which possibly is threatening the entire ecological balance of our planet. As the agreement is being ratified by the various countries, they pledge to reach defined reductions, perhaps impossible without including the automobile, one of the major CO2 contributors. In accordance with the Kyoto protocol, Japan has to reduce its emissions of greenhous gases by 6 percent, USA with 7 and EU with 8 percent within year 2008 - 2012, compared to the 1990 level.
We are facing a situation where the major cities of the world have become a health hazard
due to automobile emissions, and sooner or later the oil resources will be exhausted.
This may result in an increase in oil prices and limiting the public's possibilities for transportation

The situation to be considered is that our future mobility may be limited as a result of

  1. Political decisions - based on the intention to meet the Kyoto protocol.
  2. Political decisions - based on the wish to improve the local air quality.
  3. Limited resources.

Since the automobile industry plays the leading part, regardless of how one wishes to regard future means of transportation, I wished to seek the answers by asking the persons who are directly engaged with the future of the automobile. During three weeks in February 1998 I visited 14 of the major car manufacturers in Korea,   Japan, USA, France and Germany. I spoke with more than thirty leaders and development people, all of them in central positions related to our mobile future.

This report is not a scientific document, it is a journalist's travel in a field that relate to us all, regardless of where we live. The material is treated in a journalistic way, that means that I have extracted the essence and made some conclusions based on the interviews.

Baerum. June 1998

Are Wormnes

Time Horizons

The short run
If the automobile is to make a positive contribution to the reduction of greenhouse gasses by the year 2010, there is no time to waste to find the effective remedies. We can not wait for the cars to get electric power, turbines or other technical solutions which may, in an efficient way reduce the CO2 emissions to a level in accordance with the Kyoto protocol. All the alternatives to today's gasoline and diesel engines are more expensive and less practical. Most alternatives require a new infrastructure for production and distribution of fuels. It will take time and large investments to construct a distribution network to be a real alternative to fuel stations. Since the cars sold today will still be around in 10 - 15 years, the contributions must come from the cars manufactured today and in the near future. That means gasoline and diesel engines. Using today's technology, the fuel consumption, and thereby the CO2 emissions, may be reduced by 20 percent compared to the most common engines today.

In this short perspective we have to consider the more stringent emission regulations under way in Japan, USA and Europe. The primary aim is to reduce the local pollution from the cars. However, to meet the regulations, the automobile industry must introduce other methods than in use today. There is a general opinion that it is absolutely possible to meet the regulations known today, however, this will cost a lot of money, and will demand co-operation from the oil industry to deliver higher quality fuels.

The long run
The goal for the entire automobile industry of the world is to be able to offer the totally pollution free car. It is generally accepted that it is possible to make one. But when it is possible to make one at an acceptable price, nobody knows. And we don't know when the fuel can be produced and distributed in a way acceptable for the generations to come. Today we assume that hydrogen is the fuel that can ensure our mobility into the next century and rid the globe from the pollution of road traffic. The road towards the pollution free car is long and paved with challenges. Engineers working for the automobile manufacturers with the challenges of the future, accept that the goal is within reach. It is, however, impossible to predict when it may be reached.

Top of page

The Electric Vehicle (EV)
That the car of the future is powered by electricity, is generally accepted by the automobile manufacturers.
"An automobile manufacturer will not survive into the next century if they only rely on ICE. Issues such as greenhouse effect, clean air and preservation of resources will lead to a fundamental change for all types of industry of all nations", chairman JACK SMITH of GM said at the Detroit Motor Show in January 1998.

Still, the pure EV is heading for an uncertain future. The electric car with batteries will probably never be anything more than a niche product for customers with special interests.

The EV's main advantage is that it does not pollute along its path of operation, no exhaust emissions and almost no noise. Therefor it is welcomed in cities with massive pollution. Its disadvantages are that it has limited range, time consuming to charge the batteries and that it costs considerably more than ordinary cars due to the expensive batteries. Further more, the battery pack is heavy - 400-500 kilos "dead weight", requires a lot of energy to move around. This energy has to be produced as well, and this doesn't always happen in the most environmentally friendly way.

The reputed automobile manufacturers have spent large fortunes to develop electric cars sufficiently attractive to the public. Many cars are available today, but has found few customers. The wallet governs the choice of car more than the interest in preservation of the environment.

The future of the electric car is very much dependant on how local and central governments stimulate the use of electric cars. The automobile industry can only make the products available. It can't force the customers to buy them.
Top of page

The situation of today
Where introduced, the EV has not made a hit among the buying public. General Motors has made a major effort with its "Super- EV", the GM EV1 - available for leasing by the public in California and Arizona, but with limited success. The car was launched with much ado when the first shipment left the factory at Lansing, Michigan, in November 1996. Up to February 1998, only 325 customers had "swallowed the bait". The manufacturing plant was quiet. Even though the reports from the few users is very encouraging, it hasn't made many more eager to chose this environmentally friendly alternative.

To try to improve the situation, within this year (1998) GM will offer EV1 with a new battery pack. The lead acid batteries will be replaced by NiMh, doubling the range. However, there is a major problem, as described by DICK THOMPSON, manager for GM Advanced Technology Vehicles:

"We have a problem with cost for the new NiMh batteries to be offered for the EV1 and Shevy S10 from this fall. We haven't mentioned the price for the user as yet, but we are working hard on that. It is evident that our cost can't be transferred to the customer. That is more than the market can take"

There are many electric vehicles in the American market, some are already available, some are due later. Chrysler has its mini-van, EPIC (Voyager), Ford has Ranger pick-up, GM has EV1 and Chevrolet S10 pick-up. Honda has the passenger car EV Plus, Nissan is planning to introduce their Altra and Toyota is offering RAV 4 EV. These are mostly offered to fleet customers in those parts of the country where the EV interest is the greatest - especially California.

But the interest is low. The cars are rated as too expensive, even among professional fleet owners.

In Europe, the PSA Group (CitroŽn and Peugeot) and Renault have been fronting the development of the electric vehicle, joining forces with the national power company. Electricitť de France (EDF), the government and the environment authorities, ADEME. In spite of large subsidies, there has been no big success during the two years electric versions of CitroŽn Saxo and Peugeot 106 has been available:

"Today we are world leaders on EV, we have manufactured around 3000 cars. The car costs FRF 90000, about the same as a similar car with options, such as automatic transmission and electrically operated windows etc. The batteries comes in addition. We are currently leasing out the batteries for FRF 600 per month." Says JOSEPH BERETTA, manager for the EV development of PSA R&D, and continues: "The two most important matters to improve are the range and price. Presently it is too expensive. We are convinced that if we could make a car in the price range of 50.000 - 60.000 FRF, it would be OK, but that doesn't work today. And the government doesn't support sufficiently (Until this fall, EDF was supporting the manufacturer with FRF 10.000 for every new EV sold. The government paid FRF 5000 to companies and private customer purchasing or leasing a new EV and a local community purchasing EV receives FRF 8000 as support from ADEME. This fall (1998) the system was changed. All customers receive FRF15.000 from the government. In additions companies get tax benefits. Battery-lease is subsidised by EDF.). We have achieved a lot, we have invested more than 600 millions FRF, research not included. So we are just waiting for the market. The ultimate would be if we could offer a specially developed car, however, there has to be a market before we may take such a step."

The Japanese are in a no better state, even if the most advanced electric cars are from there - with an possible exemption for GM EV1. Honda has the EV Plus, which is available, but few want. The lease price in USA has just been reduced to USD 450 per month, all service included, for a period of three years. But the customers are hesitant. In Japan the situation is different, and not very encouraging, as described by Honda's project leader for EV, chief engineer KENJI MATSUMOTO:

"Here we have no subsidies from the government for the electric car industry. Consequently, the lease price is all of yen 265.000 per month(about NOK 14.000)-and only five cars have been leased so far. When incentives from the government will be introduced, the number of cars will rise".

MATSUMOTO has doubts that EV will ever be cheep enough with sufficient range to attract the general public. A range exceeding 200 km, is beyond his estimations, even considering the most promising batteries presently in the development stage. Still, the development of the electric propulsion system has high priority. And the reason:

"We develop the best conceivable EV technology in view of a future with the fuel cell".

At Honda, as for all the others, the fuel cell is the future.

At Mitsubishi, the EV technology is not subject to more interest than absolutely necessary, not more than what is required to offer cars in the market if California sticks to the legislation to demand 10 % EVs by year 2003. In harmony with many of his colleges of other manufacturers, HIKOICHI MOTOYAMA does not believe that California will stick to their requirement:

"My personal opinion, not the official view of MMC, is that the authorities of California will have to redefine zero emission. Otherwise, no one will be able to supply cars that people want. I seriously believe that California won't force us to deliver pure electric cars with the shortcomings of today. This doesn't mean that we just sit here doing nothing. We present different alternatives for people, we test the car's capabilities and people's reactions to them. However, we haven't found anybody who think these cars are good".

The fact that Mitsubishi doesn't put more effort into EVs, doesn't mean that they aren't concerned with the CO2 problems. But they are frustrated by the customer's lack of interest to pay the price for cleaner cars. MOTOYAMA asks in his kindest manner:

"Here in Japan, the journalists are only concerned with how many of the cars meet the emission regulations. But we must not forget the price. We ask them to contribute to distribute knowledge on the additional cost involved in making cleaner cars, and that the customers have to be willing to pay more. If the customers are willing to pay, we will manufacture. However, neither here nor in the USA are people willing to pay. Help us create such an understanding!"

At Nissan, we detect the same attitude towards the EV as with Mitsubishi, in spite the fact that they have developed the only EV equipped with the very advanced lithium-ion battery. There is no use having a fine car nobody will buy. To the question of why Nissan is developing EVs, ATSUNORI MASHIMOTO replies:

"We develop the EV to meet the California regulations, but to be honest, we don't expect to sell many cars. We foresee the possibility of an oil shortage, so we do not develop the cars for the near future, but for 2005-2010 and thereafter. Even if California will change their requirements for 2003, we will not halt our development of EVs, we will just lower our priority. We don't believe there is any money in this market, because the market has to be created first. To make the ball roll, we wish the authorities to join in - we want the development of the market to be directed by the authorities. We will try to reduce the prices, but the authorities must lead the market."

