It’s finally going to happen. Soon, when British motorists chat with American drivers, they can both talk about driving on gas. The only problem – they’re still unlikely to be talking about the same thing.
The USA and Britain are, as they say, two countries separated by a common language. What we call ‘petrol’, Americans refer to as ‘gas’, short for gasoline.
That oceanic gap in linguistic commonality is slated to narrow somewhat, as Audi has just announced that it is prepping a line of vehicles powered by compressed natural gas. Though LPG-powered vehicles are nothing new and are very popular in many parts of the world outside North America and Europe, they’re rarely seen on the roads of the USA or Europe.
The new strategy announced by the German automaker is not simply about green cars, however. Audi says the project is aimed at an overall reduction of Audi’s corporate carbon footprint, through a comprehensive strategy that addresses the firm’s energy needs, production processes and product engineering.
Audi has described a sophisticated initiative it calls ‘balanced mobility’. The programme maps out the company’s planned route towards ‘CO2-neutral mobility’.
Audi balanced mobility will eventually be most visible to motorists as a line of TCNG vehicles running on compressed natural gas. At the centre of the ‘e-gas’ project, however, is Audi’s intention to develop a complete line of sustainable energy sources.
Audi is steadily increasing its active involvement in the production of green energy sources. It has invested in the building of offshore wind farms in the North Sea.
Power from these wind turbines is supplied to the public power grid. Audi says it intends to use such sources of green energy both to manufacture its future models and to provide the power for its electric-drive e-tron cars.
Some of the electricity generated by these wind farms will go towards the production of hydrogen through electrolysis. This hydrogen has two core uses. By using hydrogen fuel-cell technology, it can power cars. It can also be used to produce methane, which is where Audi’s e-gas project comes in.
Methane’s chemical composition is the same as natural gas and can easily be used in internal combustion engines. Audi will start production of e-gas models in 2013.
The Audi e-gas cars will use TCNG engines that have been developed from the company’s existing TFSI motors. Though these internal combustion engines are not themselves completely emissions-free, they are much cleaner than existing petrol and diesel engines and this kind of end-to-end technological solution, in which clean energy is used to produce the methane, will help Audi work towards its own carbon-neutral operation.
The use of e-gas solutions also makes it easier to store surplus energy produced from green and sustainable sources. When strong winds drive excess production of electricity in wind farms, that electricity can easily be stored by using it to produce e-gas for storage in public gas networks.
As part of today’s launch of the Audi e-gas future, the company unveiled an A3 TCNG e-gas car at its HQ in Germany. Audi has announced neither the pricing for its new green car, nor how and where drivers will ‘tank up’, but the vehicle is to go on sale in 2013.
Other Eco cars from Audi include the Audi A1 fun little city car.