Style and Grace: BMW Shows Significant Fuel Economy Improvements (Op.)

Good news for BMW this year.  Studies by the European Union committee on transport pollution, or the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E), showed that the high-performance, luxury automotive maker reduced carbon emissions by more than 7% across all models released and sold in 2007.

The average level of greenhouse gases emitted by BMW vehicles dropped from 184 grams of CO2/km to 170 g/km. That number is still a bit too high as far as the European Union is concerned, but it’s admirable to see an automobile manufacturer known for performance attempting to clean up a fraction of the mess it leaves behind.

The average amount of carbon dioxide released per kilometer driven on all 2007 cars in Europe was a bit lower at 158 grams.  BMWs still emit more greenhouse gases than the national average, but showed the greatest overall improvement.

According to the EPA, the average American car releases 415 grams of CO2 per mile driven (one mile is roughly 1.6 km, so that comes out to about 260 grams of carbon dioxide per kilometer driven here in America)***. Needless to say, the United States is lagging, but if BMW can clean up its act, I’m pretty sure everyone can.

The European Union’s goal is to have an average emissions rating of 130 g/km by the year 2012. Companies such as BMW have a bit more leeway because they make heavier high-performance vehicles. The EU is hoping that by leading the way last year with a 7.3% improvement (the average amongst European automotive manufacturers was 1.7%) BMW has set a improvement standard that provides little excuse for missing any goals.

T&E is actually pushing the EU to adopt legislation to force emissions down to 120 g/km by 2012, the vote will take place next week, and the luxury automotive dealers are lobbying hard for more lenient goals.  The original goal of 120 g/km was initially set to be complete by 2005 by the former EU Environmental Minister Angela Merkel in 1994 (yes, the same Angela Merkel who President Bush feels compelled to massage during summit meetings), and I really don’t think that the EU is ready to grant Europe’s biggest automotive dealers 7 more years to clean up.

BMW has also taken to biofuels as its choice for the near future.  Although they list a bunch of new fuel saving technologies for the future, the immediate route appears to be a bio-fuel derivative of some sort.  I would speculate the reasoning is to keep the integrity of the vehicle intact (i.e. the performance), but maybe there is more promise in biofuels than we know.

I’ve always liked BMW, and if I had money I would own one for its well-known reputation. But looking at the web-site I see that the company is trying to be more than just speed-engineering power house. They offer more than 20 different car models that emit less than 120 g/km of CO2. Add up enough little things and you’re on your way to big energy savings. I’m glad BMW is taking part.

More on BMW’s green technology:

A link to the T&E study can be found here.  There is a pdf with the actual report available at the link.

Photo courtesy of Isaac Photo, Flickr Creative commons.

***Author’s Note: I tend to make computational errors, it’s something I’m really working on.

Anthony Cefali

Anthony is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison majoring in biology as well as English. He became interested in the biofuel initiative after getting a job in the Raines Lab of Petroleum Alternatives at the university turning sugars into biofuels. He is the first to admit that he doesn't fully understand everything that he does or is trying to do, but enjoys doing his bit to help the environment. Anthony has very few plans for his future, but is interested in how natural systems work and how urban development changes these systems. On a good day, Anthony enjoys riding his bike really far away and reading Kurt Vonnegut books.