Toyota is the best kid in the class, not only in their own eyes, but also for many of the competitors. They advance on a wide front with a number of alternatives, the RAV 4EV is only one of them, the hybrid Prius another. Nissan's ATSUNORI MASHIMOTO says about Toyota:

"Today Toyota is selling their Prius with a loss and thereby contributing to the society. It is a kind of charity. Toyota can afford that. Nissan haven't the same resources. We may contribute through our lease program for our EVs. We have developed the technology and the product, but we have to share the cost with someone."

In Germany, they are also concerned with what goes on at Toyota. They notice the same thing as Nissan, that the Big Brother of Japan's car industry is pouring in money in development and marketing of new technologies. Toyota spend huge fortunes on research and development related to new drive systems and power sources, and they make the products available at prices below a profit level. KARL HOEHL at Mercedes-Benz says he has heard from Toyota's chief of development that they spend around $800 million annually. Hoehl suspects Toyota to have great ambitions:

"I believe they have a three or five year plan, and I imagine that Toyota is in such a phase of heavy investment for alternative drive systems to derive all possible advantages from such systems. They may establish important patents and thereby at least generate a few spin-offs for use with more conventional drive systems.
Maybe Toyota also sees the possibilities to define a new kind of Japanese drive system - Mr. Otto invented the otto engine, Mr. Diesel invented the diesel engine, and now we may see that Toyota want to establish a totally new drive system, Nippon may be?"

Toyota's effort has not been left unnoticed at BMW either. There Dr. ANDREAS GOUBEAU -who has available a very usable electric car - thinks that the Japanese competitor has made some wise moves:

"They don't focus on just one alternative, which is the disadvantage of the CARB (California Air Resouces Board)  solution. CARB has described a very narrow road with no alternatives, but the EV. Even if we here at BMW can manage this road, it isn't the only road. We have to prepare for other solutions as well.
That is what is so impressing with Toyota, their approach to the market is wider. They will go to California with their RAV 4, no doubt, and they will get feedback. They will approach their market with their hybrid Prius, and they will get feedback. I am also afraid they will present their very small "Smart" type car to the market, and they will quickly get a response of acceptance from the market, and in that case, at what price. At the moment they have the possibility to define the price - to test its acceptance in the marketplace."

When so many speak so kindly about them, what do they say at Toyota? I asked one of Toyota's "great men", HIROYUKI WATANABE, about his opinion on who has the responsibility to bring new solutions and technologies to the public, the manufacturers or the governments?

"Both has this responsibility, and maybe the consumers as well. Different incentives may be used such as legislation, taxation, for different technologies. Such incentives may be used to introduce a new technology. But is it fair? Will they be given only for special technologies?
If they are used only for special technologies and not for others giving the same result, it is wrong. When everybody has advantage of the introduction of a new technology, it is good. If only EV gets advantages, bad technology will be honoured as well, possibly stopping the development of more advanced technologies. Systems for "FAIR COMPETITION" must be introduced, systems focusing on the goal, not the way."

Watanabe recognises the fact that they don't sell their new car at a "correct" price, but he refuses to comment on what the Prius really should cost. In Japan, the car is sold at a price just marginally above that of a comparable car, but still the car is too costly. The problem of electric cars, such as RAV 4 EV, is the same for Toyota as for everybody else, range, charging time, weight and price. Not even Toyota sees a quick solution to that problem. That is why Watanabe is interested in looking into what the alternatives may offer. He regards nature itself as a measuring stick - heavy, clumsy insects can fly far on little energy, birds may glide practically for ever, but when man is to be transported, we use the least effective way of utilising energy: We burn fuel in an engine!

"When we burn fuel in a gasoline engine, only 13 % of the original energy is actually utilised (the entire chain from production until use). If we use the most advanced technology known to man today, we may reach 15 %.
This is the problem we have to solve. We are engineers working with technology. The environmentalists demand that people change their way of life. But we can not accept such an attitude. We have to approach our common wishes and needs as engineers, we will seek solutions.
We have to solve the questions about resources and
CO2, but as long as we burn the fuel in combustion engines, we can not solve these questions!
As an example, if we use electric motors, the energy is utilised in the car by an efficiency of 85-90 %. This is why the world find such a great interest in this. We face another problem, however. The EV doesn't pollute, but the problem is related to the origin of the electric power.
In Japan, many of the power plants use natural gas. At the consumer end only 35 % is utilised. By coal powered plants only 25 %. This means, as a consequence, that a EV is only 30 % effective at its best. Here in Japan, if we use our most effective power sources, we may increase the energy efficiency with 100 % with an EV. By using nuclear power, it is possible to increase the efficiency even more, but many safety aspects are to be considered concerning that power source.
Based on the many shortcomings of the EV, we would rather keep the existing cars and make them more effective and at the same time improving the alternatives. That is a great challenge. In our hybrid, Prius, we can, among other things, regenerate the braking energy, and the combustion engine is only used under heavy loads. This way the energy efficiency of the system is increased to 26 %."

The weight is the big problem, especially for electric vehicles - and the price. Watanabe is greatly concerned with the weight problem, because it is a waste using large quantities of energy to transport the weight of the batteries and other necessary heavy components.

"The weight problem is our most important challenge. In a pure EV we use NiMh (Nickel-Metal-Hydride) batteries. It is regarded as the best of today, but the weight is 500 kg. That is fatal for the operation, representing a great loss to transport such a large weight. We MUST find lighter and cheaper systems. The solution is hybrid. If we compare the cars, the weight surplus in Prius is only 1/6 of the battery of an EV. The weight is the main problem, and in Prius we may use a smaller battery which is lighter and much cheaper. This is what made it possible to bring Prius into production now."

Top of page

The Battery Problem
The batteries are and will be the EV's eternal problem. In addition to the excessive weight, they are expensive. There is no foreseeable quick solution to any of these problems. Even if it would be possible to build the car at the same low price as a conventional car, the price of the battery will always be added in an electric car. Even if the goals defined by USABC should be reached, the EV will still not be competitive compared with conventional cars comparing purchase price.

These are the goals of USABC:

Target Effect density


Energy density


Life span




Thort time span 150-200 80-100 5 Up to 1100
In a typical EV this will mean 0-80 km/h in

12 sec.

Range up to

200 km.

Battery price write off over 5 years Battery cost up to NOK 45000
Long time span 400 200 10 Up to 750
In a typical EV this will mean 0-100km/h in

10 sec

Range up to

320 km

Battery write off over 10 years Battery cost up to NOK 30000

This indicates that even if the long range goals are met, the battery pack will still cost NOK 30000 (£ 2500) - in addition to the car itself. Most of the car manufacturers indicate that the electric drive system with associated components in mass production will cost about the same as an internal combustion engine today, possibly a little less. However, for the private customer, the battery price alone is prohibiting sales in larger quantities. For fleet customers calculating investment vs. life span, the price will gradually get interesting because the energy cost for the EVs will be much less than for cars with gasoline or diesel engines.

It is basically the same process taking place in all batteries - they transform chemical energy to electricity. The challenge is to find the best combination of materials to trigger the most efficient chemical process to store the most energy for the lowest price. USABC is mainly concentrating on the three types that seems the most promising: Nickel-Metal-Hydride, Lithium-Ion and Lithium-Polymer. In Europe there is great activity around Nickel-Sodium- Chloride (Ni/NaCl2) and Nickel-Cadmium (NiCd).

At this stage, no known type of battery will manage the long run goals of USABC. Promising tests are, however, being conducted with Lithium-Ion and Lithium-Polymer. Especially Lithium-Polymer has potential to be light and inexpensive, at the same time a battery with high energy density. So far no workable production process has been developed.

Developing new batteries creates a lot of problems. Even batteries that seem promising, may during the development and testing processes in a car, turn out to be useless due to the uncontrollable processes that may start if there are internal damages to the battery - the "avalanche-effect", as named by ANDREAS GOUBEAU of BMW:

"The funny part is that if you take two chemical materials and dip them into an electrolyte, you get a current, no doubt about that. Then you have to make the analysis, will the process be possible to repeat, what is the life span, what are the losses, and what are the materials? Are they obtainable? Are they expensive? Are they poisonous?
From all of this we have learned that from the moment you have assembled a large number of cells for a battery, successfully put this into a car and driven the first few kilometres, then you need another four to five years to find out if the system is sufficiently stable. Is it worth a further development? There is a long time span from the moment you bring the first two elements together until you can put these cells into a car without risking the health of the people who perform the tests.
During the 80ies and the beginning of the 90ies, when we were busy with Sodium-Sulphur batteries from ABB, we burned down one of our work shops. We learned enough from this to at least let the next fire take place outside the building. Even if the Sodium-Sulphur battery was a rather deeply developed system, it proved to be very dangerous and difficult to control. After the withdrawal of ABB, nobody has continued with the Sodium-Sulphur batteries.
It is not at all simple to carry 30 kWh active material in the car - with substances kept apart with thin membranes only. If you get an avalanche effect, all of this energy will be released inside the car. I won't question the potential of the lithium systems, but just remind you that a factory burned to the ground due to lithium, and so did two cars. The technology is still at an early stage to understand the risks involved and how to control the potential defects that may occur."

Even if BMW has left Sodium-Sulphur, they have continued with a "hot battery" operating at a temperature of several hundred degrees C to do the job. They are now into Nickel-Sodium-Chloride from ZEBRA, a battery Mr. GOUBEAU feels has the potential to be developed to be about 20 % cheaper than the NiMh batteries.

