Cars of the future will be emission-free. Mufflers will emit neither CO2 nor pollutants. This has been and remains the ambitious goal of the German automotive industry. The path toward this goal has a variety of technological milestones which need to be overcome. We have already taken a few steps, but most of the journey still lies in front of us.
When the German automotive industry speaks of an emission-free future, some people may raise their eyebrows, considering the discussions about manipulated and dubious pollution levels. This is understandable. This is because the automotive industry gave people the impression that it wanted to maintain the status quo at any cost.
But the opposite is true. Since 2004, CO2 emissions and the fuel consumption of newly registered passenger cars have been reduced by more than a quarter. We stand by our goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in Germany by up to 40 percent by 2020 – and we are striving for more: For years, manufacturers and suppliers have been working on the vision of “zero emissions”. This is based on the goal of producing vehicles that emit neither exhaust gases nor CO2. Electric mobility is a key element for this.
Therefore, the German automotive industry invests more in research and development than any other industry: more than 30 billion euros worldwide per year. Much of it flows into the development of alternatives to the internal combustion engine. From the production of synthetic, climate-friendly natural gas, the further development of fuel cells to research into more efficient battery technology for electric cars, we are working to eventually get zero-emission cars driving on our roads.
The future begins today
But why does the automotive industry continue to invest so much money and effort into the development of internal combustion engines? This is primarily due to the fact that, for the foreseeable future, there are no alternatives to modern and efficient gasoline and diesel engines that are accessible to the mass market, affordable, and suitable for everyday use.
Until there are enough charging stations for electric cars, until batteries are more powerful and less expensive, until the infrastructure is ready for hydrogen fuel or the production of synthetic fuels has left the pilot phase – until then, more investment and innovation is needed. Gasoline and diesel vehicles will still be with us for a while.
Although the mistakes of some have caused an image problem, particularly for diesel, these must be corrected and avoided in the future. Yet the fact remains: the modern Euro-6 diesel is important for environmental protection. This is because it uses up to 25 percent less fuel. And it meets the most stringent pollution requirements.
We still do not know which drive technologies will become viable, where they will do so, and when. This is why all manufacturers need the complete range of products: good models with hybrid and electric drives, as well as efficient diesel and gasoline vehicles. After all, the money needed for research and further development of alternative drives comes from the sales of cars with “conventional” engines.
More cars, more challenges
The number of people and the wealth they possess is increasing worldwide – and hence the number of vehicles on the roads. In emerging economies, the car is still a symbol of personal success; in Europe, it is a guarantee of complete mobility. According to forecasts, there could be around two billion cars in the world in 2035 – twice as many as today. This is a major challenge because transportation accounts for a significant part of global CO2 emissions. If we want to slow down climate change and maintain our quality of life, vehicles in the future must be on the road free of pollutants and CO2.