Fiat's development center in Orbassano, a town near Turin, Italy is the place where some of Fiat's latest green ideas come from. And they're busy as well: according to Orbassano's director, Nevio Di Giusto, the center has filed more patents in the EU than anyone else in Italy. Some examples of Orbassano's work are advances in methane propulsion systems. Better known are Fiat's Multijet diesel engines.

More recently Orbassano has worked on a new generation of smaller turbocharged engines (T-Jet) that offer the same performance than a regular engine, while using 25 percent less fuel and spewing fewer emissions. Fiat announced that they want to take this technology to the limit and has announced a 0.9-liter two-cylinder engine for 2009-10 which could replace its 1.4-liter units.

Orbassano is also investigating weight reduction, things such as drive-by-wire systems for steering wheels and brakes (accelerators by wire have been present for a while), LED lights or even the very impressive "shape memory alloys" of nickel and titanium. A spring extended seemingly beyond breaking point, for example, will curl right back to its original form when heat is applied. So a piece activated by a heating current could replace all the rods and motors that power locking mechanisms, cooling vents and mirror adjusters in a car.

[Source: Financial Times (h/t to Mark for the tip)]

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