Having tweaked its cars for minimum environmental impact, it seems that German car maker Audi is preparing to start on the driver. The firm is currently trialling a “spy-in-the-cabin”-style green driving gadget that tells drivers how to control their car to minimise the detrimental effect on the environment.Dubbed the Eco-Trainer, it senses driving style using the engine management system and brake sensors. It can monitor acceleration, gearshift points and braking effort and, by comparing them with the ideals for greenest progress, gives the driver tips on how adapting his driving style will reduce his carbon footprint.
”Steady on, carbon cretin”
Using a points system displayed on the instrument panel, the Eco-Trainer starts the driver with five marks when the engine is started; it then deducts points when the car is driven too hard, braked too suddenly or held in low gear for too long.“It’s a kind of computer game that tries to make driving into a green challenge as well as fun,” says Audi.To help drivers go green, a new “Power Ball” gear change indicator is a key part of the Eco-Trainer package. It displays engine torque as a swelling and contracting circular graphic displayed on the instrument panel. When torque output grows sufficiently to cope with a higher gear, the Power Ball glows with the new gear, and instructs the driver to change up.The Eco-Trainer can also display the specific carbon dioxide output of any given journey, showing the average in g/km. At the end of the journey, it totals up the output, so that they driver knows exactly how much carbon he’s just belched into the atmosphere.The CO2 average readout and totaliser will make production in the “next two years”, according to Audi; the future of the Eco-Trainer is less clear. It’s just one of a raft of green technologies that Audi is preparing for possible production application over the next five years.
Audi’s other new green technology
Near-production ready is a cleaner diesel engine featuring a catalyst that scrubs harmful nitrogen oxides, the smog-forming gases, using an injector that pumps ammonia into the exhaust system.In some driving conditions, the de-NOx cat virtually eliminates nitrogen dioxide from the tailpipe and overall is so clean it will pass Euro VI emissions laws proposed for 2015.Despite cutting NOx by an astonishing two-thirds from today’s levels, the effect goes undetected by the driver. A 3.0-litre V6 TDi with the system will be ready for production on the Q7 4x4 in mid 2008 for the EU and late 2008 for the US.Also being prepared for late 2008 is Audi’s first hybrid petrol-electric drive system, also on the Q7. Based around the 3.6-litre V6 model, the hybrid slots an electric motor between the engine and gearbox, where it can either charge the battery or drive the Q7.Claimed to save 23 per cent in fuel economy, Audi’s system will be shared with Porsche and VW on the Cayenne and Touareg.Each company will develop the system to best suit its brand image, Audi programming the hybrid with two modes linked to the Tiptronic ‘box. In normal ‘drive’ mode the battery and electric motor will solely improve economy. When the Tiptronic’s sport mode is engaged that will switch to a performance booster.