At PSA they are struggling to find something that is both good and sufficiently low priced. They have conducted some tests and calculations, and JOSEPH BERETTA has concluded that it is a question of what range you want, and to what price:

"If we take a production model, give it a new generation electric motor and transmission, install a new battery with more energy - how can we at the same time reduce the price? If we assume that the battery is to be mass produced in at least 10000 units, we have arrived at the following:
NiCa holds 12kWh, giving a range of 80 km. The price of the battery is FRF 30.000, equal to FRF 2500/kWh.
NiMh holds 17 kWh, increasing the range to 120 km. The price of the battery will be FRF 43000, equal again to FRF 2500/kWh.
If we look at Lithium-Ion, we have two possibilities:
We can put into the car a battery holding 17 kWh and thereby give it a range of 120 km, same as NiMh. By this approach we may get a price reduction on the battery down to FRF 17.000 - that is FRF 1000/kWh.
But if we instead choose a range of 200 km, we will need a battery of 30kWh - then the price will be FRF 30.000."

Top of page


The hybrid car has stirred a great deal of attention - especially after the successful introduction of the Toyota Prius for sale in the Japanese market at reasonable prices. Production there is now increased. The problem is that it doesn't cost what it is supposed to. The competitors do not know for sure, but estimate that the price should have been an additional USD 10.000. At Toyota they will not release the real cost, but admit that the production cost must come down.

The problem of the hybrid is that it requires two power sources, one electric and one based on a combustion engine (there are other types of hybrids too, but not currently realistic for use in passenger cars). The consequence of this is that the car needs two management systems, one for the combustion engine and one for the electric system.

Prius is a parallel-hybrid, which means that it has a combustion engine (1,5 litre) and an electric motor, each of them capable of operating the car alone or they can work together. The parallel system seems to have the largest interest as of today.

The other type is the serial-hybrid , meaning that a combustion engine is producing electric power to charge the battery, which again powers the electric motor propelling the car. This system opens for sources of power other than the piston engine. Alternatives are, among others, gas turbine and the Sterling engine. These are currently under testing by several manufacturers.

The major advantage of the parallel-hybrid is that it is capable of operating over shorter distances totally pollution free - depending on the capacity of the battery. A battery with high capacity means high weight and price. Prius has a rather small battery, 2kWh, with small weight and low price. The battery is not to be charged from the electricity network, only from the combustion engine.

The advantage of the serial-hybrid is that the combustion engine may operate on the most favourable rpm related to consumption and emissions, but not in a totally emission free situation.

One of the factors contributing to an especially low consumption and thereby low CO2 emissions, is that brake energy may be regenerated into the battery in the same way as for EVs. At high speeds and under great loads this contribution is lower, and the consumption increases since the combustion engine is doing most of the work. Even if Prius can show amazingly low consumption figures under Japanese conditions, the situation will be totally different on for example Norwegian mountain roads or German Autobahns.

Since the battery of the hybrid is a significant cost factor, the manufacturers are eagerly hunting for less expensive ways to achieve the same effect. Chrysler has come up with something they have called Mybrid, Honda utilises a capacitor instead of a battery.

Chrysler's Mybrid has got its name from Mild Hybrid. THOMAS (BOB) S. MOORE is explaining what is so special about the Mybrid, as expressed in the concept car Intrepid ESX2

"We obtain two thirds of the consumption savings at one third of the cost. So this is a cost effective approach to reduce the dependence on batteries. This increases our possibilities of putting this car into production one day and thereby obtaining the environmental impact we are striving for. We don't want to be best on fuel consumption if that means that people can't buy what we make."

The Mybrid ESX2 drive line doesn't appear to be that special. It is a variety of the parallel-hybrid with a 72 Hp, three cylinder diesel engine (common rail, direct injection) of 1,5 litre and a 25 Hp electric motor. The sole purpose of the electric motor is to assist the diesel engine when required. It doesn't drive the car by itself. The two engines are connected to a common electronically controlled manual transmission. It's as effective as a manual transmission, but with the comfort of the automatic.
This construction reduces the need for a large battery, but the key element in the Mybrid is still the battery. Today the car is fitted with a lead acid battery weighing 60 kg, but Chrysler is planning to put in a Lithium-Polymer battery weighing barely 30 kg. In an intermediate phase they will manage with a Lithium-Ion battery weighing around 50 kg. In addition to supplying the "auxiliary motor", the battery supply the energy for power consuming equipment.

"This battery weight is only a quarter if the battery of a traditional parallel-hybrid. That is why we call it the MYBRID," says BOB MOORE.

The Chrysler hybrid approach is primarily cost focused. Their main objection to Toyota Prius is that it is based on very expensive hardware. Two years ago, the Americans presented their 1st. generation Intrepid ESX. If it had been put into production the price would have been USD 80000. ESX2 is based on totally new technology, even for the body. It is made from thermal plastics and has half the weight of a similar steel body. The car could have been manufactured today for USD 35.000, but the price must come down to USD 20000 before there will be any consideration to produce.

"This is the most pragmatic approach we have seen. Many talk about hybrids, but I have yet to hear anybody tell how they go about making two drive lines for the price of one," says SCOT FOSGARD, Chrysler's PR representative on these issues.

The way Intrepid ESX2 appears today as a concept car, it has a drag coefficient of less than 0.20 and weigh in excess of 1000 kg. The fuel consumption is given at 3,3 l/100km.

The dilemma of hybrids is the complex construction. It requires technologies for two power trains packed into one car, with of all the various control systems. In France, PSA is looking at hybrids, but JOSEPH BERETTA has no firm belief in the concept, even if the hybrids have some clear advantages:

"At an earlier stage we claimed that hybrids probably was a good solution to achieve a dramatic reduction in exhaust emissions. We worked on a car program called VERT. To reduce emissions, the idea was to use a turbine to create the electricity needed to run the car. That is an interesting concept in relevance to NOx, CO and HC. The problem was the consumption. The turbine operates at 100000 rpms. You can't have a mechanical transfer of power to the wheels with such speeds, you need an electric transformer.
We considered to connect it to an AC generator to make a serial-hybrid. The interesting point is that the turbine has a continuous compression. We could increase the efficiency, we could use a catalyst as well operating at temperatures close up to 1350 degrees C, just below the level where NOx is formed, and that is interesting!
With the turbine you could obtain 1/10 of the American ULEV2-standard. We made a car, a Peugeot 406, but that draws 9 litres per 100 km. That is too much. That means too much CO2. With a direct injected gasoline engine you can manage 6 l/100 km. Consequently that hybrid is not a good solution. We haven't finished exploring this road yet.
As of now we don't know what happens further for the turbine idea. On top of all other problems, it is very expensive.
But we have other projects, illustrated by the illustration below. We start with an ordinary car, add something electrical. We add an AC generator, giving some advantages to the customer, such as quick start, booster etc. and we reduce the size of the combustion engine. We install a larger electric motor, and we can reduce the combustion engine further, and we have a parallel-hybrid. If you continue, you end up with a clean EV.
If you continue from the EV, and you add special ways to generate electricity on board to increase the range, you get a serial-hybrid. To continue from there you end up with the fuel cell.
The price for the serial-hybrid has a tendency to be higher than for the parallel-hybrid because you have to install power sources four times: Combustion engine, AC generator, battery and an electric motor. In the parallel-hybrid you only need electric motor, battery and combustion engine.
By this chart we show everything we are working on. We work on everything."

 Hybrid-PSA.jpg (36766 bytes)

So, there are many ways to approach the hybrid problem. Honda has as well, in addition to their pure EV plus, a system that resembles Chrysler's. It is given the name IMA (Integrated Motor Assist). Where Chrysler use a battery, Honda is using a super-capacitor to assist a newly constructed one litre, three cylinder VTEC-engine with direct fuel injection via an electric motor connected to the combustion engine. The capacitor stores brake energy and release it when required. The car uses a CVT (Continously Variable Transmission)  for power transfer, and is matching the consumption of the Chrysler ESX2 at about 3 l/100km. The system is not ready for production, however, KENJI MATSUMOTO says it will appear in a few years, without making it more precise. The reason may be connected to the super-capacitor, characterised by Chrysler's BOB MOORE as "Super efficient and super expensive".

Honda doesn't believe in traditional hybrid solutions, they feel that similar or better fuel consumption may be attained by advanced combustion engines with IMA. They have a strong belief in natural gas. MATSUMOTO explains Honda's strategy:

"The combustion engine can be developed for very low emissions, and it may be developed to consume less fuel. That is the road we will follow.
We have sold LEV -cars in California since 1995. This year we will sell ULEV -cars in California and three other states. Our ZLEV is not clean, but we define ZLEV as 1/10 of ULEV-levels. This we can manage both with our new combustion engines with capacitor (IMA) and with natural gas cars. We think the mandate in California will be changed. They are presently talking about Zero-equivalent-vehicles, and that we can offer."

Honda's new engine for ZLEV has caught great attention among the competitors. If Honda is able to mass produce a combustion engine capable of reaching such low emissions at a competitive price, the entire EV discussion will be turned upside down. Then the EV looses much of its advantage as a clean alternative for city use, and the entire idea of hybrids will be gone. The head of Nissan's R&D operations in USA, JOHN SCHUTZ, in "Electric & Hybrid Vehicle Technology '97"  replied to the question if hybrids just being an intermediate solution

"That is a difficult question to answer as long as Honda has been able to develop a conventional engine with such low emissions. However, if there will be a stronger pressure on the manufacturers to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gasses, I think the hybrids may find a place in the market."

Top of page


Gas and other alternatives

"Ford has 95 percent of the market for alternative-fuel-vehicles in USA. If we obtained one percent total market share with these cars, we would be ecstatic. But we aren't even close."

THOMAS D. BARKER is a central person in Ford's program for alternative fuels. Ford has an electric Pick-up for sale, but they are more concerned to attract customers for some of the other alternatives available. The problem is the same for these as for the EVs, the price is increasing and the versatility is decreasing. There is no infrastructure for the fuels. Barker is explaining that Ford's motivation to go for alternative fuels vehicles is to open doors for other sales:

"Alternative-fuel-vehicles are only sold to fleets, and we wish to be in these fleets as it enhances sales of other, gasoline powered vehicles as well. If they buy a few alternative-fuel-vehicles, they may buy many others. If we don't have the alternatives, they may chose a different supplier.
We feel it is important to be in the forefront in this area. But there is one thing for sure: Alternative-fuel-vehicles are not for the ordinary customer. Why should they buy a car they can't fill up from normal fuelling stations and cost more as well?"

