As I’m writing this, I’ve just noted a comment from Mats in Sweden: Swedish newspapers are reporting today that Saab will indeed go all Biopower, i.e. all cars in the range. I’m not sure whether that’s as an option or as standard equipment and I’d assume that it’s for the Swedish market only.
The story is here (in Swedish) and I can see the date 2007 mentioned. I can also see “9-4x” and “etanolmotor” in the same sentence near the end of the article.
Here’s something for those that are interested. It was emailed to me from Saab USA and is an interesting look at the E85 situation, both in the US and in Sweden.
It originally appeared in the Wall Street Journal, though that link is for subscribers and I ain’t one of them.
It makes for very interesting reading:
By Jenny Clevstrom
Oct. 3, 2006
The Swedish Government is promoting the use of vehicles that run on renewable fuels, sending sales of “clean” cars soaring. Alongside tax breaks and other financial incentives to encourage people to use environmentally friendly vehicles, Stockholm in April began to require many gas stations to sell renewable fuel.
Sweden’s approach is being held up as an example by car companies, such as General Motors Corp., that are trying to spur demand of their new clean-car models in Europe and the U.S. “Sweden is a terrific example of market pull,” said Carl-Peter Forster, president of General Motors Europe, during the Paris automobile show last week. “With its incentives, the Swedish government is creating demand.”
GM is particularly keen to see the U.S. government do more to promote ethanol, because the world’s No. 1 automaker by vehicles sold has a lead over its Japanese rivals when it comes to ethanol technology, in contrast to gas-electric hybrid technology, where Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. has an edge.
The transformation that Sweden implemented quickly may be more difficult for the U.S. To begin with, so few U.S. gas stations sell ethanol that fuel gauges will read “empty” long before drivers can find an ethanol pump.
President Bush seeks to ease bottlenecks that are slowing the spread of the fuel in the market, he told The Wall Street Journal in an interview last week. The Bush administration has endorsed the use of ethanol and is increasing spending on ethanol research. The U.S. subsidizes ethanol blends and gives tax credits to gas stations that install ethanol pumps.
But without the U.S. taking the step of forcing gas stations to stock renewable fuel, oil companies have little incentive to promote a product that competes with gasoline. Renewable fuels are those that can be regenerated or replenished quickly.
“It drives us crazy,” General Motors Chief Executive Rick Wagoner told reporters during the Paris auto show. General Motors is selling increasing numbers of flexible-fuel cars, which can run on gasoline or E85 – a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline – in the U.S. Only 975 of 175,000 gas stations in the U.S. carry ethanol, Mr. Wagoner said. “If we had only ethanol cars [in the U.S. market], we wouldn’t sell a single one,” Mr. Wagoner said.
Of Sweden’s 4,000 gas stations, 500 stock a renewable fuel, a number expected to rise to 2,400 by 2009. GM executives have said they often bring up Sweden as an example of government policy that has helped spur demand for environmentally friendly cars. Brazil, where some 7 percent of all cars are flexi-fuel, according to Brazilian car makers’ association Anfavea, is another country to which car makers look.
Sweden is a particularly interesting case, they said, because the tax breaks and other incentives have borne results quickly. New registrations of clean cars in Sweden jumped nearly fivefold in July compared with a year earlier. This year, 21,000 new clean cars have been registered, about 13 percent of all new registrations. Flexible-fuel vehicles, including models such as Ford Focus Flexi-Fuel, Volvo FlexiFuel and Saab Biopower, are leading the sales of clean cars, a category that includes hybrids and vehicles running on biogas.
“Had it not been for those incentives, the market would not have taken off,” said Nils Lekeberg, marketing manager of Ford Sweden. Ford Motor Co. was the first car maker to launch a European-made flexible-fuel vehicle in Sweden in 2001. Today, half of Ford’s car sales in Sweden come from flexible-fuel vehicles.
The system does have its critics. Some say the focus on ethanol discriminates against low-carbon-dioxide-emitting diesels and thwarts the development of other technologies
“A technique-neutral regulatory system would tell [car makers]: How you solve this technique-wise is your call. We look at emissions,” said Mats-Ola Larsson, a traffic adviser for the city of Gothenburg.
Diesel fuel use has been penalized by Swedish tax regulators for years. A new tax this fall will be slightly more favorable, but use of diesel still is far higher in other European countries than in Sweden.
Some critics say car makers could be left in the lurch if Stockholm suddenly stops promoting ethanol use. Others warn that the global supply of ethanol is limited, so while there may be enough to keep Swedish drivers happy, conversion throughout Europe and the U.S. could prove problematic. Through the first eight months of the year, new passenger-car registrations – a proxy for new-car sales – reached 185,348 in Sweden, according to the European Automobile Manufacturers Association. In the U.S., about 1.5 million cars and light trucks were sold in August, according to Autodata Corp.
Sweden imports the bulk of its ethanol from Brazil. The government is stepping up efforts to develop domestic production of ethanol from cellulose from the thickly forested northern part of the country. Sweden’s interest in alternative fuels was, as for many countries, born from the oil crises in the 1970s. Brazil, in particular, started making ethanol from its sprawling sugar-cane fields.
Unlike Brazil, where oil prices remained the driver of ethanol use, Sweden embraced the environmental cause. In the 1990s, Swedish national- and local-government officials invested in research and launched campaigns to promote biofuels and electric vehicles.
A Sweden-based Ford salesman began importing flexible-fuel vehicles from the U.S. as a pilot program in the early 1990s, and Ford later joined forces with officials to lobby consumer groups about the benefits of ethanol use. In the mid-1990s, gas-station chain OK began to install ethanol tanks at service stations throughout Sweden.
Government incentives include a tax exemption for renewable fuels such as ethanol, biogas and biodiesel. Cities throughout Sweden offer free residential parking for clean vehicles. Employees who drive company cars that qualify as “clean” also get a reduction on their income tax.
Since 2003, the Swedish government has put $28 million a year into research and other programs aimed at renewable fuels, according to Sweden’s Ministry for Sustainable Development. The law requires gas stations that sell more than 3,000 cubic meters of gasoline or diesel fuel a year also to provide a renewable fuel such as ethanol or biogas. The cutoff will fall to 1,000 cubic meters in 2009.