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How green is the future of motoring?
Although progress in the field of greener motoring appears to be slow, new advances are being made everyday in the automotive industry but the question on everyone's lips is 'how green is the future?'
There already seems to be a range of trends on the horizon and developments that do not seem too far off, with many of the latest developments focussing on legislation regarding road tax, emissions targets and consumption, especially after chancellor Gordon Brown's Budget speech last week.
Increasing numbers of car manufacturers are under pressure to offer a greater range of environmentally-friendly vehicles at a reasonable price, as well as providing exemption from the £8 per day London congestion charge.
Last week saw the launch of the exhibition of greener motoring at the National Motorcycle Museum in Brighton. This two-day event was designed to run alongside the Environmentally-Friendly Vehicle Conference, which is chaired by transport secretary, Alistair Darling.
The exhibition showcased the achievements made so far by the motor industry in promoting greener motoring and presented a range of models that already take advantage of sustainability, such as the Toyota Prius petrol-electric hybrid and the Volvo V7- bi-fuel CNG car.
Christopher Macgowan, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), who chaired one of the conference sessions, said: "This is an opportunity to see first hand the tangible output from research and development towards sustainable motoring.
"It is important that we don't lose sight of the progress we are making in cutting emissions and reducing energy consumption from manufacturing sites," he continued.
Nevertheless, research shows that the average car sold in the UK today is much cleaner in terms of its emissions that vehicles that were on the roads ten or twenty years ago. Mechanisms such as multi-valve engines, catalytic converters, variable valve timing and electronically-controlled engine management have all contributed to lower carbon dioxide output and a generally cleaner atmosphere. The only problem is that there are millions more cars than there were on the roads two decades ago.
Common-rail diesel systems and direct-injection technology are also becoming more widespread, with new generation engines featuring a greater range of fuel injection into cylinders. Volkswagen is just one manufacturer to take advantage of this technology and is set to launch its piezo-injection system, which involves an electric current being passed through ceramic elements instead of magnetically-charged solenoids.
Advances are also being made in petrol engines, with many manufacturers beginning to offer a range of flex-fuel vehicles, which can be powered by bioethanol as well as petrol. Avon and Somerset police force has announced that it will use a fleet of flex-fuel Ford Focus vehicles as their patrol cars, with around 40 being delivered in the coming weeks. So far, the only other volume flex-fuel vehicle that is sold in Britain is the Saab 9-5 BioPower.
So, it seems that advancements in greener motoring are taking off and hopefully within a few years alternative environmentally-friendly vehicles will be more widely available. Experts are also urging the government to dispel the myth that greener fuels are more expensive than regular ones. Currently, Bioethanol is priced at around two pence per litre cheaper than regular unleaded.
28 Mar 2006