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Volvo Goes Green: BioEthanol 'FlexiFuel' Cars Launched in Europe

Motoring Channel Staff - 16/Nov/2006

Volvo Bioethanol FlexiFuel Cars
Volvo Bioethanol FlexiFuel Cars

Volvo Bioethanol FlexiFuel Cars
France plans to have 500 fuel stations supplying
E85 (85% ethanol) fuel part-way through 2007,
which in itself will increase interest in the fuel

Volvo Bioethanol FlexiFuel Cars
Volvo's bioethanol cars emit 80% less carbon
dioxide than similarly engined petrol power cars,
making them much 'greener' than most vehicles

Trollhättan, Sweden — Yesterday we published an article about BMW's next generation low emissions vehicle, the forward-looking BMW Hydrogen 7, powered by a hydrogen V12 engine.

Well, now we've got more 'green' car news from Europe - this time from Swedish car maker Volvo, which is releasing bioethanol powered cars in nine new markets.

These new bioethanol models include the C30 luxury hatchback, the S40 small saloon and the V50 small estate.

As Volvo explains, it is launching 'FlexiFuel' models powered by renewable bioethanol on several European markets in the Northern autumn (Australian Spring). Furthermore, the new green model range is also being extended in Europe and even Volvo's new C30 will be offered with eco-optimised FlexiFuel power.

"Interest in ethanol as a vehicle fuel is growing in Europe," said Gerry Keaney, the senior vice president of marketing, sales and customer Service at Volvo Cars. 

"We are therefore expanding our range with additional models on a total of nine markets. First to get Volvo's FlexiFuel cars outside Sweden will be Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Norway," said Keaney.

And the next generation clean fuel movement, it seems, has begun. 

There are now hybrids from Toyota, Lexus, and Honda, bioethanol cars from Volvo and Saab and of course BMW's cutting-edge hydrogen powered cars now available to the public - and it won't be long before almost all car makers have some sort of 'green' car, as more and drivers demand environmentally friendly personal transport.

"It’s very encouraging that the market is expanding and that political initiatives are being taken," added Gerry Keaney. 

France has announced that the country will build 500 fuel stations for E85 (a blend of 85% renewable ethanol and 15% petrol) in 2007. The fuel will be produced locally from agricultural products and there are, at present, 23 plants producing ethanol in Europe and this figure is expected to rise to just over 60 in 2008. 

In total, about 1.8 million litres of ethanol are produced annually within the European Union, primarily from sugar-beet and various grains, and estimates suggest that capacity in the EU is expected to increase threefold by 2008.

Europe is recognised as a style leader in the automotive world, and increasingly it's becoming a technology leader with more and more solutions being sought to reduce the effects of global warning and environmental damage.

Expanded FlexiFuel Range

Volvo has revealed that three of it's nine models – the brand new C30 hatchback, the S40 sedan and V50 wagon – are now available in an environmentally optimised FlexiFuel alternative. The Swedish company explains that they are powered by a new 4-cylinder (naturally aspirated) engine producing 92kW of power (125hp). 

Bioethanol and petrol are both filled in the same 55 litre tank, as the fuel hoses, valves and gaskets have all been modified to withstand the more corrosive properties of ethanol. Using high levels of ethanol in traditional combustion engines designed to run on gasoline can often corrode rubber-based hoses and other materials, but Volvo's new engine's are purpose built to handle a lifetime of ethanol fuel, featuring uprated fuel pipes, hoses and seals.

The injection valves have been reinforced and are also larger, since more fuel is injected into the engine because of the lower energy content of E85 compared with petrol. Moreover, the software calibration is updated for ethanol power and the engine management system precisely monitors the fuel mixture in the fuel tank and automatically adjusts both injection and ignition to suit.

Volvo Cars predicts sales of 7,000 FlexiFuel cars in 2007, and most are expected to be sold in Sweden. Because Volvo is a Ford-owned company, the possibilities of Ford exporting such technology to markets beyond Europe in the next decade are good.

Environmental Benefits

Ethanol is an entirely renewable fuel and can, in principle, be produced from just about any biomass source, such as corn, wheat, sugar-beet and cellulose says Volvo. If the car is run on E85, which is the fuel available at the pumps, emissions of fossil carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, drop by up to 80% compared with the same car running only on petrol.

"A renewable fuel will not on its own be able to replace today’s fossil fuels, and the range of alternative fuels will probably be far wider in the future. Many different fuels and technologies will therefore be developed in parallel. Ethanol reduces dependency on fossil fuels and Volvo's FlexiFuel programme thus makes a vital contribution to our strategy of environmental sustainability," concluded Gerry Keaney.

Technical Specifications

  • Engine: 4-cylinder petrol/E85 engine

  • Gearbox: 5-speed manual

  • Max power: 92kW (125hp)

  • Max torque: 165Nm @ 4000rpm

  • 0-100 km/h sprint: 10.8s (C30), 10.9s (S40), 11.0s (V50)

  • Top speed: 200km/h

  • Fuel consumption: litres/100km (petrol power): 7.3 (C30), 7.4 (S40), 7.4 (V50)

  • Carbon dioxide emissions: CO2 g/km (petrol power): 174 (C30), 177 (S40), 177 (V50)

Regarding fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions: the figures relate to running on 100% petrol (the certification fuel). Fuel consumption when running on E85 bioethanol is about 40% higher since the energy content of ethanol is lower than that of petrol.

Related articles:
- Volvo C30 Hatchback
- Honda Civic Hybrid: Road Test
- Lexus GS450h Hybrid: Road Test

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