Reducing Emissions to Zero

Daniel M. Hancock talks about the changes resulting from alternative fuels and advanced powertrain technologies.


Toyota and Honda advance the development of Hybrid vehicles. In which way does this engagement affect the Asian market? How will this influence the strategy of European vehicle manufacturers?

Toyota and Honda were both fast in introducing hybrid technology. However, a number of companies are very active in implementing their own hybrid strategies. BMW, Daimler Chrysler and GM combined forces to develop a two-mode hybrid - consisting of two electric motors plus one internal combustion engine - for cars, trucks and other vehicles. Today, almost all manufacturers are working on the introduction of hybrid systems in their respective markets.

Because emission-control legislations in Asia, Europe and USA differ in their focus, it is difficult for automobile manufacturers to develop "clean" powertrains for the global market. Do you see a chance to agree on a worldwide standard for these restrictions?

Harmonization of testing methodologies could offer some benefits in terms of reduced costs to prove that vehicles meet various standards, while still allowing government flexibility to respond to their local needs. Global powertrains and global vehicle platforms offer manufacturers the opportunity to achieve economies of scale across larger volumes with the ability to customize for the demands of the local market - whether regulatory or customer-focused. All this helps to make cleaner, safer vehicles more affordable to the customer.

As a neutral, non-governmental organisation, will FISITA participate in defining the main direction of automotive powertrain R&D?

FISITA is working on a global basis and is providing the appropriate communication platforms with the FISITA Congress and leading experts from around the world to discuss the developments within the automotive industry. We will also continue to initiate ongoing technical discussions. At the FISITA 2006 World Automotive Congress we have over 40 technical sessions devoted to powertrain issues. In all, more than 170 global experts will be making presentations concerned with the optimization of existing SI engines, CI engines and transmission systems - as well as advancing the state-of-the-art in hybrid and alternative powertrains. FISITA's global network of societies means that we're uniquely positioned to bring the world's experts together in order to share knowledge and advance the debate around future powertrain solutions.

Regarding environmental, production and safety aspects: Do hydrogen combustion engines offer more or less opportunities compared to fuel-cell systems?

Hydrogen can be used as an energy carrier to operate the internal combustion engine. However, to make it a viable option in the market place, the hydrogen infrastructure needs to be developed and the hydrogen storage in the vehicle to be optimized. With the use of hydrogen in internal combustion engines, manufacturers are able to use the existing technology for internal combustion engines. This offers a short term advantage. The fuel cell technology requires significant changes but also offers greater opportunities. Advantages of the fuel cell system are higher efficiency and the possibility to do the power distribution in the vehicle electrically. This will enable new improved vehicle concepts such as by-wire chassis systems.

Has the fuel-cell, from your point of view, the potential to replace internal combustion engines in the long term?

Our vision in the long term is to reduce vehicle emissions to zero, and at the same time increase fuel efficiency significantly. The hydrogen fuel cell offers the best strategy for reducing our dependence on petroleum and eliminating CO2 emissions. But in the meantime, and for a long time after the introduction of fuel cell vehicles - we expect many different powertrain solutions and fuels such as gasoline, ethanol, natural gas, diesel, and bio-diesel to play major roles co-existing in the marketplace for a significant period of time.

Current alternatives to conventional petrol and diesel are Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and bio fuels. Which of these can be recommended in terms of environmental-friendliness, usability, meaning fuelling and range, availability and economics?

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