Despite the continued emergence of electric and hybrid vehicles, our dependence on internal combustion engines still remains. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as internal combustion gasoline and clean diesel engine technology in today’s cars have made them more efficient and more powerful than ever before. So while a number of manufacturers have continued increase their investment into hybrid and electric vehicle development, Audi believes that in addition to the development of hybrid and electric vehicles, internal combustion engines can and will be manufactured to produce significantly fewer emissions.
According to Autoblog.com, the company is not only working to develop new carbon-neutral fuels for their internal combustion engines, but is also striving to make their current internal combustion fuels, i.e. gasoline and diesel, as efficient as possible. Audi hopes to first develop features like electric-forced induction, rather than typical forced induction methods like turbocharging and supercharging, as well as stop-start technology that allows the engine to shut off while the vehicle is coasting. While stop-start technology is already in use in a number of production vehicles, the feature currently only shuts engines off while the engine is idling at a complete stop.
The company’s experimentations in using different fuels to reduce actual carbon emissions emitted from internal combustion engines reflects Audi’s hopes of finding a fuel source that can be considered CO2 neutral, meaning that the amount of greenhouse gas used to make the fuels are balanced against the CO2 emitted by their vehicles while driving. Audi believes that battery electric vehicles (BEVs) can only truly be considered CO2-free if the electricity used to charge these batteries comes from nuclear, hydro, wind, or solar sources. If the electricity comes from coal or gas-fired sourced, however, then the vehicle is actually contributing to CO2 emissions. Because of this, Audi is now exploring the development of several new projects to make ethanol, diesel, and natural gas that create less CO2 in the production process.
One of Audi’s current projects in alternative fuels has already been shown to the public — its dual-fuel version of its popular A3 model that not only uses gasoline, but compressed natural gas (CNG) as well. Audi claims that the vehicle will be able to achieve a range of around 750 miles per tank(s). The company recently showed the vehicle at this year’s Paris Motor show, and calls it the A3 Sportback e-Gas Project. Audi has also developed a creative way of creating its “e-gas” CNG through electrolysis and methanization. Additionally, the company has partnered with SolarFuel to build a plant in northern German that uses wind power and electrolysis to create hydrogen from water. The company hopes the hydrogen can soon be used in hydrogen fuel cell cars.
While Audi’s new projects provide exciting new possibilities for the future of internal combustion engines, company officials believe there are a number of obstacles to overcome before any of their projects reach production. Two of the most important include innovative thinking from other vehicle manufacturers, and more importantly, approval from those in charge of creating emissions laws around the world.