70mpg cars on cards as Ford unveils £1bn drive to go green

A NEW generation of greener cars with more fuel-efficient engines and made with lighter materials will be developed in Britain under a £1 billion programme announced yesterday by Ford.

The UK's biggest car maker aims to use the expertise of its engineers across Europe to design new versions of existing models which use less fuel and produce fewer polluting emissions.

The US-owned firm said more than 100 Ford, Land Rover, Jaguar and Volvo models sold across the world will benefit from the improvements.

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Ford said the scheme would be the biggest investment of its kind in the British motor industry and had the potential to save in one year the total carbon dioxide emissions of a city the size of Newcastle upon Tyne.

It will also safeguard thousands of jobs at Ford's research and development centres at Coventry, which employs 2,000 people, Dunton in Essex (3,700) and Gaydon in Warwickshire (3,300).

The plans include a new generation of lightweight vehicles, five new petrol engines, three advanced diesel engines and new transmissions systems.

The announcement doubles the company's previous spending on measures to cut the environmental impact of cars.

Environmental groups welcomed the move, but called for further cuts in road tax for the greenest cars.

Lewis Booth, the chairman of Ford in Europe, said there would be "unparalleled" collaboration between the company's 9,500 engineers in the UK with their colleagues in Sweden and other European engineering bases.

Among the innovations will be a version of the Ford Focus, Britain's best-selling car, which can achieve more than 70 miles per gallon and emit less than 100g per km of carbon dioxide - a 20 per cent improvement on current models.

Advanced fuel-injection technology enables more efficient combustion, allowing drivers to choose smaller engines with no loss of performance. Advanced diesel engines will improve efficiency by 5-10 per cent, while engines that use biofuels are also being developed.

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New lightweight aluminium is being used to replace steel in the Jaguar XJ saloon and XK sports car, reducing the wight of the body-shell by 40 per cent.

Mr Booth said: "Climate change is one of the greatest single challenges facing the auto industry and society today.

"Environmental motoring has to go mainstream - it cannot just be a lifestyle choice of the concerned.

"A broad business strategy that serves all our brands is the only way we can achieve the level of improvement in emissions and fuel economy required. We are not going to introduce just one or two high-profile green cars that sell in relatively low numbers and leave it at that."

Mr Booth said that by using new technologies in all the vehicles in the Ford group, the company could achieve greater reductions in carbon dioxide emissions as well as reduce motorists' consumption of fossil fuels.

Richard Parry Jones, Ford's chief technical officer, said there was no single technology on the horizon to enable the car industry to stabilise levels of carbon dioxide emissions. He said: "By deploying multiple technologies we are able to make a series of small and medium-size gains on our range of vehicles."

Douglas Alexander, the UK Transport Secretary, said the announcement was "very welcome".

However a spokesman for Friends of the Earth said: "We certainly need greener cars and such moves by manufacturers should be encouraged. However, the government should do more to persuade drivers to buy such cars by increasing the differential in vehicle excise duty between them and gas guzzlers."