Ignition Key to the Future


Conducting research for the car of tomorrow involves far more than just electric motors and biofuels. Particularly when it comes to fuel consumption, “less is more” is very much the watchword. Accordingly, the Volkswagen Group is conducting extensive research work in many different areas with a view to making driving pleasure more compatible with the environment.

Drivetrain Research of tomorrow – Dr. Tobias Lösche-ter Horst, Head of Volkswagen Drivetrain Research, at the engine testing facility in Wolfsburg. (photo)
DRIVETRAIN RESEARCH OF TOMORROW – Dr. Tobias Lösche-ter Horst, Head of Volkswagen Drivetrain Research, at the engine testing facility in Wolfsburg.
“By the year 2020, lithium ion batteries like these will also help us to reduce the CO2 emissions of our vehicle fleet to below the EU norms that will be in place then.” Dr. Tobias Lösche-ter Horst, Head of Drivetrain Research at Volkswagen (quotation)

When Dr. Tobias Lösche-ter Horst wants to give his visitors a glimpse into the automotive future, he invariably takes them to the research hall at the Volkswagen plant in Wolfsburg. After all, it is here that the visions of the Volkswagen Group become tangible reality. Passing by the soundproof testing chambers in which engines featuring future technologies are subjected to initial functional and load tests, the Head of Drivetrain Research makes a beeline for three test cars. On the right-hand side is a black Passat, next to it two Golf models – one silver, the other white. Lösche-ter Horst opens the tailgate of the silver Golf and lifts up the floor covering. “That is the heart of the twinDRIVE concept,” he says, indicating an angular steel box that runs the entire width of the luggage compartment. “By the year 2020, lithium ion batteries like these will also help us to reduce the CO2 emissions of our vehicle fleet to below the EU norms that will be in place then.”

WITH THE POWER OF TWO HEARTS

TwinDRIVE is one of the key technologies with which Volkswagen Group Research aims to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. The concept combines a combustion engine with an electric motor. Unlike previous hybrid systems, the “plug-in hybrid” can be charged by plugging into a normal socket and has the capacity to travel some 50 kilometers powered only by electricity, which is more than enough for most everyday trips. This year, Volkswagen is preparing a fleet trial in Berlin and Wolfsburg together with seven partner companies in order to test this concept under everyday conditions.

The climate debate has given great impetus to the electrification of drivetrains. By 2020, policymakers and industry in Germany aim to have around a million cars on the roads powered by electricity generated by wind, water or sun. This trend is also reflected in the research conducted by the Volkswagen Group: Of all projects conducted by Lösche-ter Horst and his 200-strong staff, roughly half are now centered on e-mobility. However, because most vehicles will still continue to be powered by conventional combustion engines, the drivetrain expert considers it more important than ever to focus on developing petrol and diesel engines: “I have little doubt that we will be able to reduce the fuel consumption of a Golf Diesel to under three liters per hundred kilometers in the next ten years.” This would be approximately a third less than current models.

“I have little doubt that we will be able to reduce the fuel consumption of a Golf Diesel to under three liters per hundred kilometers in the next ten years.” Dr. Tobias Lösche-ter Horst, Head of Drivetrain Research at Volkswagen (quotation)

INNOVATIVE FUEL EFFICIENCY TECHNOLOGY FOR THE FUTURE

The exceptionally fuel-efficient Polo BlueMotion – At 3.3 liters of diesel per 100 kilometers (photo)
THE EXCEPTIONALLY
FUEL-EFFICIENT POLO
BLUEMOTION
At 3.3 liters of diesel
per 100 kilometers

Developing fuel efficiency technology is nothing new for the Volkswagen Group and its researchers. Successful efficiency-driven model series have flown the fuel-efficiency flag for their respective Group brands for years. These include SEAT’s ECOMOTIVE, Škoda’s GreenLine and Audi’s “e” models, as well as the BlueMotion vehicles from Volkswagen.

As an example, the new Polo BlueMotion1 with a 1.2-liter three-cylinder TDI and 75 PS is, as the most fuel-efficient five-seater in the world, equipped with all the energy efficiency innovations that Volkswagen currently offers as standard. These include the start-stop system and brake energy recuperation, as well as an aerodynamics package designed to minimize air resistance on the vehicle underbody. In addition, its 15-inch light-metal rims are fitted with low-resistance tires. The upshot of this is that, with fuel consumption of 3.3 liters per hundred kilometers and CO2 emissions of 87 grams per kilometer, the Polo BlueMotion already unde cuts the EU norm for 2020 by around a tenth.

However, developing highly efficient drivetrains is not the only goal pursued by the Volkswagen Group’s research and development activities. Climate-friendly fuels are also key components of future automobility, as are driver assistance systems that promote fuel-efficient driving. Because of this, the Group not only builds cars that can run on biofuels, but also actively supports technological development – for example by acquiring a stake in high-tech specialists such as CHOREN Industries in Germany and the IOGEN Corporation in Canada. Both companies are researching the possibility of converting biomass waste to diesel or petrol by means of industrial processing.

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