What is an "alternative fuel"? Those creating the most attention are natural gas (CNG or LNG) , propane (LPG), ethanol, hydrogen, methanol and electricity. Further, we have various diesel alternatives such as DME and rape seed oil.

These fuels are produced in various ways:

  • Natural Gas(CNG/LNG) are extracted from wells the same way as for oil.
  • Ethanol - alcohol - is produced in various ways, but normally from biomass. In USA, mainly excess production from corn is used for spirits for cars.
  • Methanol is mainly made from natural gas.
  • Propane (LPG) is a by-product from oil and gas production.
  • Hydrogen is mainly produced from natural gas, but may in the future be produced by electrolysis of water using nature's own energy, such as solar energy and wind.
  • DME can be made from different sources, but natural gas is the easiest.
  • Rape seed oil is made from pressing of rape seeds.

Ethanol and rape seed oil are politically controversial as fuels, as the production demand large agricultural areas, areas that could be used for food production in a world where "fuel" for humans is as much in demand as fuels for motor vehicles. Top of page

Natural GAS

There are vast quantities of natural gas available. The reserves are larger than the reserves for oil, and the advantages for emissions are obvious: with natural gas in the tank, the CO2 emissions from the car are reduced about 20 percent, and the treatment of the other emissions represent no major problem. KENJI MATSUMOTO says that Honda can deliver natural gas vehicles managing an emissions level of 1/10 of the California ULEV requirements.

As for the other alternatives, natural gas suffer from the same lack of infrastructure. In a foreseeable future, it will be best suited for fleet use with centralised fuelling.

However, in many countries, there is an infrastructure of natural gas for home application. It would be possible to fill your tank using a pressure pump - pretty much the same way as you may charge your EV from an outlet at home. The time needed will be much like the EV, if the tank is to get an optimal "charge". By quick filling, the range is reduced because the gas is heated during the filling, is expanded and take up more room in the tank.

Talking about natural gas for car use today, it is mainly compressed natural gas, CNG. It is stored as a gas under pressure (over 3600 psi/245 kg/ Due to low energy density (25 percent of gasoline) the gas tanks take up large space in the car, and it increases weight and cost. Still we have to accept a short range with a CNG car, similar to an EV.

This disadvantage may be eliminated by converting to liquid natural gas, LNG. However, new problems appear. To be kept in a liquid state, the gas must be stored at a very low temperature, below minus162 degrees C. That requires a totally new distribution technology and infrastructure. Using liquefied natural gas as fuel, the CO2 emissions will be reduced dramatically - even considering the total energy consumption from production to use. By building an LNG infrastructure, you would at the same time prepare for a future distribution of liquefied hydrogen - by many named the ideal fuel. Liquefied hydrogen must be stored at even lower temperatures than liquefied natural gas ( below minus 250 deg. C), but the required technology is similar.

At PSA they don't regard natural gas as an area of great interest. They are uncertain as to the total CO2 balance related to production and distribution of the gas. The problem may be regarded in different ways, but PSA sees this from an European point of view, explained by PATRICK BLAIN :

"If you look at the reserves of natural gas, they are in equivalent tonnes in the same magnitude as that of the oil reserves. We have two possibilities with natural gas; one is to make a liquefied fuel. We still see some remaining development work before this is an alternative. The other one is to use it directly in the engine. You then get a good engine with a low CO2 emission. An engine designed to utilise natural gas will reduce CO2 by more than 20 percent due to the molecular structure. You make H2O instead of CO2. The problem is how to store the gas in the car. Today, the only solution is pressurised bottles where the gas is compressed to more than 200 bar. However, how may we place these bottles in the car without upsetting the customer's expectations?
However, there is a problem that may be more problematic: When we look at the entire chain of energy starting at the place of production, the gas must be extracted and then distributed, and that often takes place by ship. This costs energy, it costs
CO2. Then you must transport it to the fuel stations, and that costs CO2as well. The question is, what will the balance be? We are working on that, but we don't know the answer today. Natural gas is good for the car, but we are not so sure if it is so good for the world because of the transport."

Even if France has a well established infrastructure for natural gas for home use, Blain doesn't believe that it is a good idea to use this network to supply cars.

"The gas must be compressed, and that requires energy. The problem is not of a financial character, the distribution system is here, but it is an energy problem. The question is if there will be an energy balance in the system. We are working to find that out."

Blain is not as enthusiastic as many of his business colleges about the positive effects of natural gas on the local environment. The emissions are easy to control - as long as we are considering American emissions regulations.

"The problem is that we are in Europe. Here we look at the total HC emissions, not like the Americans who disregard the methane emissions (NMHC). If you look at the total HC emissions, they are two to three times higher than from a gasoline engine when you use natural gas. To break down these molecules, very special and expensive catalysts are required. If we could concentrate on NMHC, we could reduce the HC emissions to 0,2 of the gasoline engine. This means that natural gas is very good if you don't count this part (methane). But our regulations don't allow this, as the American regulations do. My opinion is that we shouldn't consider methane. It doesn't pollute, but contributes to the greenhouse effect. We are, by the way, all here in this room producing methane. That is quite normal."

Blain emphasises that it is the regulation that makes it possible to make cars emitting 1/10 of the American ULEV level. On this background he says that natural gas is good for America, but not for Europe. But with the new expensive catalysts, it is possible to reduce the emissions compared to the European regulations, reducing all the other regulated gasses as well. In Europe, only Northern Italy use natural gas of any magnitude as car fuel. In France this is not a topic of discussion presently, BLAIN says.

Top of page

Propane (LPG)

Liquefied petroleum gas has long traditions as an alternative fuel in Europe. In Japan and USA, the interest for LPG as car fuel is smaller. In The Netherlands this by-product from the oil refining industry is used on a large scale, and in France as well. LPG produces lower emissions of the regulated gasses than gasoline and diesel, CO2 emissions per energy- equivalent are lower as well. Still, the interest for LPG is small. Some of the explanation is given by PATRIC BLAIN of PSA:

"In France we have had LPG since the middle of the seventies. For various reasons, we stopped. On demand from the market, we are now selling Peugeot 406, Partner, CitroŽn Xantia and Berlingo for LPG, adding Xara and Peugeot 306. Actually, we think LPG may be a solution, but only for certain uses in certain areas where pollution is a problem. However, the problem is that there is a lack of LPG in France and Europe, except in The Netherlands and Italy. In France LPG production may be in the order of 500000 tons annually in year 2000, while the fuel consumption totals to 30000000 tons. This means that only 2 percent of the consumption can be covered with LPG. LPG is therefore preferable for special applications. The possibility to increase the production is small, and is therefore best suited for solving local problems." 

Top of page

DME - A new life for the diesel engine?

DME (Di-Methyl-Ether) is a relatively new discovery. Today, it is mainly used as drive gas for aerosol spray cans, but by chance, a Dane discovered some years ago that the product had remarkable properties as diesel fuel. If DME should be accepted as a diesel fuel on a larger scale, it may be of great importance for Norway, as the fuel is mainly made from natural gas. It may be produced at the point of gas production, where distribution of natural gas is complicated due to lack of pipe lines, which is the situation for many of the largest gas fields outside Northern Norway.
The greatest advantage of DME is that it may be used in ordinary diesel engines (with rebuilt injection system) emitting low NOx levels and no particular emissions.
In Norway DME is tested as engine fuel on a limited scale by Technological Institute, and a larger test is under preparation in Denmark. Even if the major oil companies so far has shown moderate interest, the car manufacturers are well aware of the fact that they may have a fuel that may solve many of the problems concerning diesel engines and their emissions. However, it is still too early to determine the future development. DME is dependant on an infrastructure for production and distribution, and may therefore be a fuel best suited for fleets, where the tanking is centralised.
What may come as a surprise for some, is the number of car manufacturers doing serious research on DME. The advantages seem apparent, but some disadvantages are uncovered. PATRIC BLAIN:

"The interest for DME is great - since it doesn't contain sulphur, has high cetan rating and a chemical formula of high interest for the combustion. At this moment, I repeat at this moment, the price before taxes is 5-6 times higher than for ordinary fuels.
We look at DME in co-operation with other French companies. You reduce the NOx and particulate emissions. The problem with NOx and particulars is that its a compromise. By increasing the particular level a little, you may reduce the NOx very much. But compared to ordinary diesel you will get very good values for NOx and particulates.
In the future, I don't know when - probably after year 2010 due to the need for large investments - what makes DME interesting is that it is made from natural gas and in liquid form. It requires refrigeration, and that is expensive. Somebody must make an investment.
We have done a lot of testing. We do some tests with IFP
(Institute Francais du Petrole) and CNRS (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique). So, we work on it, but it is not the solution for tomorrow, for 2010 -15, or maybe 2020. But very interesting!"

At Chrysler they are working hard to find alternatives for direct injected gasoline and diesel engines. These engines are really quite effective, but the disadvantages on the emissions is a problem. This is where DME comes in, explains THOMAS (BOB) S. MOORE:

"GDI  (Gasoline Direct Injection) has its advantages, but it can't beat the efficiency of the diesel engine, no other engine will beat the diesel when it comes to transforming petroleum to torque. We can still greatly improve the emissions from the diesel engine, but if you have to make it as clean as a clean gasoline engine, forget it! Then we need a different fuel, DME or one of its cousins, made available from the oil companies at the fuel stations. Maybe the authorities will help, because large investments are needed. There is a barrier. If we had such a fuel, the diesel engine would beat any GDI on efficiency and have similar emissions."

Daewoo in Korea is presently not running their own research on DME, but is following the development closely. Ford is starting testing this year, and expect some results during 1999 according to RICHARD C. BELAIRE .

