Even as automakers move to increase the number of battery electric vehicles (BEVs), fuel cell vehicles and hybrids, internal combustion technology is not standing still. In fact, Audi believes that the future will see a mix of propulsion technologies and that internal combustion can play a role in producing vehicles that have minimal CO2 impact on the environment. As shown by Toyota’s recent announcement to slow-walk EVs, the industry is looking into other alternatives besides pure electrics to meet ever-tightening Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards and zero-emission mandates like those enacted by California.

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Rupert Stadler, Audi’s chairman, asserts that “the future of mobility will be multi-faceted.” And while Audi will offer pure electrics, like the R8 E-Tron, officials from the company insist that the combustion engine still remains an important element in the overall picture. Key elements in this strategy include more fuel efficient gas and diesel engines using such advanced technology as electric forced induction and stop-start technology that includes shutting the engine off when the vehicle is coasting. Audi will also offer a unique dual-fuel A3 that uses both compressed natural gas (CNG) and gasoline power that promises a range of around 750 miles in an A3.

Beyond the approach of upgrading the hardware, Audi is also looking at vehicle fuels themselves as a means to reduce carbon emissions. The company believes that an internal combustion car can be considered CO2 neutral if the amount of greenhouse gas used in creating the fuel is balanced against the CO2 emitted by the vehicle in operation. The argument goes that a BEV is only CO2-free if its electricity comes from nuclear, hydro, wind or solar sources and actually contributes to CO2 emissions if the electricity comes from a coal- or gas-fired generator. Following this line of reasoning to its logical conclusion, Audi is now involved in several projects to make ethanol, diesel and natural gas that uses CO2 in the production process.