Green cars become catalyst for advanced technology

To create superior fuel consumption and reduce emissions, automotive manufacturers have had to embrace a wealth of advanced technology, harnessing everything from alternative fuels to sci-fi-spec computer systems. 

Not surprisingly, some of these companies have caught the tech-development bug, acknowledging that advanced systems and ideas hold the key to a more fuel efficient future. 

But how far will this take us? Can fleet managers expect to be sending their drivers off in flying cars soon? Not quite, but many of these systems will soon take much of the hard work out of driving, finding a car park and saving fuel. 

Emissions targets demand advanced technology

According to Frost & Sullivan, Japanese manufacturers in particular are being influenced by international emissions targets, prompting a re-think of their automotive development. The firm also believes that the market for hybrid and electric vehicles has also reached a point where consumer demand will provide the potential for profits. 

Previously, the fact that traditional internal combustion engines are cheap to produce meant limited desire to expand into other technologies. Now, manufacturers don't have much of a choice. 

Frost & Sullivan found, however, that advanced technologies aren't limited to alternate powertrains such as hybrids and electric motors. These developments also include improvements to internal combustion engines to bring them in line with emissions standards. 

According to Automotive and Transport Research Analyst Muhammad Badrul, the methods manufacturers are using to achieve this include making the engine lighter and using efficiency-focused transmissions like continuous variable transmissions (CVTs). 

"OEMs have already begun using gasoline direct injection with variable intake and exhaust valve timing to produce vehicles with superior power, fuel efficiency, and overall driving experience," he explained. 

"Several OEMs will be implementing advanced robust valve train designs in the next five years, while many others are focusing on turbocharging and direct injection to support engine downsizing to reduce emissions."

Where can I find this technology?

Unlike hybrid and electric vehicles, improved internal combustion engines don't get the same amount of attention through marketing campaigns, so they can be hard to spot. 

Mazda's SKYACTIV engine development platform is an example of this. These motors use a higher compression ratio than other options to ensure they are squeezing as much energy from each drop of fuel as possible. 

Nissan has also been sneaking CVTs into its cars for a while now, increasing fuel efficiency with an alternate transmission that - to the driver - operates like a normal automatic. This helps drivers to reduce their fuel consumption without having to noticeably adjust their driving habits.