Environmentally friendly, or “green,” vehicles have gotten a lot of play over the past few years. At the 2001 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, though, there was noticeably less talk of new pollution-reducing technologies. For the most part, they insist, they’re doing it, and not talking about it as much.
For example, getting certified as an LEV (Low Emission Vehicle) is not as big a deal now, because so many vehicles — including larger trucks — now meet this level. Fully 92 percent of Toyota’s U.S. product line is certified at the LEV level or better; some smaller manufacturers may be able to claim 100 percent. Even the new 195-mph Porsche 911 GT2 meets the LEV certification standard.
You have to meet at least the ULEV (Ultra Low Emission Vehicle) standard (roughly a 50-percent reduction in terms of HC and CO versus LEV) to get any real attention these days. Yet there are only two gasoline-powered vehicles (the Nissan Sentra CA and a California Honda Accord) which meet the even more stringent SULEV (Super Ultra Low Emission Vehicle) standard.
This will all change as emission standards continue to go lower by law. The biggest changes will come by the 2004 model year, when the second generation of California’s Low Emission Vehicle program known as “LEV II” kicks in.
In the meantime, there were some pretty interesting low-emission technologies to look at in Detroit, even if they didn’t get as much hoopla as they have in the past. The majority were based on gasoline powerplants since it looks like alternate fuels are still a ways off. Diesel is big in Europe and may see a resurgence in the U.S. once we have cleaner diesel fuel and some regulatory relief. Natural-gas vehicles are pretty much niche players for now; only centrally serviced fleets seem to have any inclination to regularly use these fuels in quantity. Hydrogen and/or methanol may be longer-term solutions when fuel cells become commercially feasible, but they have infrastructure issues which will impede their near-term use.
Thus, gasoline engines will continue to improve so they can meet the more stringent environmental requirements being imposed upon them. The technologies that follow are some examples of how these various approaches may be improved and implemented:
Saab Combustion Control Concept BMW 750HL
Saab Combustion Control ConceptEnlarge Photo
BMW 750HLEnlarge Photo