While green, battery/electric vehicles (BEVs) are making all
the headlines these days, regular old internal combustion technology is also
making great strides towards reducing air pollution and CO2 emissions. Engines
that produce minimal CO2 are good for the environment and Audi is one of the
leaders when it comes to new internal combustion technologies. Audi is
convinced that the future holds a mixture of propulsion methods, both electric
and internal combustion. Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and
zero-emission mandates such as the ones that have been enacted by California
are driving the demand for clean internal combustion engines.
While Audi is pursuing all electric engines such as the R8 E-Tron
they also believe that the combustion engine will play a key element in their
overall line-up. One strategy is upping the fuel efficiency of their gas and
diesel engines. Using advanced technologies such as electric forced induction
as well as stop and start technology which actually shuts the engine off when
the vehicle is coasting Audi hopes to up the fuel efficiency of their
traditional vehicles. Audi is also working on a dual-fuel A3 model that will
run on gasoline as well as compressed natural gas. Using this technology Audi
hopes to squeeze a range of 750 miles out of the A3.
Audi is also working on ways to reduce the carbon emissions
from the fuels themselves. They believe an internal combustion engine will be
considered CO2 neutral if the greenhouse gases that are used in creating the
fuel are balanced against the CO2 emitted when the vehicles is in operation. Audi
argues that a BEV car is only CO2 free if the electricity to charge the battery
comes from hydro, solar, wind or nuclear power. If the electricity is produced
at a coal or gas-fired plant then the vehicle actually contributes to CO2 emissions.
In order to make combustion engines carbon neutral, Audi is working on natural
gas, ethanol and diesel that uses CO2 during production.
One of the most promising fuels is called e-gas by Audi. It
is a form of compressed natural gas that is produced through methanization and
electrolysis. Audi is working with SolarFuel to use wind power combined with
electrolysis to produce hydrogen from water. This hydrogen could be used in
fuel cell cars. However, the infrastructure to actually deliver hydrogen to cars
is still being built and has not yet reached a critical mass. This has led Audi
to add a second process to methanize the hydrogen by using CO2 and water to
create a synthetic fuel. This fuel can be delivered via natural gas lines and
fuel stations. The CO2 used in the
creation of this fuel would come from organic waste that would normally be
allowed to enter the atmosphere. The plant is expected to produce 1000 tons of
methane per year using up 2800 tons of CO2 which translates into 1500 Audi A3’s
running 15,000 km per year as carbon neutral.
Audi is also working on creating carbon neutral versions of
ethanol and diesel. These can be delivered through current gas pumps making
them easier to distribute. They are working with Joule a company based in
Bedford, Mass, and are planning to build a plant using bacteria to produce
fuels that can be used in conventional internal combustion engines. Called
e-diesel and e-ethanol by Audi, these fuels are created using waste water,
bacteria, CO2 and photosynthesis which means this type of fuel is not food
based eliminating one of the biggest arguments against ethanol.
Audi is working to create new fuels that will
make the cars that use them carbon neutral.