At Renault they regard DME seriously. Their strategy is initially to improve the efficiency of the combustion engine, then to see what can be done with alternative fuels - and finally alternative drive lines. They have a small research project on DME exclusively, but there is still a long way to go. GILBERT MALLEDANT is explaining that they presently is putting most effort into the LPG because LPG is a simple way to reduce emissions. But LPG is no solution for the future. Natural gas may be, and DME as well. DME can be a way to meet the EU 2005 regulations even for diesel engines:

"Diesel has NOx problems, and we aren't sure we have good solutions for that problem after 2005. But there are some problems to be solved with DME, especially for the injection system. It is sensitive to temperature. It must be kept under pressure at temperatures within certain limits. One of the main problems to be solved is how to inject DME into the engine. To do that, certain parts must be cooled down to retain the pressure in the injection system. Maybe it is simpler to heat up instead of cooling down.
We have some technologies that might be used, Common Rail, for example. That will allow a high pressure. But we have problems with the pump because the plastic components react with the DME. DME is an aggressive substance.
DME may be an alternative to diesel. But DME is mainly produced from natural gas. The question is if it is sensible to make DME from natural gas instead of using the gas in the engine directly.
This is a production problem. Natural gas may be transported in pipe lines. For the off-shore installation without a pipe line connection, it is necessary to make the natural gas liquefied for transport to shore. This process is interesting because it means transport of a liquefied fuel. DME is liquefied as well." 

Top of page

Bio Fuels

Fuels such as ethanol, rape seed oil and derivatives of these, are interesting as they are CO2 neutral, deriving from plants. But even if they have positive emissions and don't contribute to the greenhouse effect, there are different opinions as to the use as fuel for motor vehicles. The main reason being the moral question of using large agricultural areas for production of engine fuel instead of food for people. 

Top of page


The fuel of the future is hydrogen, H2. The entire automobile industry characterises hydrogen as "the ideal fuel" - the emission is pure water when H2 is used in a fuel cell. And the fuel cell in combinations with the electric motor is the drive system of the future - as far as we can tell today. For the future, if we will be able to extract hydrogen from water by electrolysis, using energy from natural sources like wind or sunshine, we will obtain a fuel which in no way will produce harmful emissions or CO2. The automobile industry believe in this future, but no one will predict when it will happen.

Hydrogen has to be produced, and today this doesn't happen in an energy effective way. The main source for today's hydrogen production is natural gas. Hydrogen is problematic to store in sufficient quantities in the car. The most probable way to store hydrogen in a car today is compressed in pressure tanks or by the use of metals binding the hydrogen, releasing the gas by heating. But this is expensive, heavy and give a limited range. The alternative is liquefied hydrogen stored in insulated tanks keeping the fuel cooled down to below 250 degrees C. Such tanks are also expensive, and many see great safety problems related to the distribution of liquefied hydrogen. But hydrogen may also be extracted directly from methanol - making the storage in the car almost as simple as for gasoline. This is probably the method that is going to be used for the first fuel cell cars planned for mass production from around 2005.

Top of page


The Fuel Cell
- The Solution for the Future

Mercedes-Benz and Toyota seem to be the ones who are the most advanced so far when it comes to fuel cells. Mercedes has said that they will start production in 2005, 40.000 cars annually using hydrogen derived from methanol in the car in the fuel cell. Toyota will not tell when their car is ready, but no-one will be surprised if it appears earlier than the Mercedes. When asked about the realism of Mercedes producing fuel cell-cars by 2005, Honda's KENJI MATSUMOTO is smiling:

"I think Japanese manufacturers will offer fuel cells long before Mercedes. We will not, but others."

He didn't disclose who the "other" may be, but there is little doubt that he is talking about Toyota. Toyota is the only Japanese manufacturer with a car with a fuel cell in operation, but YOSHIO KIMURA responds rather evasively on the question on when they intend to put their fuel cell car on the market:

"At Toyota we don't have the habit of telling in advance when our products will be available. That is handled by our top management only. But I may say that 2005 most certainly is a challenging goal. We live in a competitive environment, and we have to be competitive."

There are many challenges to be resolved before anybody may even consider to start mass production of fuel cell cars. The technology in itself is representing a huge challenge. The size of the fuel cell has to be reduced, as well as the size of the reformer extracting the hydrogen from the methanol. However, more than anything, the price must be reduced:

"The fuel cell is still in the development stage. Only Daimler-Benz and Toyota has developed an experimental car utilising this technology. We have to continue the research, and we have to reduce the price. We have to omit two digits in the cost-figure," says HIROYUKI WATANABE .

The fuel cell has been through a dramatic development in a few years. In the early nineties, no one talked about fuel cells as a realistic alternative for the first years of the next century. Toyota's YOSHIO KIMURA is describing the development this way:

"When I first started with fuel cells, the basic technology was known. But it was very costly. It was used in space crafts and power plants where cost was no issue. My task was to reduce the size and make the technology applicable for cars. Additionally, we had to consider the fuel, H2, how to store it in a car in a compact way. That can be done in many ways, but we initially considered hydrogen absorbing alloys. But none of the alloys known to us were good enough. We had to find new approaches.
Methanol is also a good solution for storage of fuel for extracting H2. These were the two alternatives we selected and had to solve: We had to reduce the size, and find ways to store sufficient amounts of hydrogen. When we reduced the size of all the components, some of them became frail, they went to pieces. But now we have managed to get it small enough to fit in a car.
Concerning storage, we thought we would need a considerably longer time to find a solution, but it went much faster than expected. We thought we had to settle for methanol as the first solution, but we had to change our mind. We found a new, hydrogen absorbing alloy so quickly that it came first. The alloy is based on titanium, a very expensive material. We will have to find less expensive materials with the ability to increase the capacity.
The good news is that many scientists from all over the world have been attracted by our new alloy. It changes their strategy for their work with H2-absorbing alloys. That so many brains are working on the same challenge, makes me optimistic".

But even if Toyota has found an alloy capable of storing more hydrogen than other alloys known up to now, methanol will be the first H2 source for the first fuel cell car from Toyota, as well as for Daimler-Benz. But no one knows the energy situation of tomorrow, so we may not exclude other H2-sources. There is a problem in addition to the energy situation; the distribution. This makes it difficult to make a correct choice, says KIMURA:

"If H2 may be distributed as easily as gasoline is distributed today, it is the best that may happen. Today, we make H2 from natural gas and methanol. But that is not the best way to do it. I hope H2 one day will be as easily accessible as gasoline today."

KIMURA doesn't see any major differences between the fuel cell of Toyota and that of Daimler-Benz. However, since they have worked independently, with no communication and exchange of results, he doesn't exclude the possibility that there are differences unknown to him. The way the hydrogen is stored in the pure H2-versions, is one difference as Toyota use hydrogen absorbing alloys while Daimler-Benz use high pressure tanks. But as an intermediate solution, both use methanol.
Further, Toyota is using a battery as an energy buffer in the system, while the Germans feel they can do without. The battery increases the weight and the cost, but may assist the fuel cell under high load. The battery makes it possible to store brake energy as well.

What is not yet properly tested is how the fuel cell will operate under different climates. If it is to be mass produced for use in cars, it has to operate under arctic as well as tropical conditions. Toyota knows the situation for hot climate, but testing in sub-zero temperatures remains. It is out of the question to sell a system which is not reliable under all temperature conditions.

A car with a fuel cell operating on pure H2 runs as clean as an electric car. But when liquefied fuel is used in the car to generate hydrogen, the fuel cell is not equally friendly for the environment and the greenhouse effect. But even if there are some emissions of CO2, both Daimler-Benz and Toyota feel that the total CO2 emissions may be reduced dramatically with a fuel cell technology compared to gasoline or diesel.

"Methanol comes from natural gas, and H2 from methanol. We are considering the whole chain, but the CO2 emissions will be somewhat lower than from a combustion engine. If the main objective is to reduce the CO2emissions, the best thing is to use H2 directly.
Today more than 90 percent of the hydrogen consumed in the world marked comes from natural gas. If this is used in the fuel cell, the
CO2-emissions from the fuel cell will be 1/3 lower than from a comparable gasoline engine. If we can get hydrogen from other sources, the CO2 emissions may be reduced dramatically. In the long run hydrogen should be produced by the nature's own energy, sunshine, wind, waves etc.,"
says KIMURA.

The Toyota expert on fuel cell technology has clear opinions as to the price level one has to reach before fuel cell cars will be volume sellers: The price must reach a level similar to that of comparable cars with combustion engine. But Kimura is reminding us that gasoline and diesel engines have been developed during 100 years, the fuel cell must also have time for development.

"In the beginning I think we will have to accept that fuel cell cars will be somewhat more expensive than comparable cars with combustion engine," he says.

Toyota's anticipations of the future for the fuel cell is quite similar to those of the Germans at Daimler-Benz:

"We believe in a future with fuel cell systems capable of combining extremely low emissions with low CO2. A few more years will be required, though, before we can market such a system. At this moment, the fuel cell operated with pure hydrogen produced from natural gas, has CO2 emissions 30 percent lower than from a diesel engine.
Using methanol, the total
CO2 emissions at this stage are between a gasoline and a diesel engine. But we expect to reduce this to about 30 percent lower than diesel. And that will be combined with extremely low emissions of toxic exhaust gasses. I think it is vital to remember that the legislation in USA is mainly focusing on toxic emissions, not so much on CO2,"

Regardless of how you look at it, cars running with fuel cells have no brighter future than any other cars depending on alternative fuels with no infrastructure. The reason hydrogen is a more plausible alternative in the long run, is the collective belief in this alternative and that there will be greater interest in investing in a hydrogen infrastructure than other solutions. In the short run, a liquefied fuel must be used, combined with an electric drive system which is much more effective than combustion engines.
Neither Toyota nor Daimler-Benz has today any solution to the question of the infrastructure of methanol. Competitors regard it as less realistic for Daimler-Benz to actually mass produce fuel cell cars without the infrastructure being in place. If the Germans establish such an infrastructure, many will be ready to take advantage of it.
As the infrastructure is such an important issue, Chrysler selected an other approach (before merging with Daimler-Benz to become DaimlerChrysler). They wanted to produce hydrogen from gasoline, available from the network of filling stations developed through 100 years after investments of about USD 200 billion. Chrysler announced that they will have a fuel cell car in operation by January 1999, operating on hydrogen produced from gasoline. (Put "on ice" after DaimlerChrysler).
Since these interviews were made, it is made public knowledge that DaimlerChrysler are   both co-operating with the Canadian fuel cell manufacturer Ballard Power Systems Inc. Daimler-Benz has established a company with Ballard in co-operation with Ford, to develop a production-ready fuel cell suitable for use in cars. They are now going for a solution with methanol, and so are Toyota and General Motors.  Volume - great numbers - is the clue to get a reasonable sales price. Thus Ballard is seeking as many partners as possible. In addition to the mentioned, they co-operate with General Motors, Honda, Nissan, Volkswagen and Volvo. The Koreans are in contact with Ballard as well on this issue.
Chrysler's system will operate on both gasoline and methanol, but they focus mainly on gasoline, which in the USA is readily available and cheap. When asked which of the two alternatives, gasoline or methanol, contributes the most to the reduction of CO2 emissions, Chrysler's BOB MORE replies:

"I don't know. You have to go back and look at the entire process. But if you don't have an infrastructure for methanol, you use gasoline. You have to deliver something useful for many. That's the point. What's the idea with technology if nobody wants it and nobody can use it. If you can't make it work for the masses, there is no point."

