With tightening emissions legislation and increasing consumer enthusiasm to reduce the costs of motoring, the majority of manufacturers are working hard to reduce emissions and improve vehicle efficiency.
There are two prominent approaches; firstly to maximise the performance of existing technologies by pushing their capability to the limit, and secondly by introducing new, cutting edge technologies and alternative power-trains.
- BMW – EfficientDynamics
- Citroen – Airdream
- Fiat – eco:drive
- Fiat – TwinAir
- Ford – ECOnetic
- Honda – Integrated Motor Assist
- Kia – EcoDynamics
- Mercedes-Benz – BlueEFFICIENCY
- Mitsubishi – intelligent motion
- Peugeot – Blue Lion
BMW – EfficientDynamicsReturn to top
BMW aspire to reducing emissions without compromise to performance with every new model range they release; they achieve this using a package of intelligent technologies that they call EfficientDynamics. This has enabled BMW to reduce emissions by more than 25% over the last two model generations in Europe – there are now over 1 million EfficientDynamics BMWs on the road.
The aspects of an EfficientDymanics BMW include start-stop technology, regenerative braking, electric power steering, optimum gear shift indicators, lightweight engineering, reduced resistance tyres, low friction fluids and active aerodynamics. Every BMW model makes use of at least one of these features, some more so than others. There are currently over 30 EfficientDynamics models whose CO2 emissions are below 140g/km – a number constantly rising.
Citroen – AirdreamReturn to top
Citroen reinforced their commitment to producing low emission vehicles in 2007, when they launched the Airdream eco-label. The signature is only for the cleanest vehicles in Citroen's range; therefore vehicles must satisfy demanding criteria in order to receive the Airdream label. A vehicle will qualify for the label if it: (1) emits less than 140 gCO2/km; (2) has been manufactured in an ISO 14001 certified production plant; and (3) can be 95% recycled at end-of-life (by mass).
In order to bring down emissions to allow vehicles to qualify for the badge, Citroen use Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs), low resistance tyres, green manufacturing materials and techniques, optimised gear ratios and lightweight materials. Currently, the Airdream model range includes versions of the C1, C3, C3 Picasso, C4 and. Citroen intends to continue fuel economy and emission improvements in order to expand the Airdream range in the future.
Fiat – eco:driveReturn to top
Although Fiat does not currently have a branded green version of their models, they do have a commitment to producing low emission vehicles and reducing fuel consumption, and have the lowest overall average CO2 emissions in Europe.
One significant achievement have been the development of eco:drive software developed with Microsoft. Designed as an easy to use computer application to improve driving efficiency, a USB stick is plugged into your Fiat, which gathers information as you drive. Data regarding vehicle efficiency and drive style is recorded, and by plugging the USB device into a computer, a range of statistics, suggested driving improvements and an overall eco score are given. Savings of up to 15% can be achieved.
Fiat – TwinAirReturn to top
While Fiat is not particularly involved with rolling out alternatively powered vehicles, they produce excellent fuel efficient conventional engines. The latest, the TwinAir, is an 875cc 2 cylinder engine that Fiat developed initially for the Fiat 500 – it is the cleanest production petrol engine in the world emitting just 95gCO2/km. Start-stop technology and gear shift indication are also provided.
The real achievement is that the TwinAir engine does not sacrifice power for efficiency. It is capable of acceleration to 62mph in 11 seconds and has a top speed of 108mph. Compared with Fiat's best-selling 1.2-litre petrol engine in the Fiat 500; the TwinAir delivers 23% more power yet combines this with a 15% reduction in CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.
Ford – ECOneticReturn to top
Ford's ECOnetic philosophy is to create vehicles that are as fuel efficient as possible without compromise to performance. However, ECOnetic does not mean alternative fuels, larger batteries or additional 'bolt-on' technologies, but it relies on efficiency, aerodynamic and lightweighting refinements to existing models.
Enhancements used include lower gear ratios, Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs), low rolling resistant tyres, start-stop technology, lowered suspension, regenerative braking and aerodynamic designs. Some models include gear shift indicators that are designed to help the driver optimise the efficiency of their driving style. ECOnetic models often include an ECO mode that will adjust the performance of vehicle to optimise efficiency.
The Focus ECOnetic also uses a tyre inflation kit rather than a spare wheel, which reduces weight and allows tyre pressure to be kept constant. The Transit van has a 70mph speed limiter and low drag wheel covers.
Honda – Integrated Motor Assist (IMA)Return to top
Honda was among the first manufacturers to research into alternative power-trains, and seems to have favoured development of hybrid technologies as a way to enhance the fuel economy of petrol engine vehicles. While Honda do not have a green range of conventional vehicles like many other car makers, the company promotes their Integrated Motor Assist (IMA) brand for hybrids. Honda began sales of the first generation Insight hybrid in 1999 – the first production vehicle to use IMA. IMA has since been used for Civic, Insight, CR-Z and Jazz hybrid models.
