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The car and the environment in the future

We will still need cars to move ourselves around in the future. That much is certain. What is less clear is the technology we will be using.

New technologies and alternative fuels are being launched on the market. Hybrid and electric cars are no longer an unusual appearance on today's streetscape. Nevertheless, the role of the conventional combustion engine is still by no means nearing its end. It will continue to be an important and environmentally friendly power train in the years to come.

The future of the combustion engine

Diesel and petrol cars will also account for the majority of the vehicle fleets in the coming years.

Diesel and petrol cars have become more economical and more environmentally friendly in recent years. Further refinements of these technologies can achieve another 30 percent reduction in fuel consumption.

Diesel and petrol cars are therefore playing an important role in the pursuit of the European objective of reducing CO2 emissions to 95 g per kilometre by 2020.

Downsizing – making the combustion engine smaller without affecting performance – is an important step. When using a turbocharger, for example, smaller engines provide the same performance as larger engines with less fuel.

Start/stop systems that automatically switch the engine off after a stop and on again when leaving are also making the combustion engine cleaner. Thanks to this technology fuel consumption and CO2 emissions are cut by 5%. In urban traffic fuel savings even amount to 8%.

The end consumer (90.1 per cent) also holds the belief that the combustion engine will become more economical over the coming ten years. According to a survey by Bosch*, four out of five Belgians would be prepared to pay extra for a more economical diesel or petrol car if the consumption costs are reduced accordingly.

Alternative fuels

There are various alternative fuels which in turn contribute to improved economy on the road and lower CO2 emissions.

Biodiesel is made of pure vegetable oil, usually rape seed oil. In current engines biodiesel cannot be used in its pure state so it is chemically treated. Biodiesel means lower CO2, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide emissions.

When driving on compressed natural gas (CNG) approximately 25% less CO2 is released. The exhaust gases emitted are odourless and do not contain any soot particles. Because filling up with CNG is only possible in a limited number of places, most CNG vehicles have bi-fuel systems so the engine can run on both natural gas and petrol.

FlexFuel engines can run on a mixture of petrol and ethanol with various mixing proportions: from pure petrol to pure ethanol. One of the biggest advantages of ethanol is that a very high pressure can be built up in the combustion chamber and high power can be achieved from the engine.


A hybrid car combines a traditional combustion engine with an electric motor. The combustion engine can be either a petrol or diesel engine. This combination makes a hybrid car a good and economic intermediate solution on the way to fully electrically driven vehicles.

Various kinds of hybrids exist. With mild hybrids the electric motor only assists the combustion engine during acceleration, and energy is recovered during braking. A strong hybrid can independently drive a short distance on electricity alone. A plug-in hybrid has all the advantages of a strong hybrid and can also be charged through the grid.

PSA Peugeot Citroën and Bosch are currently working together on the development of a hydraulic hybrid drive for passenger cars. The hydraulic system consists in principle of two hydraulic elements and the associated pressure accumulators. The power-split concept allows the car to run in three ways: in a conventional mechanical way, hydraulically or using a combination of both systems.

The first hydraulic hybrid is expected on the market in 2014.

The end consumer is also gaining more faith in the hybrid. According to the most recent Bosch survey* nearly 1 in 7 Belgians (12%) are considering a hybrid as their next purchase. The respondents opting for a hybrid did this chiefly for environmental reasons (80%), because of consumption (42%) and the premiums (17%).

Electric cars

An electric car is driven by an electric motor. The motor uses electricity stored in a battery. The battery gradually runs empty while driving and then has to be charged again. This can be done at home, at work or at a charging station.

An electric car has a driving range of 150 to 200 kilometres. This is a consequence of the limited capacity of the battery. Batteries will have to be further optimised to increase the driving range. A range extender can also extend the distance the vehicle can travel. A range extender is a small, light combustion engine that consumes little fuel and charges the electric car battery as necessary.

The driving range remains the biggest obstacle to the popularity of electric cars. According to 66% of Belgians* the current driving range of 150 to 200 kilometres is insufficient. For 70% the driving range must be at least 500 kilometres, just like current cars with a traditional combustion engine. Belgians also want to charge the electric car at home (81%) or at work (58%).

* An online survey by Ivox commissioned by Bosch in the first half of November 2013 among 1,000 Belgian drivers.