Daimler-Benz has released information about actual plans to mass produce fuel cell cars. By the year 2005, they want to produce 40.000 cars annually. But many conditions must be fulfilled first. When asked how they intend to reach their goal, KARL HOEHL replies:

"This is our secret. It is an ambitious goal. We have a strong faith that it is possible to reach this goal."

Whether or not the first fuel cell cars will be ready for sale in 2005 or earlier, remains to be seen. Ford has said 2004, but didn't indicate a volume. Chrysler get their first car next year (1999). However, Toyota will possibly spoil Daimler-Benz's plans to be the first to introduce this revolutionary environmentally friendly technology. Opel has also the potential to be first. The greatest challenge is to reduce the price, and HOEHL thinks this is possible. He indicates that the price should land on a level of a comparable diesel engine.
Even if the price may be reduced sufficiently, there is the problem of the infrastructure. This, HOEHL admits, will be crucial whether or not a production start will be possible in 2005.

"We need international alliances and partners to influence the issue of the infrastructure. We need a methanol infrastructure. We need partners, partners in the oil industry. This industry owns the basic infrastructure today. A methanol infrastructure is not basically different from that of gasoline and diesel. The main difference is the use of materials. Tanks, pumps, gaskets - methanol is more aggressive than other fuels.
We hope that it is possible to establish such an infrastructure, and we push strongly for this goal. Time will show if we succeed, or not. Of course, we have certain levels under way where we will make evaluations of whether to go on or stop. But that is normal. By the end of 1999 we will have to make a decision, though."

The entire car business is watching the activities of Daimler-Benz. Almost everybody is talking about the 100 year history of the car, about the different technologies competing each other around the turn of the century, how gasoline and diesel won, and how history is about to repeat itself. GM's chairman, JACK SMITH, doesn't believe in a future for the combustion engine after year 2020.

"It all depends on the energy situation. As long as we have access to cheap crude oil, the conventional combustion engine will be the best solution. If this change, other technologies will be competitive," says KARL HOEHL.

The high efficiency of the fuel cell and the electric motor is the driving force behind the work of the car industry for the systems of the future. But the efficiency is only one part of the game. As indicated by BOB MORE, the other issue is to reduce the required energy needed for transportation. This means lighter cars, less friction, better aerodynamics.
With light cars with low rolling resistance and low resistance in the drive train, considerable amounts of fuel can be saved. Therefore we may not see only one solution, but work on many ideas at the same time. Toyota's KIMURA indicates what he regards as the most realistic approach:

"The most important thing now is to use our available energy most effectively. More effective, cleaner combustion engines - including hybrids - is the best bet on the short run. But I also want to improve the fuel cell and make it available. Its future depends on the type of energy we have available in the future. Wind and sun are fine - and they emit no CO2 . But this is a situation which might be ideal, but not realistic. We may need more than 100 years to reach that target.
It is not the technology that determines the common use of the fuel cell. It is demand. It will not take over until gasoline cars are too expensive to use. As long as gasoline is cheap, the gasoline car will survive."

KIMURA is a bit worried about the present interest created around the fuel cell. He calls for a little reluctance:

"Since I work on fuel cells, I will be happy if the world will support us in our work. But I want to be realistic. If there are too much political interest around the fuel cell as an alternative that could make it realistic to halt the production of gasoline engines, I will be in trouble. I want the participation of the media to create a realistic atmosphere and not the great expectations. I don't say "wait for 20 or 30 years". But be realistic, that is my request!" 

Top of page

Why not hydrogen on the tank?

BMW is the only manufacturer that I have visited in connection with this report, that believes that hydrogen might have a future as a fuel for ordinary combustion engines as well. If hydrogen is replacing gasoline or diesel, it will reduce the emissions substantially. The emissions are nearly clean water. The problem is the energy required to produce hydrogen.
Liquefied hydrogen must be stored at temperatures below 250 deg. C. This puts great demands on the distribution network and the tank in the car. To demonstrate that this is not as complicated and dangerous as many may think, a hydrogen filling station is built at the new Munich airport. It will supply both liquefied and compressed H2. Three busses will be running on compressed hydrogen and one car on liquefied H2. The busses and the car will be part of the internal transportation system of the airport. The filling station will be operated by Aral. BMW has a long term strategy. HANS-CHRISTIAN FICKEL explains:

"The advantages of the H2 engine are evident. It is, more or less, like today's engines as we know them. You don't have to reconstruct a new engine production system, you have the infrastructure to produce the engines. But you don't have the market and you don't have the hydrogen - if you are to make gains at all, you have to look at the entire chain of energy. You'll have to make H2 from renewable sources.
And that is the reason why we do this. Our main target is not to enter the market with a H2 car. Today this doesn't make sense, as there is no infrastructure. You may operate on a small scale, you can make a few hundred, maybe 1000 cars, you may find niches where it is sensible to go for H2, however as a global problem solver, it makes no sense at present. Hydrogen makes sense on a long run - if it is based on a closed energy cycle."

He makes a point of the fact that the future starts now:

"We will make a contribution to make people think in long perspectives. We have to find a sensible way towards the right alternatives for the future. What are the alternatives? What do we want in a hundred years? We have to consider that today. This is something people don't want to think about today, it is so far away.
Unfortunately this is the way politicians think as well, they will mostly consider the time until the next elections - and in the industry it is even worse. If you are the boss of a large company, you will be asked year after year: `You have promised us these figures, what have you got? If you didn't make it, you may go!` That's how it is today. But you can't think like that when it comes to energy solutions. You need long term thinking, and that's what's possible at BMW. Our bosses let us think in this perspective. There are good conditions for scientific thinking here!
We have to consider what we want in 50 -100 years. What will the energy base be? Is it sun, nuclear, fossil - what do we want?"

FICKEL agrees to the fact that it is not necessarily only a matter of what we want, but in addition - and maybe even more - what is available. It may so happen that the energy situation is unstable, one doesn't know the political situation in different countries around the world. No one can predict if USA will strike against Iraq one day, nor the path China will choose for their growing mobility - and we don't know what kind of political pressure the Kyoto meeting in 1997 will lead to. All of these are factors which may change the situation for fossil fuels dramatically. Even if fossil fuels will be available for a long time, it isn't sure that it will be available at an affordable price for the consumers. If cheaper alternatives are available, this might change the whole picture.

"But we don't enter such discussions", says FICKEL. "You may always use the argument that nobody can predict what will be the reality 20 years from now, but that doesn't help. We wish to offer an alternative. And the alternative is an energy carrier that can be produced from renewable sources and which is totally clean, even when we transform it to the type of energy we need, for example electricity or mechanical energy. That's the type of energy we need.
We also know that we will never fly an aeroplane using electricity or methanol or bio fuel, it will never happen. The only alternative for aeroplanes is liquefied H2 - as it is in the space technology today. So why not for cars? There is a possibility, but we have to do more than using it in fuel cells, in combustion engines, in rockets etc.We have to create a base for renewable energies. That's the way we want to lead and contribute to progress.

Imagine how the communication technology has developed over 10 years, look at micro electronics. Lots of time is needed for all of these fields, and a lot of money is needed to progress. But if you look back 10 to 20 years - you will find that you never considered then what actually happened. I think that could be the same for renewable energy. I think it is possible, and necessary. If we have a chance to start today, we should!

Demonstration is the main reason for us to get involved in the hydrogen project at Munich airport. It is a DEM 30 million project with 14 partners, including the authorities of Bavaria - as a show case to the world - towards the end of this year (1998) we will have an automatic filling facility for cars on liquefied H2. It will be a public filling facility open for anyone with a H2 car. But this is naturally a demonstration only. We want to show that it is actually possible to do, as many wonder how you can fill liquefied H2 in a safe way.
The project started in '97 and will end by the end of year 2000. In this project we will have just one car operating on the airport carrying people as a part of The Munich Airport service fleet. Additionally, three busses will operate on the airport. They will run on compressed H2.

In the next step, after year 2000, we will offer or produce a few more cars for the system, to justify the investment, but who will be the customers for these cars has not yet been determined. There will be 5-15 cars, the numbers are not final."At BMW, they don't agree with those counting on methanol as an alternative fuel. The reason is the energy required to get the methanol into the car.

"There is no sense in a methanol world. The environment will benefit more if we use the natural gas directly, then if we use natural gas, coal or oil to make methanol and then again convert it to H2 and again to electricity and mechanical energy. That energy chain is too long", says FICKEL.

BMW's hydrogen man is very much concerned about how to point out the right direction for the future. The strategy is important, because we have to make a correct decision today.

"First step is to go to natural gas. There are some disadvantages there, for example, the range isn't good. It is better than an EV, but still worse than gasoline. It is quite clear that people will not accept that.
We may increase the range by increasing the energy density in natural gas. We can do that by making it liquefied. Then we will have some cars with a range comparable to conventional fuels.
And we may still use conventional technology, with normal engines and cars. The investment is in the infrastructure. Liquefied natural gas is not any special. It is handled in large quantities, as for example in Japan. It covers about 7 percent of their energy requirement. But it is a fossil fuel, even if it burns cleaner than others. We may only use it as long as it is there.
But this technology is preparing for liquefied H2. The technology is similar, so it will prepare for a future distribution of liquefied H2. It may be a sensible way to go, making the best of it today: Take natural gas, suit the customer by making it liquefied and move on to the cleanest of all fuels, hydrogen."

