E85 in Europe

It seems like it’s turning into E85-Week here at Trollhattan Saab, but it’s only because there’s plenty happening right now.

The latest is a new press release from Saab in Europe, which covers the expansion of E85 manufacture and distribution, as well as Saab’s readiness for the market.

If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing the read this is excerpt, which highlights the need for partnership between the manufacturers and government – a pivotal point if ethanol’s to be successful:

In the last 12 months, Anna Petre, Saab’s Government Relations Manager, has hosted fact-finding visits to Sweden for civil servants and politicians from the UK, Hungary and Belgium, with other government visits planned over the next six months.

“Momentum behind E85 is starting to build,” she says. “There is a great deal of international interest in what is happening here in Sweden. This has been stimulated by the EU taxation and energy directives and the availability of flex-fuel vehicles such as our Saab 9-5 BioPower model…..

…..”The success of our Saab 9-5 BioPower model in Sweden has exceeded expectations and it shows there is a real demand for such vehicles when they are supported by favorable government policies.

“In Europe as a whole, I believe we are approaching a critical mass situation, when suitable products and fuel both start to become available. To facilitate this process, it is essential for governments and the automotive industry to work together. I can foresee a time in the not too distant future when the majority of car manufacturers will be offering flex-fuel vehicles.”

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E85 – A New Route for Drivers in Europe

The early years of the 21st century are likely to be remembered as a pivotal period in the evolution of the motoring landscape in Europe, a time when the automotive industry and car drivers first began to move away from using fossil-based energy.

Powering the shift is the sudden emergence of bioethanol as the world’s fast-growing alternative fuel. It is now beginning to appear in mainland Europe, introducing a new ‘E’ number for consumer recognition – E85.

In the past 12 months alone, E85 fuel has entered the market in Germany and the United Kingdom, with Switzerland and Holland expected to follow later this year. The Belgian and Hungarian governments have also declared their intent to join the list, responding to an EU directive that requires member states to draw up plans to achieve a 5.75% energy market share for biofuels, such as E85, by the end of 2010.

The first of Europe’s early adopters has been Sweden, where E85 is rapidly expanding. Last year, the number of filling stations with E85 pumps doubled to more than 300, or about 10% of the national network, which the government plans to increase to 25% by 2008. Growth has been stimulated by the introduction of Saab’s 9-5 BioPower model last autumn. This ‘flex-fuel’ vehicle, able to run on gasoline and/or E85 in any proportions, is now also available in most European markets.

The arrival of E85 fuel is a response to two enduring issues that are becoming increasingly relevant: the need to reduce fossil-based CO2 emissions and the need to find an alternative to limited global oil supplies. Its credibility as a viable fuel has been further underlined this year by the launch of an EU-funded, pan-European test drive initiative, Bioethanol for Sustainable Transport (BEST). And in addition to the EU’s energy directive, member states are also being asked to apply reduced taxation or a complete exemption for biofuels, such as E85, in pure or low blends.

E85 is an 85% ethanol/15% gasoline fuel and its emergence as the clear market leader in renewable fuels follows its expansion in the United States and Brazil. Bioethanol is derived from bio-mass and is commercially produced from corn in the US and sugar cane in Brazil. Its key environmental benefit comes from the fact that, unlike gasoline, its consumption does not raise atmospheric levels of CO2, the main ‘greenhouse’ gas. This is because emissions during driving are balanced by the amount of CO2 that is removed from the atmosphere, through natural photosynthesis, when crops for conversion are grown. In contrast, the use of gasoline adds CO2 to the atmosphere by releasing it from oil deposits that have previously been locked away underground.

The E85 blend is commonly used in order to promote cold starting performance in low temperatures, although Saab has already developed an engine modification that will allow the use of pure E100 fuel in all operating conditions.

The use of bioethanol also provides a practical and cost-effective solution. It does not require the introduction of new engine technologies or the installation of pressurised onboard fuel tanks, such as necessary for LPG (liquid petroleum gas) or CNG (compressed natural gas). And it can be supplied, just like gasoline, through the existing fuel infrastructure.

For example, the only hardware modifications necessary on the Saab 9-5 BioPower are ethanol-compatible materials for the fuel system and the use of harder valves and valve seats. The engine management system monitors fuel quality after every visit to the filling station and automatically makes any adjustments necessary for running on E85 and/or gasoline in any combination. It means Saab BioPower drivers can always use gasoline should E85 not be available.

A further bonus for Saab 9-5 BioPower drivers comes from the higher octane rating of E85 (104 RON) compared to gasoline (95 RON). Combined with the car’s turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, it gives a 20 per cent increase in maximum brake horsepower and 16 per cent more torque than gasoline..

Nearly all the bioethanol for E85 is shipped from Brazil, where it is produced at less cost than gasoline. In Europe, Spain is currently the largest producer, supplying small quantities from grain for use as an additive to gasoline. There are also small production facilities in France, using by-products from wine making, and the UK, with other plants planned in Holland, Italy, Ireland, Germany and Portugal.

However, the most efficient feedstock for producing ethanol is neither corn nor sugar but bio-mass, in the form of straw, organic waste or wood clippings and forestry residue. Here ethanol is produced from cellulose, instead of starch, and yields are higher as well as being less energy intensive. In Sweden, an industrial process for producing ethanol from wood and forestry waste is being developed for large-scale commercial application.at ETEK’s (Etanolteknik AB) research and development pilot plant at Örnsköldsvik.

The Swedish government has been active in supporting the introduction of E85 fuel with favorable fuel taxation rates, tax incentives and free parking for users of flex-fuel cars. Government agencies are also required to source at least 50 per cent of car fleets as eco-friendly vehicles. It is all part of the government’s ambitious aim to switch road transport away from oil-based fuel by 2020.

In the last 12 months, Anna Petre, Saab’s Government Relations Manager, has hosted fact-finding visits to Sweden for civil servants and politicians from the UK, Hungary and Belgium, with other government visits planned over the next six months.

“Momentum behind E85 is starting to build,” she says. “There is a great deal of international interest in what is happening here in Sweden. This has been stimulated by the EU taxation and energy directives and the availability of flex-fuel vehicles such as our Saab 9-5 BioPower model.

“The real attraction of E85 is the fact that it can be supplied in parallel with the existing gasoline infrastructure. For the short and medium term, it provides a practical ‘here and now’ solution, ahead of the arrival fuel-cell vehicles, using hydrogen-based technology, which are currently under development within the industry.

“The success of our Saab 9-5 BioPower model in Sweden has exceeded expectations and it shows there is a real demand for such vehicles when they are supported by favorable government policies.

“In Europe as a whole, I believe we are approaching a critical mass situation, when suitable products and fuel both start to become available. To facilitate this process, it is essential for governments and the automotive industry to work together. I can foresee a time in the not too distant future when the majority of car manufacturers will be offering flex-fuel vehicles.”

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