EU attempts to retake the initiative on fuel

Commission publicises research project aimed at developing "super-economical" cars

The European Commission today tried to divert attention away from protests at high fuel prices by announcing a research programme aimed at producing a "super-economical" car able to travel 100 kilometres on one litre of diesel by 2004. Interviewed by ENDS Daily, the car industry research body responsible for the project stressed that it was far from certain that the aim would be achieved.

According to the Commission, the euros 5.2m project aims at developing ultra-light carbon fibre-reinforced plastics that could be used to produce far lighter and therefore more fuel efficient vehicles. Its press release first suggested that the research had been launched after the recent European fuel tax protests, before noting that work actually started in April.

The aim of producing cars that consume 1 litre of fuel per 100km is ambitious. A much larger euros 350m research project launched in early 1999 was aimed at producing prototypes consuming 3 litres per 100km by 2003 (ENDS Daily 7 January 1999). Such vehicles would emit 90 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometre. In comparison, average EU new car emissions in 1995 were 186g/km, and are scheduled to fall to 140g/km by 2008 under a voluntary agreement with car makers (ENDS Daily 24 July).

European car industry research body Eucar is coordinating the 1 litre per 100km project. Director-general André Rault had not been informed of the Commission's intention to issue a press release today. He stressed that the objective was not a short-term one and that any implication that it could be achieved quickly was misleading. There were serious obstacles to be overcome, he added, including maintaining safety standards in such light vehicles.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111, see press release; Eucar, tel: +32 2 738 7353.

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