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The Engines and Fuels of Tomorrow
Published November 15, 1994 by Societe des Ingenieurs de l'Automobile in France
This paper examines worldwide figures for the automobile industries and their fuel consumption, and describes important progress to be made in the next ten years with regard to engine and fuel technology. Replacement fuels are also discussed.
Taking an optimistic view of general economic growth over the next 10 years, the worldwide outlook will be characterized by: 1. an OECD zone with limited growth in terms of volume, with the market becoming increasingly sensitive to better product quality, the environment and standards of living; and 2. zones of strong economic development, where priority will be given to access by the greatest number to energy, mobility and communication. Harmonizing the exchanges between these zones represents perhaps the most important overall stake. Polluting emissions regulation will remain a priority in the developed areas. But a new multi-dimensional approach will probably replace the current strategy of the best available technology.
For the next ten years, the considerable progress made recently in controlling complex engine combustion processes, and driven by new feeding technologies both for "direct injection" fuel and "variable aerodynamic" air, should solidify into better efficiency. "Clean and economical" fuels, which are associated with advanced engine technologies, can significantly contribute to progress in air quality in cities. However, these goals must be reached in terms of performance, rather than in terms of fuel composition. The energy justification for biomass fuels falls under the very long term, with the depletion of fossil fuel reserves. Gaseous fuels are strikingly non- polluting, but require special engines. They are thus well adapted to niche applications, such as taxis and city buses. Their "near zero" emissions make them formidable competitors for electric vehicles on the technical and, especially, the economic front.
Finally, it must not be forgotten that fuels, which are energy vectors in essence, fulfill other important functions, such as tax revenues, for example. In the future, the ability of fuels to contribute to the resolution of complex problems, socio-political problems in general, will unquestionably be increasingly important in their development. All parties must adopt these "external" motivations, the legitimacy of which does not lie in the technical performance of the products alone.