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Fiat aims to keep green lead with fuel-sipping two-cylinder engine

Wed, 14 Jul 2010

Fiat S.p.A. aims to keep its environmental lead in Europe by selling what it claims to be the world's most fuel-efficient gasoline engine.

When the engine goes on sale in the Fiat 500 minicar in September, the 875cc unit will be the only two-cylinder engine fitted in a car in Europe.

Fiat says the engine, which it dubs TwinAir, will help it remain the car company with the lowest average CO2 emissions from its European new-car fleet.

Fiat's lead is under attack as automakers strive to boost the fuel economy of their cars and lower emissions of CO2, which is linked to climate change, ahead of tougher government environmental regulations and a big swing in consumer demand toward more fuel-efficient vehicles.

“We have no intention of relinquishing our crown of Europe's greenest automaker and the TwinAir engine will have a crucial role in maintaining our lead,” Alfredo Altavilla, Fiat vice president for business development, told Automotive News Europe at a press event in Turin, Italy, to unveil the engine.

Fiat says a 500 minicar with the engine and an automated manual transmission has CO2 emissions of 92 grams per kilometer and gets 57.4 mpg (4.1 liters of gasoline per 100km). A version with a five-speed manual transmission has CO2 emissions of 95 g/km and gets 56 mpg.

Prices for the 85-hp 500 TwinAir will start at 13,250 euros ($16,755) in Italy, 400 euros less than a 500 with a 1.4-liter engine.

The engine also will be offered as a 65-hp normally aspirated unit as well as a more powerful 115-hp turbocharged version. The engine will be progressively extended to other Fiat and Lancia minicars and subcompacts beginning next year with the Lancia Ypsilon and Fiat Panda replacements.

Mild hybrid version planned

Altavilla said a mild-hybrid system based on Fiat's TwinAir engine coupled with a new dual-clutch transmission will further reduce CO2 emissions to below 80g/km.

Altavilla said it took Fiat took 24 months to develop the TwinAir engine at a cost of 350 million euros ($442 million).

The TwinAir engine will be manufactured in Poland in Bielsko-Biala, about 215 miles south of Warsaw. The plant has installed capacity for 450,000 engines a year.

In terms of capacity, the TwinAir is the smallest gasoline engine available in Europe. Mercedes-Benz unit Smart's ForTwo minicar offers Europe's lowest-displacement engine, a 45-hp, 799cc three-cylinder diesel.

Globally, Tata Motors is the only other carmaker currently offering a two-cylinder engine, a 33-hp 623cc engine fitted in the Nano.

By Luca Ciferri- Automotive News Europe