Blog: BMW pushes green envelope
Dave Leggett | 1 September 2009
Automotive industry engineers probably deserve a collective round of applause for the continual improvements and refinements they are making to vehicles – whether they employ established technologies or what might be described as newer ones.
To single out the area of carbon emissions and fuel economy, there are pressures coming to bear on the industry from regulators and from consumers to push that envelope of improvement further out.
The challenges facing automotive engineers are immense. Yes, we may want eco-friendly green, but we don't want to completely abandon performance and we want the whole package to be recognisably affordable and, if at all possible, without major leaps of faith in terms of new technology (issues with batteries spring to mind).
Makers and prospective makers of electric drive vehicles in their various forms – parallel hybrids, series hybrids, plug-in hybrids, pure electric plug-ins – know the challenges and technological limitations very well. And the engineers are busy working on solutions that take these products some way to meeting real world conditions and consumer concerns. Keep up the good work, people.
But it is interesting to note how engineers are also refining the incumbent and prevalent automotive powertrain technology. Yes, the fossil-fuel burning internal combustion engine and its associated power delivery systems are becoming more efficient at a rate that looks, to me, rather impressive.
The green sub-brands being developed by some volume brands in Europe are probably a precursor to the sort of modifications and refinements that will become more mainstream on volume model ranges over time, as the market demands it and the economics makes sense.
An interesting example was provided recently when BMW announced a new 3 Series diesel variant for 2010 that will come with an average CO2 figure of just 109g/km. That's equivalent to the lower end of the City Car/Supermini area. But this is a 3 Series that will do almost 140mph. Frugal fuel consumption doesn't seem to mean too much has been sacrificed in terms of performance, though there is obviously some compromise.
The game is being relentlessly moved along. The engineers working on improving the ICE-based automobile are making life harder for the guys working on electric drive. Long may that continue.
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