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There has been a 25-year history of collaboration between the University of Bath and Ford Motor Company. For the last ten years, the partnership has focused on fuel economy and cutting CO2 emissions.

This collaboration has resulted in improvements across the range of engines within everyday passenger cars, such as the Focus, Fiesta and Ka. For example, in terms of carbon emissions ratings, Ford now offer several A-rated models, producing less than 100g/km of CO2, which simply didn’t exist three years ago.

Professor Gary Hawley said: “Passenger cars in the UK produce around 72 million tonnes of CO2 every year, but over the last ten years this been gradually reducing through advances in engine technology, vehicle dynamics and greater use of lightweight materials.”

Average CO2 emissions from new cars in the UK fell from 189.9g/km in 1997 to 149.5 g/km in 2009 - a reduction of 21.3%. The industry is well on its way to meeting EU regulatory targets of 130g/km fleet average by 2015, but the current rate of improvement must be maintained.

The research programme

Research at the University of Bath has focused on enhancing the fuel economy of  diesel-powered passenger cars, and has shown that the accumulation of a number of small but measurable improvements can deliver a significant impact.

Improvements to the layout, operation and control of vehicle engine cooling systems has led to fuel economy savings of up to 2%. New oil pump designs have demonstrated fuel savings of up to 3%. Research into lubrication oils and fuel economy will feed into the next generation of lubricating oil formulations and should deliver a 1% fuel economy saving.

Prof Hawley commented: “A 1% improvement in fuel economy represents 750,000 tonnes CO2 saved each year if applied to all passenger cars. Here, at the University of Bath, we are working to achieve a 10% fuel saving.” Ian Pegg, Senior Research Engineer at Ford Motor Company in Essex, is enthusiastic: “Working with the University of Bath, we can look at things differently. In industry, it’s very easy to get stuck in a rut and take things for granted, but the academics will challenge and investigate measurable benefits.”