Automotive industry calls for more R&D to meet challenges ahead

The European automobile industry would like to see more invested in research and development (R&D) in order to meet emerging challenges that will affect transport.

The European Council for Automotive R&D (EUCAR) held its annual conference on 8 November, where participants agreed that important results were achieved during 2007. However, ‘new
challenges for the future have been identified. We see a need to increase research activity and contributions,’ said Lars-Göran Rosengren, Volvo
vice president for innovation and strategy, and EUCAR chairman during 2007.

‘It is vital to have an integrated approach involving the energy and fuel industry, the suppliers, users and vehicle owners, traffic and transport operators, and key authorities at EU and state
level,’ Mr Rosengren added.

One of the challenges identified by Mr Rosengren could be new regulations on CO2 emissions that are currently making their way through the EU’s legislative process.

Looking ahead to 2008, incoming EUCAR chairman Christoph Huss of BMW said that increased collaboration between all key stakeholders will enable the industry to both deliver timely results and
to step up R&D. He highlighted renewable energy production and alternative fuels as the priority research areas for the decades to come. ‘Mobility and transport of goods and persons are
areas where the automotive industry should further strengthen its engagement, and EUCAR will be used as our common body to do that,’ said Mr Huss.

Road transport is under pressure from several angles in Europe. The demand for mobility and the transport of goods is increasing in many regions, but the road network has already reached full
capacity in some parts of Europe. In addition, the price of raw materials is increasing, and evidence about the impact of emissions on climate change has put pressure on the automotive industry
to produce ‘cleaner’ cars.

In February the European Commission adopted a proposal on introducing upper limits for the CO2 emissions from cars. At the end of October the European Parliament adopted a report on the
proposal, backing the CO2 cuts. Despite the fact that ‘the technology is there to make a significant difference in a short period of time, industry has stalled in reducing CO2 emissions,’ notes
UK MEP and rapporteur Chris Davies.

MEPs backed the Commission’s proposal to limit the average emissions from passenger cars on the EU market to 125 grams of CO2 per kilometre as of 2015. This target should be met by ‘technical
means alone’, which means that manufacturers cannot rely on other CO2-saving measures such as biofuels, special tyres or improved air-conditioning systems.

Recognising that these targets are challenging, MEPs voted to allow manufacturers to exclude ‘500 identified vehicles annually from inclusion in the data used to determine average emissions’.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) has supported a cut in CO2 emissions from cars, but cautioned against an ‘excessive focus on vehicle technology’.

‘The appropriate solution to reduce CO2 emissions from cars and to safeguard jobs and investments in Europe is an integrated approach, combining further improvements in vehicle technology, an
increased use of alternative fuels, improved infrastructure and traffic management, a more economic driving style and harmonised CO2-related taxation,’ reads an ACEA statement.

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