This content was produced by the advertising department of the Financial Times, in collaboration with BP
Research has estimated that of all the primary energy produced globally only 12 per cent is eventually transformed into useful heat, transport mobility and light. The rest is lost along the way, everywhere from production to the end consumer.
It is a shocking waste and clearly there are efficiencies to be gained at every step. According to the International Energy Agency, improved energy efficiency in buildings, industrial processes and transportation could reduce the world’s energy needs in 2050 by one third, and limit global emissions of greenhouse gases.
While progress is being made in improving energy efficiency, so far it has been slow. As Professor John Deutch of MIT Energy Initiative says, the failure to massively improve the efficiency of energy use in our economy and homes “is perhaps the biggest disappointment of the last half-century”. “Energy efficiency typically requires large upfront investments to achieve savings that accrue later.”
On a consumer level it is easy to appreciate the scale of the challenge. In the UK alone you are dealing with 26m dwellings and 35.6m registered vehicles, and there is an understandable inertia to replace major energy-consuming items such as cars, washing machines and fridges. As McKinsey points out: “Energy efficiency typically requires large upfront investments to achieve savings that accrue later. In addition, it has low mindshare, and opportunities are fragmented across billions of devices.”
Faced with the challenges of cost, inertia and disinterest, a system of incentives and disincentives has developed to try to prompt consumers into more energy-efficient choices. There have been carrots – such as information campaigns backed by subsidies to help meet the upfront cost of loft and cavity wall insulation, for example – and sticks, especially moves to outlaw less efficient products.
A change in the law in the UK saw off old-style incandescent light bulbs, for example. After remaining on the shelves for several years alongside new low-energy bulbs, the last incandescents disappeared in September 2012. Removing hundreds of millions of inefficient light bulbs from Britain’s homes and commercial buildings could have taken decades, but with a simple rule change it was done in a few years.
But carrots and sticks have only got us so far, and as a recent McKinsey report points out: “Paradoxical though it may seem, it doesn’t make sense for a campaign seeking broader consumer engagement on energy efficiency to focus on the environment.” Instead it suggests thinking about “messages that touch on issues with broader appeal such as cost, the attractiveness of leading-edge technology and home improvement”.
What might that involve? One example comes from BP, which has launched its first new range of fuels in more than 10 years. While its Ultimate with ACTIVE technology range in the UK could reduce the fuel used on a journey, offering up to 21 miles extra per tank, and therefore cut CO2 equivalent emissions by up to 4 per cent*, it is also designed to clean engines. It’s a dirt-buster.
Thanks to an innovative formula, Ultimate with ACTIVE technology helps to remove the dirt in engines and prevent it coming back. That helps reduce the risk of unplanned visits to the workshop or breakdowns and helps keep engines running smoothly…and efficiently.
The “carrot” of this approach is that the fuel is designed to clean engines, too. And in contrast with the “large upfront investments” associated with other energy efficient products, Ultimate with ACTIVE technology is on sale at forecourt prices. Early signs of success come from Spain, where the product was first launched in 2015, followed by successful launches in several other European markets, including the UK, this year.
Then there is Aga, the iconic heat-storage cooker best known for the fact that it was on all the time. The company has seen a turnaround in its fortunes since the launch in 2011 of a fully programmable version – the first with an on/off switch and up to 50 per cent cheaper to run. You can also turn it on and off via an app. The move brought reassurance to countless aspiring owners concerned about the environment.
Whether it is car fuel or cookers, companies are looking at ways to encourage consumers to take the more energy efficient option. Boosting efficiency is one of the toughest energy challenges facing the world, but few prizes are more valuable.
Customer demand for improved fuel economy provided the catalyst for a massive research and development programme. The result is BP’s new Ultimate with ACTIVE technology petrol and diesel fuels
The journey that led to a new range of fuels designed to allow motorists to drive further on a tank and therefore reduce their CO2 equivalent emissions took five years to achieve.
Arriving at the result – BP’s Ultimate with ACTIVE technology petrol and diesel – took thousands of hours of testing in engines and vehicles and used more than 80 different test methods. But the years of research and development by BP’s scientists reached a clear conclusion: vehicles running on the new Ultimate fuels could achieve up to an extra 21 miles per tank*. In addition, drivers who achieve improved fuel efficiency through the use of Ultimate fuel could reduce their CO2 equivalent emissions by up to 4 per cent for the same journey*.
These are powerful claims, says Tufan Erginbilgic, BP’s head of downstream, but they are the result of a rigorous development and testing programme. “Our whole strategy is to differentiate ourselves in everything we do. That is why in 2009 we set out to create a product that would set us apart from our competitors and give customers the things they want. I believe that with the way the agenda on climate change is developing, more fuels will have to be like these.”
Dr Angela Strank, BP chief scientist, says that the new Ultimate fuels – with their added “active” molecules – are the latest contribution to a wave of innovation in automotive manufacturing that has led to accelerating gains in vehicle efficiency. “About 10 years ago we realised we were seeing the beginning of a big trend towards smaller engines with better fuel efficiency. In smaller engines you get higher pressures and higher temperatures so fuels and lubricants have to work harder. They have to be designed for those conditions.”
At the same time, she says, feedback showed that BP customers were looking for better fuel economy without compromising on performance.
The multi-disciplinary team that created the new ACTIVE formula involved chemists, engineers, mathematicians, technicians, and materials and surface scientists. They worked on the premise that if they could identify ways to remove and prevent the build-up of dirt inside an engine, especially in critical components such as fuel injectors, it could restore lost performance.
The result was new ACTIVE technology molecules developed at BP’s Technology Centre in Pangbourne, Berkshire, in association with university partners and BP teams in Germany, South Africa, the US and Australia. The molecules are designed to not only clean the engine but also form a protective layer that stops dirt sticking to surfaces. This helps engines to restore and then maintain efficient performance. And for motorists the removal of dirt can also offer further benefits such as helping to give a smoother driving experience and to reduce the risk of unplanned maintenance or breakdown.
Further gains in vehicle efficiency are predicted over the next 20 years, says Strank, and although the spread of hybrids will contribute to that process, an important part of the improvement will come from advances in petrol and diesel engine technology – including the fuels and lubricants they use. “Between now and 2035, the global vehicle fleet will more or less double, but demand for fuel will only go up by 30 per cent because of the vehicle efficiency factor,” she adds.
* Benefit achieved over time. Based on engines tested in dirty versus clean condition; in dirty condition expected miles per tank 391 (petrol) or 516 (diesel); for Ultimate Unleaded vs RON95. Benefits may vary due to factors including vehicle condition and driving style. www.bp.com/ultimate