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Audi cutting emissions, but EU seeks more

CO2 target is an average of 130 grams per kilometer per vehicle by. Annoyance heated Ralph Weyler’s voice as the Audi board member launched a day-long presentation positioning his company as a friend to the environment.

It’s not only him.
The European Union’s demand that carmakers reduce carbon dioxide emissions to an average of 130 grams per kilometer per vehicle by 2012 has many industry executives breathing hard. Powerful engines are central to the cachet of Audi, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Porsche, yet inevitably these burn more fuel, creating more carbon dioxide, than more modest vehicles.

Porsche AG’s Wolfgang Duerheimer claimed in a recent interview that if the limits take effect and specialist vehicles aren’t granted exemptions, Porsche, whose vehicles average 285 g/km, would have to close its factory. “In recent months we’ve witnessed a debate in the European Union that has been very emotional and not always based on fact,” Weyler told Canadian, American, Japanese, Irish, Australian and Korean automobile journalists brought by Audi to its Tech Day. “It’s an obvious fact mineral oil is finite. Prices will be going up,” Weyler continued along the way to his central point. “At Audi, we see no contradiction between high power and low carbon dioxide emissions.”

How low might the C0{-2} go? Will Audi’s average ever approach 130 g/km?

An array of cars with technology under development for future production awaited on the test track. Audi claims the hybrid version of its Q7 SUV, due to go on sale in Europe next year, consumes 23% less fuel than the existing Q7, averaging 9.8 liters/100 km, according to the European test cycle. It’s capable of running solely on electrical power for up to 2 km, with a top speed of 50 km/h before the gasoline engine comes into play. And yet driving the prototype Q7 backs up Audi’s claim that it’s faster than the regular Q7, as well as more fuel efficient, accelerating to 100 km/h in 7.6 seconds. The number that matters most: the hybrid’s 231 g/km, down from 304 g/km in the gasoline-only model.

Developing diesel technology will play a larger role than hybrids, Audi believes. In mid-2008, a new 3.0-litre V-6 diesel is to be introduced in the Q7 and A4 sedan, with high-pressure fuel injection and exhaust treatment making it the world’s cleanest diesel, by Audi’s claim. Expanded availability among other models will continue through 2010. Already the current A3, when equipped with a 1.9-liters TDI (Turbocharged Direct Injection) and the efficiency package Audi offers in Europe on various models, is rated at 4.5 L/100 km and 119 g/km. No C0{-2} figure, however, was provided for the upcoming, super-clean 3.0-litre diesel.

New gasoline engines also gain efficiency with such developments as an innovative valve-lift mechanism, a variable oil pump, reduced friction and direct fuel injection in the 2.8-litre V-6 introduced in the new A8 (although not offered in North America). With this engine, the A8 is rated at 8.3 L/100 km and 199 g/km, best in the luxury class. Automatic shutdown at intersections and energy collection during driving will be introduced on several models within three years, technical development specialist Michael Wansner said after a demonstration drive in a so-equipped A5. A capacitor stores electrical energy generated when the vehicle is coasting. Released to the electrical system, it allows the alternator to shut down, saving fuel.

An E85 ethanol-fuelled car is production-ready, in response to increasing demand and availability of the fuel, particularly in Sweden. Notably, Audi works with Ottawa-based Iogen Corp. in its development of cellulose-based ethanol. “Employing foodstuffs as a fuel (as in corn-based ethanol) cannot be a solution,” said Dr. Michael Grigo, a thermodynamics engineer.

Drivers themselves can make as much as 30% difference in fuel consumption. A gear shift indicator light encouraging timely upshifts can save 15%. A driver coaching system in the form of a dash display would rate the performance behind the wheel every five minutes, encouraging a light foot, and offering such tips as closing the windows or turning off the air conditioning. By 2012, Audi pledges, it will have reduced carbon dioxide generated by its vehicles by 20% from its current average, reportedly 179 g/km.

Admirable as that may be, the European Union is demanding more. (