An IMA system is an example of a parallel 'mild' hybrid drive, whereby a petrol engine is the main source of power that is assisted by an electric motor during certain styles of driving. IMA hybrids cannot run in electric only mode, but a start-stop feature is normally integrated. Regenerative braking captures unused energy that is stored and later used to assist vehicle acceleration. The technology reduces the work load required of the petrol engine, meaning that smaller, more economical engines can be used without compromise to overall vehicle performance – therefore helping to reduce emissions and increase fuel efficiency.
Kia – EcoDynamicsReturn to top
The EcoDynamics brand was relatively recently introduced by Kia, but communicates their commitment to developing vehicles with reduced environmental footprints. EcoDynamic engines are powered by engines that have been refined with efficiency and fuel saving in mind. Alongside the use of start-stop technology, EcoDynamic models are capable of lower CO2 emissions and better fuel economy.
Due to the relatively young age of the EcoDynamics range, its current EcoDynamics range is small. However, more are in their way and Kia has announced plans to develop hybrid, plug-in hybrid and fuel cell vehicles in the future that will be branded under the EcoDynamics badge.
Mercedes-Benz – BlueEFFICIENCYReturn to top
BlueEFFICIENCY is Mercedes-Benz's approach to cleaner motoring and reduced running costs, through lowering emissions and fuel consumption. They aim to save energy and running costs without compromise to performance.
Under body panelling and partially covered grills have been adopted to improve aerodynamics, and weight reduction has been managed by thinning windscreens, lighter wheels and removal of acoustic damping material. Start-stop is activated below speeds of 5mph, and low resistance tyres with continually improving engine technologies have made vast improvements to certain models.
Ultimately, Mercedes' goal is not just reduced emissions but emissions-free motoring. The B-Class F-Cell hydrogen fuel cell vehicle will be Mercedes' first zero emission vehicle, which is likely to be one of the first commercially available vehicles using hydrogen technology.
Mitsubishi – intelligent motionReturn to top
Mitsubishi have a clear environmental roadmap up to 2020, by which time they aim to reduce their vehicle emissions by 50%. To help them achieve this they have introduced 'Intelligent Motion'; an environmental strategy. Mitsubishi combine the use of alternative fuels, largely electric and plug-in hybrids, with improvements to existing aspects of their conventional vehicles to achieve their emissions target.
For conventional vehicles, Mitsubishi has produced economy optimised engines with high efficiency alternators and revised gear ratios and valve timing, which are complimented by improved aerodynamics, reduced resistance tyres, start-stop technology and regenerative braking in their greenest models. Recycled plastics are also being increasingly used.
Intelligent Motion aspects have been applied to the Colt, ASX and Outlander, the latter of which has an aluminium roof to reduce weight and gear shift indicator to encourage efficient driving style. Over the longer term, Mitsubishi believe that the future will be electric; their new popular all electric i-MiEV (launched in 2010) is likely to be the first of many electric models.
Peugeot – Blue LionReturn to top
Peugeot have been market leaders in tackling environmental challenges for some time, and began taking serious approaches in the 80's. They have invested heavily in the electrification of passenger cars, and released one of the first successful electric vehicles in 1995, the 106. Peugeot were also the first manufacturer to install Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) as standard.
In 2007, Peugeot launched their eco-friendly signature, Blue Lion, which is awarded to a vehicle if it: (1) emits less than 130 gCO2/km; (2) has been manufactured in an ISO 14001 certified production plant; and (3) can be 95% recycled at end-of-life.
As the issue of sustainability becomes ever more important, Peugeot continues to invest in new technologies such as electric drive-trains – in 2011, the iOn all electric vehicle will be available for lease in the UK.
Renault – eco2Return to top
Renault launched the environmentally friendly eco2 signature in May 2007, with the aim to highlight their most efficient and economical vehicles. The brand is intended to highlight the lifecycle environmental progress that Renault has achieved in the last 10 or so years; most of Renault's models currently have an eco2 version.
To be awarded the eco2 badge, three criteria must be satisfied which focus on production, CO2 emissions and recycling. A vehicle will be awarded an eco2 badge if it: (1) emits less than 140 gCO2/km; (2) has been manufactured in an ISO 14001 certified production plant; and (3) can be 95% recycled at end-of-life, and includes at least 5% recycled plastics by mass.
Emissions reduction from eco2 models is achieved in several ways, including optimised fuel combustion, lightweight vehicle design, reduced friction between moving parts, revised engine mapping and gearing, lower resistance tyres and aerodynamic improvements. Renault is also majorly involved with electric vehicle development – they will soon be launching the Z.E. (zero emission) family of four vehicles in the UK.
Saab – BiopowerReturn to top
Although Saab does not have a specific brand for their conventionally fuelled models that have been designed with efficiency in mind, standard petrol and diesels from Saab have been improved in many ways, including longer gearing and gear shift indicators, recalibrated engine management and improved electronics, lower resistance tyres, improved aerodynamics and weight reduction.
However, in terms of eco-branding, Saab focuses upon the Flex-Fuel 'BioPower' range and is among the most advanced and most focused manufacturers in the field of bioethanol fuelled vehicles. Several new models from Saab have the ability to run on a bioethanol/petrol fuel mix of up to 85% bioethanol (E85). Running a BioPower model can significantly lower lifecycle CO2 impact and even improve driving performance. BioPower technology is available in a number of 9-5 and 9-3 models, for saloon, estate and convertible versions.
