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Automotive suppliers identify four priority areas for research

The European Association of Automotive Suppliers, CLEPA, has published a strategic research agenda, presenting an industry view of research priorities for keeping Europe's automotive sector sustainable and competitive.

CLEPA outlines four areas of interest, which it says s...

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The European Association of Automotive Suppliers, CLEPA, has published a strategic research agenda, presenting an industry view of research priorities for keeping Europe's automotive sector sustainable and competitive.

CLEPA outlines four areas of interest, which it says should be supported under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7):
- mobility;
- energy, environment, powertrain;
- safety and security, comfort for safety;
- material, design, processing and manufacturing.

For mobility, CLEPA would like to see a focus on three areas: decongesting technologies; new vehicles and concepts adaptable for specific groups; and the promotion of an ideal system model.

In order to reduce the environmental impact of the automotive sector, CLEPA proposes improving powertrain management and developing engine, transmission and driveline technology.

On fuels, CLEPA is clear about which technologies it would like to see pursued. 'Hydrogen and fuel cell technology is less of a priority than biofuel technology in the immediate future as hydrogen, after many years of research, still faces significant problems regarding primary energy generation. However, hydrogen and fuel cell technology remains a promising alternative beyond 2020, and as such, CLEPA supports further RTD [research and technological development] efforts in this area.'

Electrically powered vehicles face similar challenges to those faced by hydrogen, and would also require substantial infrastructure changes, says CLEPA.

Instead, the priority should be second generation biofuels. 'Taking into account energy intensiveness, generation, storage and distribution, liquid fuel is currently the best fuel alternative for the next few decades,' says the association.

Research aimed at improving powertrain management could also provide sustainable solutions. CLEPA believes that it is possible to improve fuel consumption in combustion engines by between 10 and 20%. Achieving this would require improved driveline management, new lightweight and low-wear materials, improved filtration technologies, affordable hybrid technologies, and engines with low viscosity and reduced flammability.

CLEPA states outright that safety and security cannot be guaranteed with improved vehicle technology, and instead requires an integrated approach involving all stakeholders. 'Safety requires appropriately trained and responsible road users; the development of, and investment in, road infrastructure; and a Europe-wide legislation focused on saving lives, but also R&D [research and development] is fundamental,' reads the research agenda.

Under the heading of 'materials, design, processing, manufacturing', CLEPA calls for a research focus on the reduction of weight; materials for safety, security and financial sustainability; and more cost-effective manufacturing technologies.

Highlighting the broad range of stakeholders within the automotive suppliers sector, the launch of the strategic research agenda was attended by directors from three of the European Commission's Directorate-Generals: Research, Information Society and Media, and Transport and Energy.

For DG Information Society, Rosalie Zobel reassured stakeholders that the work programme for the information and communication technologies (ICT) programme of FP7 is the result of an extensive consultation and input from experts. 'Within the Intelligent Car and Mobility Services we are going to focus on new generation advanced driver assistance systems to offer a higher degree of safety for the intelligent car, on mobility services which make transport of people and goods safer, more secure, efficient, comfortable and environment-friendly,' said Dr Zobel.

Within 'ICT for Cooperative Systems' she promised a focus on vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication for new functionalities, real-time traffic management and increased support for active safety systems.

Speaking on behalf of DG Research, Director for Transport András Siegler noted that the CLEPA strategic research agenda is line with both the objectives of FP7's Surface Transport specific programme, and the strategic research agenda of the European Technology Platform (ETP) on road transport, ERTRAC. He welcomed the convergence of views that this represents, and claimed that it is also evidence of the leverage effect of the ETPs.