By now, we’ve all heard about the success of the Saab 9-5 Biopower model in Sweden. It’s not available in the US as the market is too small, but according to this article in the Detroit Free Press, that market’s getting bigger and better.
About 6 million cars and trucks on the road can run on ethanol in any mixture up to 85 percent. A complete list of the models can be found online at www.e85fuel.com.
But there are about 500 nationwide out of a possible 180,000 filling stations.
Now the goal is to give automakers even more incentive to produce flexible-fuel vehicles that run on either ethanol or gasoline, and give oil companies incentives to sell the alternative fuel…..
…..Earlier this year, Congress passed a sweeping energy bill which could help make E-85 a much more common fuel. The bill requires a doubling of U.S. renewable fuel production by 2012. An estimated 3.6 billion gallons of ethanol are produced annually today. By 2012, Congress wants to see 7.5 billion gallons. Additionally, filling stations can defray the costs of adding E-85 pumps.
Across the country, 250 E-85 filling stations have gone online since Jan. 1, according to Michelle Kautz of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition in Jefferson City, Mo. More than 2,000 are planned for next year.
It’s still small potatoes and (yes, Fred) there’s still the diesel option to be explored in the near future. But who knows? Maybe there’ll be room for the 9-5 and 9-3 Biopower models in the medium term (the 9-3 is being developed at present but is still unavailable in Sweden). There are still barriers to be overcome, like the lack of e85 outlets in Saab’s US heartland in the northeast. There’s also the relative inefficiency of corn-based e85 production. Whether you consider it fortunate or not, both of these are way beyond Saab’s control.
But if these can be addressed by the powers that be, then maybe you’ll see a US-bound Biopower some time in the future. OK, it’s less efficient, but it’s ecofriendly, keeps a farmer in a job, reduces dependance on foreign oil and (yowsa yowsa) gives you more ponies at the pedal. Moreover, it can only benefit Saab’s image as a progressive automobile company.