SEAT – EcomotiveReturn to top
SEAT has produced an economical version of nearly all of their current models, something that they say they can do without reducing vehicle aesthetics or drivability.
To achieve this, SEAT has focused on several features to achieve reduced fuel consumption and environmental impact. Drag is reduced across the range by changing body shape, closing front grills, rear spoilers or adding under body aero kits. Weight reduction is another simple way to improve performance. Other developments are a little more technical – start-stop systems, Brake Energy Recovery and Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs).
SEAT has added an E-Ecomotive range to the existing brand. The established Ecomotive range aims to differentiate 'green' models from 'normal' models, but the idea behind the E-Ecomotive range is to separate off and highlight the greenest of the green models in SEAT's range.
Skoda – GreenlineReturn to top
Skoda initially introduced their Greenline badge to existing models several years ago, but earlier this year they revised and upgraded the Greenline range – the second generation of Skoda's greener vehicles are branded as Greenline 2 models. Through the addition of various technologies and several 'technical tweaks', some of the Greenline 2 vehicles have achieved 'best-in-class' status.
One of the biggest technological changes in the second generation Greenline models is a new three cylinder turbo charged 1.2 litre engine that emits just 89 gCO2/km. With the focused aim to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, Skoda's Fabia, Octavia, Yeti, Superb and Roomster Greenline 2 models use the most up-to-date technologies. Common rail diesel engines fitted with start-stop and a gear shift indicator for the driver have helped with efficiency. Modifications to the design to increase aerodynamics and reduce weight have occurred, and low resistance tyres are fitted to all models.
Toyota – Hybrid Synergy DriveReturn to top
Toyota has been a major player in producing low emission vehicles in recent years, and has successfully pursued development in hybridisation under their Hybrid Synergy Drive brand.
Now available in both the Prius and Auris models, the 'Series Parallel Hybrid System' combines the benefits of series and parallel hybrid power trains. The vehicle can be powered by electric motor, combustion engine or a combination of the two – depending on driving conditions. Whilst cruising, the battery can be recharged using excess energy from the combustion engine and regenerative braking. Toyota plan to offer a hybrid version of their entire model fleet by 2020.
Toyota – Toyota Optimal DriveReturn to top
In addition to developing hybrids, Toyota has also made considerable improvements to conventionally fuelled vehicles with their Toyota Optimal Drive range – a range of new engines, design innovations and transmissions that improve fuel economy and emissions.
The new Optimal Drive engines are reduced in weight, have low internal friction, optimised valve control and greater rigidity. Start-stop technology is responsible for up to an 18% improvement in fuel economy, as have the arrival of gear shift indicators and upgraded transmissions. Models that display a Toyota Optimal Drive badge include the iQ, Aygo, Yaris, Auris, Urban Cruiser, Verso, Avensis and the RAV 4.
Vauxhall – ecoFLEXReturn to top
Vauxhall are committed to emission reduction across their entire range of models however some models have always been focused on more than others; including the Agila, Corsa, Astra, Zafira and Insignia. Tackling lifecycle emissions is important to Vauxhall; all ecoFLEX vehicles are at least 85% recyclable, a figure constantly being raised. Carbon emissions are generally very impressive – the Corsa ecoFLEX is below 100g/km.
Different combinations of fuel saving techniques are applied to different ecoFLEX models. Diesel Particulate Filters (DPFs) are added to the diesels, and overall vehicle weight reduction has been an important factor across the range. Longer gearing and lower rolling resistance tyres are also used. ecoFLEX models are generally either lowered, or include some form of aero shutter under the front bumper to improve aerodynamics and reduce drag.
Volkswagen – BlueMotionReturn to top
BlueMotion is not a single technology, but a range of fuel saving innovations that have been developed to help reduce the costs and environmental impact of motoring across several of their models.
There are four predominant features present on a BlueMotion model. Firstly, regenerative braking which recycles energy that is normally wasted and stores it for later acceleration assistance. Start-stop technology reduces emissions and fuel use by turning the vehicle off when idling. Low rolling resistant tyres reduce friction with the road surface so less energy is needed to move the vehicle. Air resistance is also reduced by optimising the aerodynamics of BlueMotion models.
Volkswagen will extend their BlueMotion philosophy into alternatively fuelled vehicles. Hybrid versions of the Jetta, Golf and Passat are planned, and battery electric Blue-e-motion Golf, UP! and Jetta models will be available in 2013/14.
Volvo – DRIVeReturn to top
Volvo has been working on improving fuel efficiency and CO2 emissions from their vehicles for several years, are now have established the DRIVe range of low-emission models. There are currently at least 7 models that wear the DRIVe badge, including the C30, S40, V50, S80, V70, XC60 and XC70.
Volvo concentrates on aerodynamics, start-stop technologies, rolling resistance and the use of lightweight materials to select their DRIVe range. As well as developments in the efficiency of conventional combustion engines, as used in all existing DRIVe models, Volvo is continually researching into alternative power trains such as electric drive and plug-in hybrid technology.
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