Half of the money will come from the Commission, and the rest from other project partners. The new lightweight materials are expected to be available for commercial production by 2004, by which time an ultra-light version of Volkswagen’s Lupo TDI should be ready for manufacturing, which will have its weight reduced by 40%, improving fuel economy and drastically reducing CO2 emissions, says the Commission.

“This research project is a joint effort by the car industry, research laboratories and materials producers to give at least a partial answer to the question of Europe’s dependence on oil and reduce output of CO2,” said Commissioner Phillipe Busquin.

Though parts made from the new material will be more expensive than conventional materials, costs will be cut by reducing the number of parts used to 30% of the 200+ parts needed today. By the end of the research project, says the Commission, scientists should have developed and tested the technologies and methods necessary for commercial for commercial production at a rate of 50 units per day.

Another European Commission research project is focusing on the development of smaller engines. According to the Commission, improvements of up to 30% fuel efficiency can be expected, in particular from those based on downsized petrol and diesel engines and advanced combustion systems.

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