This is BMW's two alternative strategies for the years to come:

BMWvisjon.jpg (85115 bytes)

Top of page


The Natural Way to go - GDI?

"The production capacity of engines world wide is about 100 million engines annually.70 million vehicles are produced. These plants must be utilised, otherwise they have to be closed to be converted to build electric cars or hybrids. There isn't enough money in the world to make such a restructuring. That's the reason why we think that GDI is the way to go."

HIKOICHI MOTOYAMA at Mitsubishi emphasises strongly what is the main objective now: To reduce the CO2 emissions.

"USA is the worst when it comes to CO2 emissions, but Japan is number 4 in the world with a share of 5 percent. The transport sector contributes with an estimated 20 percent of this, making a world contribution of 1 percent. It has been decided that Japan must stay within a CO2 contribution of 5 percent, which means that we have to continue to improve the effectiveness of the energy usage. For us this means that we have to achieve an improvement of about 15-20 percent by year 2010. This is what the car business must manage.
    We too have a reduction plan for
CO2; we want to reach 20 percent improved emissions by year 2005 and 15 percent by year 2000, compared to the 1995 level. We will achieve this by the help of GDI.
    We will spread the use of GDI all over the world. It was a shock for us that Toyota introduced their Prius and announced a 50 percent improved efficiency. With GDI we can manage 30 percent. We doubt Toyota's claim, as there are no special technical solutions indicating such a reduction in the car."

MOTOYAMA emphasises very strongly that if you want to achieve emissions reductions of some magnitude before 2010, we will have to use the technology and the production facilities available today. This view is naturally coloured by the fact that Mitsubishi is strong into direct injected gasoline engines, a technology they try to spread to other manufacturers. But at most of them the scepticism is apparent. Not because the technology is poor, but because it is too expensive and that they foresee problems related to the new emissions standards in USA and Europe - the GDI engines are having problems meeting the HC and NOx emissions. This criticism is met by MOTOYAMA:

"We have developed technology to meet the NOx requirements if the future - for the year 2000 and later. We know that Honda says that GDI can't meet the NOx limits. But we have the technology, and we will implement it this year for cars meeting the NOx limits for tomorrow (ULEV). We will have cars meeting the European regulations as well."

Mitsubishi's great investment in the GDI is met with headshaking and partially disbelief by the competitors. When MOTOYAMA says that they already deliver the majority of their cars, more than 70 percent, with GDI engines, and that the share by year 2000 will be 85 percent or more, it is characterised by GM's DONALD J. POZNIAC as a strong exaggeration:

"I strongly doubt that they produce as much as 70 percent GDI engines today". (He is consulting a book listing the world engine production, which is indicating that the Mitsubishi share with GDI engines is very small).

POZNIAC emphasises that the GDI technology may offer quite a lot, but that it is much too expensive - and he assumes that is the reason why Mitsubishi urge others to take on their technology. They need someone to share their expenses. On this sector large numbers are needed to get the price down.
Other manufacturers are sceptical as well about the Mitsubishi offensive. At Mercedes-Benz they go so far as to question the consumption figures given for the Carisma GDI model in Europe, to have been obtained in the European test cycle.

"Mitsubishi has certified the Carisma GDI in Europe with a consumption figure of 6,2 litres per 100 km in the EU mixed cycle. We measured it between 7,5 and 8,0. They promise their customers a reduction of about 25 percent, but we found it to be 10 percent," says ROLAND KEMMLER .

The "father" of the GDI at Mitsubishi, AKIRA KIJIMA, is deeply engaged in the great potential of the engine, but he is very critical to the work done by the PR and sales-people in the company. "They promise too much", he says.

KIJIMA is careful to explain in detail the principles of the GDI engine, how it is capable of such a high reduction of the fuel consumption:

"GDI is in a way a hybrid. It shares the abilities of the gasoline and the diesel engines. The gasoline engine with the Otto-cycle cannot be driven very economically, but the diesel can. But, on the other hand, the diesel cannot offer high performance on the same volume. It will only produce 50 percent of the effect with the same volume.
    The GDI engine is capable of running like a diesel with the aid of an ignition system. We operate it with a large air volume without pump-loss on the inlet side. It is running very lean in this range, similar to the diesel. But it is very difficult to control the fuel injection and the combustion process. The fact is simple - if you need power, you need fuel. During acceleration and high speeds there is no way around adding fuel to obtain power. Then the injection system is changed to otto-mode. In the diesel-mode the fuel is injected in the compression face just before the time of ignition. In the otto-mode, the fuel is injected in the inlet face. Two different technologies are used in the same engine."

He says that it is Mitsubishi's fault when the customers complain about not obtaining the consumption figures promised by the sales people. If the engine is to obtain optimal consumption, the driver has to cooperate:

"To make use of the advantages offered by the engine, we need the help of the driver. It has to be operated almost like a hybrid-electric car where the gasoline engine is shut off when the load is low, and started when power is demanded.
It is our fault when people are complaining that they don't reach the consumption figures. We have to explain how the engine works and how it has to be operated,"
says Kijima.

KIJIMA claims that there is no other technology today capable of burning gasoline more efficient than GDI engines. The fuel cell may be a good candidate, if the hydrogen problem can be solved. But today we have gasoline, and that has to be used as effectively as possible, then the solution is GDI, he claims.

KIJIMA is talking about GDI as a totally different combustion system, compared to the others: Nicolaus Otto presented his engine in 1877, Rudolf Diesel introduced his first engine in 1893, and the GDI engine was introduced in 1996 (He doesn't mention Mercedes 300SL 1955). GDI isn't simply a new variant of the otto-engine, it has its own technology separate from both otto and diesel engines.

"Actually, all engines should be changed to GDI. There is no reason why not. Everybody should change!" says the enthusiastic Japanese.

KIJIMA's big problem is that people don't understand how the engine works, and therefore don't know how to operate it. If it is operated on high load only, it won't use much less than an ordinary engine - you win a couple of percent due to the high compression ratio, but not more.

"Even our own sales people don't understand this. They promise too much. I have done my best to tell the true story about GDI. In Europe people are intelligent. They understand that it may be necessary to change life style due to the needs of the environment. Our contribution is the means to do it.
    But in order to help people operate the engine in a correct way, we will now introduce intelligent guiding (electronics) to assist the driver to stay mainly in the green (lean) area. The engine should run at least 60 percent of the time in the green area."

He really doesn't understand why other manufacturers are so reserved regarding GDI. Most of the major manufacturers have such engines, but will not produce them at this moment. KIJIMA says that Toyota for example is trying to undermine GDI because they have problems with their catalyst, it is too sensitive to sulphur, and the engine can't manage the NOx requirements.

"They criticise us because we push the GDI so strongly. We have a different catalyst, and we can meet the Euro ll and Euro lll requirements. But we are also very concerned about making the authorities and the oil industry supply fuels with lower sulphur content.
   In Europe the sulphur content is up to 500 ppm, in Japan and California only 50. But some US states have as much as 1000 ppm sulphur in the fuel. It is very important to reduce the sulphur content if we are to succeed in reaching the emission goals for the future. We need the help of the authorities."

Even if he claims that he doesn't want to make negative comments about competitors, he wishes to say that he feels Toyota is behaving in an unfair way:

"They make a great mistake in trying to brake this technology now. They are the ones who could really contribute to achieve the environmental targets now after Kyoto. We have to act now, not in five or ten years. If we are to reach the goals of year 2010, we have to start NOW. And that means GDI.
    In order to achieve that, we try to spread our technology to as many as possible, we won't keep it to ourselves. We are now talking to Chrysler, and we have a co-operation with Hyundai and Volvo. The engine Volvo is presenting in Geneva this year (1998), is our engine."

However, even if Mitsubishi feels that the GDI is the quickest way to reach the Kyoto goals, the opinions of the industry are more divided. In Europe they talk a lot about diesel, in USA gasoline. Even if KIJIMA is right concerning the fact that GDI is the most efficient way to burn gasoline in an engine - more efficiently than a traditional diesel - but there is no doubt that a direct injected diesel is even more efficient. But there is great uncertainty about the future of the diesel engine as it will be more difficult to meet the future emissions requirements than with a gasoline engine. One condition is better fuels with lower sulphur. If the sulphur content can be decreased to below 30 ppm, the future planned emissions requirements may be met by diesel engines aided by new catalyst technology - and older diesel cars using such a low sulphur fuel will reduce its particulate emissions by 30-40 percent. The question will then be what priorities the authorities of the various countries will make; CO2 emissions and greenhouse effect or other emissions of higher importance to the quality of the air that we breathe. The diesel emissions contain a number of undesired emissions not present in emissions from other fuels.

Certainly, there are other ways to encounter the problem of the resources than through the GDI engine. The GDI technology may reduce the consumption quickly, but a higher effect may be achieved by a massive transfer to direct injected diesels. To judge what is the most sensible, depends on the situation of the resources - and the policy of taxation - in the various countries. The fuel with the lowest price and the best infrastructure will always be the consumer's choice.

Top of page


A new generation of cars

In USA, the BIG 3 cooperate with the authorities on a program to establish the base for the cars of the future. Partnership for a New Generation of Vehicles (PNGV) has the challenge to improve the competitiveness of the American automobile manufacturers, and to make use of new technology - and, in this context the most important, to develop cars with only one third of the fuel consumption of the cars of today. More than 80 miles/gallon is the goal - similar to 3 litres per 100 kilometres. In Europe the industry has similar consumption goals, the "3 litre car" has become an expression.

To achieve such a low consumption, a modification of the power train alone will not suffice. The entire car must be reconstructed. Reduced friction in all elements, lower rolling resistance, lower air resistance and above all, lower weight.

