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Engines becoming more frugal worldwide

Old habits: Petrol is the world’s favourite fuel but emerging technologies are closing in on the competition offering better returns at the pump.

Favourite fuels vary globally but all powertrains becoming more efficient: Bosch

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General News logo10 Nov 2014

GLOBAL automotive electronics heavyweight Bosch says the world’s favourite vehicle fuel is still petrol but alternative technologies and energies are catching up as all types of powertrains become increasingly more efficient.

China leads the world in the thirst for petrol with almost 100 per cent of all new passenger cars powered by spark ignition engines, and as the globe’s fastest growing automotive market, that title shows no sign of changing hands.

In roughly second equal place are the United States and Japan with about 75 per cent of cars using non-hybrid petrol engines for power, but alternatives are attracting attention.

The German electronics giant says the persistent popularity of petrol is partly due to recent advances in turbocharging and direct injection, which has reduced petrol consumption but boosted power and drivability.

A general worldwide downsizing of all manufacturers’ internal combustion engine capacities has also boosted fuel economy regardless of the type of fuel used.

Globally, diesel has the greatest following in the European Union and India where every second car sold is compression ignition-powered, but the more calorie-rich fuel is gaining popularity in the US where its share could rise from three per cent to as much as 10 per cent by 2018.

In Europe, diesels have been a staple for decades but with rapid advances in variable geometry turbos, high-pressure fuel-systems and low-emission catalysers, regions such as South Korea are taking notice.

Bosch says, generally speaking, oil-burning engines use 25 per cent less fuel and produce up to 40 per cent more torque than the equivalent petrol-burning unit.

In almost all developed countries, hybrid vehicle power systems are gradually gaining traction, but Japan leads the world by a sizable margin with nearly a quarter of all new cars sold driven by some form of dual power solution.

But Bosch is predicting popularity of the super-frugal cars to rise in other nations as well, and says its advances in four-wheel drive, 48 volt, plug-in and all-electric technology will reel in more customers.

Boosting the operational voltage of electric systems will require a sizable cooperation from the world’s providers of vehicles and infrastructure but the change would allow more efficient electric cars.

As with any technology, increasing popularity drives down unit costs, which in turn increases appeal for cheaper entry-level electric options in an exponential cycle of lower showroom prices and gathering sales momentum.

Less popular flex-fuel systems have the greatest uptake in Brazil and the US, which allow vehicles to run on regular petrol, cleaner and cheaper ethanol, or a blend of the two.

Liquid petroleum gas (LPG) has previously enjoyed a growing popularity in the EU and the US offering an alternative that wasn’t quite as powerful as petrol but almost half the price.

While the fuel remains popular in South Korea and Europe, the removal of vehicle conversion grants and increased tax in the UK has caused a rapid decline of the fuel’s popularity.

Despite fluctuating figures it is still the world’s third most popular automotive fuel with the second greatest use in South Korea.

Australia is the world’s number-one consumer of automotive LPG, spurred on partly by low prices compared with petrol and diesel, and also due to the factory dual-fuel option offered by home-grown manufacturers Ford and Holden.

Popularity of LPG models is in decline though with just 3033 LPG passenger cars registered in Australia last year compared to the 6216 vehicles registered during 2009.

Like the world as a whole and by a vast majority, Australia's favourite passenger car fuel is petrol, with 80 per cent of all vehicles ordered as petrol versions last year.

Diesel power is on the increase – thanks to gaining SUV popularity – with 2013 compression ignition model sales constituting 18 per cent of the total passenger sales - up a fraction over the previous year.

Compressed natural gas (CNG) is still relatively small fry worldwide, but Bosch reports growing popularity for a decade, with sales growing by 25 per cent in 10 years.

The world’s biggest CNG takers are South Korea and Brazil but Germany anticipates having two million vehicles powered by the relatively clean and cheap fuel on the road by 2020.

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