Steane Klose | Mar 5, 2009

Four leading international agencies are urging automotive manufacturers to halve CO² emissions by 2050 in an initiative coined "50 by 50".

The number of cars is set to triple by this time, and the auto industry is being urged to do its part to minimise the effects of global warming.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the International Energy Agency (IEA), the International Transport Forum (ITF) and the FIA Foundation are the organisations responsible for setting the challenge.

By and large, industry experts agree that emissions cuts of this magnitude are entirely feasible, but noted that, like all advances in technology, it would come at a cost.

Ian Robertson, BMW Group board member in charge of marketing and chairman of Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, had this to say:

"This industry has a capacity of being very innovative when it needs to be. I think we can do an awful lot, there are more than enough chances for the industry to aspire to the challenge and we as a company are intent on doing that."

BMW V8 twin turbo

Mr Robertson used the new BMW 7-Series V8 engine to validate his point. The new engine is 10 percent more efficient than the motor it replaces but delivers the same performance as the previous generation V12.

Toyota is one company already focusing heavily on reducing emissions, with the Toyota fleet currently averaging around 140 g/km of C0², which is lower than the industry average.

Plans are already in place to see this figure drop to 95 g/km by 2020, which would see Toyota well on its way to achieving the 50 by 50 goal by the target date.

Dieter Zetsche, chief executive of Daimler and owner of car Mercedes, Smart and Maybach, was somewhat more cautious in his response:

"It's always a question of how fast you can develop. Ultimately, the goal must be emission-free driving.

The internal combustion engine, powered by petrol or diesel, is likely to remain the power source of choice for the mainstream for a long time to come, and there are limits to how much more efficient conventional engines can be."

Despite Mr. Zetsche's conservative assessment, alternative fuel vehicles relying on electricity or hydrogen will see greater adoption as the technology improves, and this will present its own set of unique challenges.

Hydrogen Mini

The processes involved in generating these alternate fuel sources will come under further scrutiny as demand increases. Power companies must place greater emphasis on reducing their own emissions if society is to avoid simply moving the creation of harmful by-products from the car to the infrastructure supporting them.

Ulrich Bez, Head of Aston Martin, had a different take on the request and suggested that a broader look at reducing emissions is needed - one that encompasses households and factories as well as the transportation industry:

"England blows £800m per year by not insulating houses. That represents more CO² emissions than the running of 20,000 Aston Martins for 100 years."

It's clear that efforts to reduce emissions and improve efficiency are paramount, but the responsibility should not be placed squarely on the shoulders of the automotive industry. A joint effort is required if we're to continue enjoying the benefits of motoring without irreversibly damaging the environment in the process.

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