Chrysler's fuel cell car and Intrepid ESX2 are both cars capable of  almost reaching the consumption figures of PNGV, ESX2 with its "Mybrid" and light thermoplastic body will do 70 miles/gallon.

Ford's achievements so far in PNGV is Ford P2000, an aluminium car based on the Mondeo platform. It is 40 percent lighter than today's Taurus. 8 -10 cars have been built. The car weighs 2000 pounds, about 900 kilos, 600 kilos less than a 1997 model Taurus. Fitted with Ford's new DIATA engine, a direct injected diesel engine made of aluminium, it will do 63 miles/gallon.

"We have worked with something like 70 different companies to achieve this. Some have worked with their own ideas and solutions, others have worked according to our specifications and again others from our wishes.
The technology developed under PNGV will gradually be applied for all our cars world-wide, depending on the local situation. It will be applied on small as well as large cars. The aluminium sheets are of different thickness, laser welded to make it possible to match the dimensions where greater strength is required. The interior and the insulation is matched to reduce the heat loss, thereby reducing the required energy for the air-condition. Everything is made for mass production, and the production people has been a part of the entire project to ensure that.
In this project Ford has aimed at making a car which triples the mileage. It will do about 63 miles to a gallon with the new DIATA engine."

So says CHUCK RISCH at Ford. He also says that the new DIATA engine is to be put in a hybrid car to be presented this year. P2000 represent technology to be introduced gradually, it doesn't go from 27 to 63 miles/gallon in one go. But whatever is going to influence the emissions in year 2010, must be introduced now, he points out.

General Motors presented an entire family of cars with the new power source on the Detroit Motor Show 1998. All of them were based on a stretched version of the GM EV-1 - which were also introduced with a new nickel-metal-hydride-battery doubling the range.

Image9.jpg (8246 bytes)
  • A serial hybrid with electric motor getting power from "the world's most efficient" gas turbine generator.
  • A parallel hybrid powered by an electric motor and a direct injected turbo diesel.
  • A fuel cell car with nickel-metal-hydride-battery as a "storage" (not yet operational)
  • A CNG version with a one litre turbo charged engine.





The common factor of all of these cars, according to GM's Chairman of the Board, JACK SMITH, is that they are "Clean, safe and fun to drive".

In USA the market decides. There is no use to present cars not giving "value for money". GM is convinced that they have the best technology on existing engine technology as well. Donald J Pozniac is making his point:

"We have cars that are much bigger and heavier than our competitors, still we have better performance and fuel economy. How is this possible? It is possible because we put such great emphasis on the details and the entire system. GM manufactures more computers than any other computer manufacturer in the world, so there we have a built-in advantage."

He doesn't see the need to go to expensive solutions like GDI to reduce the fuel consumption. He says that GM has a totally different approach than the competitors:

"You read in the press about 20 or 30 percent improved consumption, and the automatic public assumption is that it is 30 percent better than "the state of the art". But in most cases it is 20 -30 percent from a very poor level.
    But if we for example put the GDI on top of our engines? Well, the way we obtain this fuel economy is that we have already brought our engines almost to the same level as a GDI. If we were to introduce GDI, we would have to ask: What would be the benefit for the customer? In our case, not so much, but for others it may be a lot, as they start from a different level."

However, regardless of what technology you choose, it will take time before it is distributed to such an extent that it will have any importance.

Top of page


Still a lot to gain from gasoline

At Mercedes-Benz, GDI is only one of many concepts to be examined in order to reduce consumption and pollution. To illustrate the wide approach, ROLAND KEMMLER is presenting:

DB strategi.JPG (86471 bytes)

KEMMLER emphasises that some of these concepts are for the near future, others will we have to wait for some years. But Mercedes-Benz is not alone in exploring the possibilities still to be found how to reduce the consumption and emissions of the gasoline engine:

"We and the other manufacturers are investigating a number of possibilities. We look at variable valve timing as an important theme, we have cylinder cut-off, to be introduced in a V8 this year. Further, we look at lean burn engine with deNOx-catalytic converter and direct injection with NOx- or deNOx-catalytic converter.
   During the next ten years we will look more closely at variable compression, light weight design and engines with small displacement, but with the power of a large, obtainable through high pressure supercharging.
Related to emissions, we will with normal concepts - except direct injection - have no problem meeting the Euro IV-regulations, nor the American SULEV. This a question of packaging and of cost. We may with great effort reach these goals. The exhaust system will appear like a chemical plant, an expensive one - for the customer as well - but it works!"

CNG - compressed natural gas - is not a big topic for Mercedes. They have some CNG-cars available today, but they are expensive, additional cost about DMK 7000 in excess of a comparable car with a gasoline engine. This has to do with volume. The production is very small.

KEMMLER can still see great potential in reduction of the consumption of the gasoline engines. Today Mercedes is producing a C-200 with a consumption of 8,6 litres/100 kilometres. Through the various approaches they are working on, he can see considerable possibilities for reduction. The greatest potential is probably direct injection and engines with reduced cylinder capacity, what Kemmler is calling "downsizing". Direct injection with deNOx catalyst may achieve about 20 percent, and an engine with reduced cylinder capacity, high compression and high pressure charging by exhaust turbo or mechanical charger, may in combination with an optimal transmission obtain a consumption advantage of about 30 percent.

"I will explain what we mean by downsizing. It is possible to go from a two litre engine to a one litre, and with a turbo or supercharger, you will obtain the torque of the two litre. This will give a 20 percent advantage of the consumption.
We have still a lot to do, and it is very complex. Especially the direct injection part",
he says.

But the GDI engines have a great potential, even if they are complicated to "tame" on emissions. KEMMLER and his people have measured a 23 percent consumption reduction under part load, but for real life tests the reduction is smaller:

"In the first try we will be very happy to reach 10 percent. Mitsubishi is telling their customers they will get minus 25 percent, but we measured it to 10 percent."

To meet the future emissions regulations with GDI engines, Kemmler can't get around the storage catalyst. Today it isn't possible to use as the fuel quality is too bad, it has too much sulphur - the same problem as for diesel.

"It is not expensive to remove the sulphur, the technology is there. The additional cost would be 2-3 pfennig per litre. The sulphur content today is about 80 to 200 ppm for gasoline. We have to get below 30."

Top of page


Diesel has the potential - with the right fuel

The diesel engine has disadvantages on the emissions side, but it has potential if it may be equipped with effective cleaning devises. The problem is that many of the consumption benefits will be reduced when such devises are added. Dr. Ing. FRANK DUVINAGE is explaining the available possibilities:

"Increased consumption is a problem for modern cleaning devises, they need fuels with lower sulphur content. With normal after-treatment you can operate with fuels of 350 ppm sulphur. That is common in Europe. But if you wish to go to a NOx storage system,  you need lower sulphur content. We believe the limit is 30 ppm or lower. The draft from the EU-Commission for year 2000 is 350 ppm, but that isn't enough. It won't be possible to work with such fuels."

The car industry is in a hurry. The development of cleaning technology takes time, but it can't be developed before the fuel quality is known. The bureaucracy of the EU system takes time. In connection with Euro III and Euro IV for the years 2000 and 2005, the regulations are connected to the fuel quality for the first time. The decision will at the earliest be made late in 1999.

"That means that we have only one and a half year to discuss with the European Commission - and the entire car industry has the same approach to this problem," says Mr. Duvinage.

Basically, this means that if the sulphur content of the fuel isn't reduced to under 30 ppm, future regulations for cleaner emissions may not be possible to meet:

"With less sulphur only, we may apply a catalyst system with a potential to meet the Euro IV from 2005.
We can't meet the requirements with all engines and all cars. That is impossible. Cars with low weight and small engines can manage, consequently manufacturers who emphasis on small engines will have an advantage. But Daimler-Benz has problems. Euro III is possible to reach with today's fuel. But for the next phase you will need a different technology,"
explains DUVINAGE.

It is a fact that all the cleaning devises required to meet the future emission standards prevent the engineers in taking advantage of the possibilities in the engine technology itself to reduce consumption. The choice is between the global climate and the quality of the air that we breathe every day.

"There is a tendency that the development progress of the combustion- and the diesel engine is levelling out. There is a demand from the customers, of course, that the consumption shouldn't increase. We have to plan for the consumption to be constant. That will be a problem related to the car weight. Therefore we constantly discuss with the people who develop the car itself," he explains.

Mr. Duvinage explains that there is a potential for the direct injected diesel of around 15 percent lower consumption compared to a conventional diesel, and the reason for not reaching further, is the requirement for emissions treatment. And efficient exhaust emissions treatment is dependant on a fuel with very low sulphur content.

The illustration shows the results obtained by Ford's research centre in Achen:

ford-denox.jpg (49427 bytes)

Top of page


The Road ahead

The automobile industry has put environmental issues on the agenda. They invest huge amounts of money to develop less polluting cars and new fuels not spoiling the air where we live or damaging the climate of the world. The largest industry of the world is naturally still concerned about profit, and there is no reason to believe that their investments for a better environment is a proof of their goodness. The point is that it is not easy to predict the situation in the years to come.

Political decisions, available resources and how the economies in transition, large nations like India and China, choose to go mobile. These are factors that will influence on which car manufacturers will survive into the next century.

The battle is on for "pole position" in the race for a better tomorrow. The winner will be the one placing their bets right today, the one who has the right products at the right price at the right place tomorrow. In the meantime we will have a repetition of the situation from the previous turn of a century. At that time steam was fighting electricity, gasoline and diesel. Everybody knows who won. Now, everybody knows what will win in the end, but not who or how. Hydrogen will save the mobility of the coming generations. But that must happen by the help of nature's own energy only: sunshine, wind and waves.

wpe1B.jpg (54053 bytes)

Top of page


No part of this report may be printed, copied or distributed in any way without the written permission of the author.
Are Wormnes, Piggsoppgrenda 25, NO-1352 Kolsaas, Norway   E-mail:
Translation from Norwegian by KŚre Filseth

Are Wormnes, journalist in the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten by the time this report was made.
He was working freelance from 2002-2005. From 2005 editor/web editor in Journal for Transport (Samferdsel).