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Government incentives needed to promote biofuel

Government must kick-start biofuel fleet uptake with incentives

BIOETHANOL or E85-powered cars will remain a minority business car market unless the Government recognises the sustainable fuel’s superior ‘well to wheel’ CO2 emissions rating and applies greater ‘kick start’ fiscal incentives.

The call on the Government to encourage wider use of E85 and the creation of a more accessible supply infrastructure came from Alan Carpenter, Volvo’s international fleet sales director, at a Ford-Volvo Swedish bioethanol seminar.

The event was being held as the Government pledged its support for the fuel with launch of a consultation on biofuels (see story below).

Carpenter cited ‘genuine and growing interest’ among major fleet players in the greener fuel but claimed progress required ‘alignment between manufacturers, fuel suppliers and legislators’.

He said: ‘There is a pressing need for the Government to demonstrate leadership with an agenda supporting this greener technology through its market infancy.’

The environmental argument was overwhelming, he argued, pointing to an E85-powered 1.8 litre Ford Focus generating just under 100 g/km of CO2 on a well to wheel basis, while the petrol-only equivalent’s tail pipe rating was 160 g/km.

‘We need E85’s recognition on the CO2 absorption basis from raw material to exhaust pipe for a fuel which has ecological, strategic and ultimately economic benefits,’ he reasoned.

‘E85 might be 2p a gallon cheaper than unleaded petrol but is 30% less fuel efficient and 50% down on diesel. This is a major cost disadvantage restricting fleet sector restricting uptake.’

Carpenter said a growing choice of flexi-fuel Fords and Volvos, including the new Mondeo and upcoming V70 variants, covered ‘the fleet market heartland’, even if combined sales would only be around 330 cars this year.

Phil Maud, fuel director for Morrison, E85 retailing pioneers, which plans to increase its bioethanol pump network from 14 to 25 this year, said: ‘High profile early fleet adopters would help raise the profile and create demand.’

Marcus Puddy at Lloyds TSB Autolease, which manages a 130,000-vehicle fleet, said that while the business car sector was increasingly ‘aware and receptive’ about greener car initiatives ‘the reason many companies go environmental is to reduce costs’.

‘E85 can live in the market but it needs support and the Government can act quickly if it wants to,’ he added.

He said that E85 ran contrary to the diesel rule of lower CO2 and higher mpg, with a bioethanol car involving ‘fuelling up seven times a month rather than five’. (BusinessCar: June 22). • IF the Government was serious about motorists becoming more environmentally responsible, drivers should be encouraged to use alternative fuels. Carmakers can equip their models to run on fuels such as LPG or ethanol, but the infrastructure for motorists to fill up is inadequate, while Government grants for converting vehicles have all but dried up. Stuart Kerr, managing director of Volvo UK, whose company has been a leader in alternative fuels technology, said: ‘We really need the Government, the oil companies and the car industry to come together on things like this. The Government should certainly be looking to incentivise people towards alternative fuels.’ While the motor industry is often made out to be the bad guy on green issues, Kerr pointed out that Volvo had very strong environmental credentials in terms of manufacturing processes, use of recyclable materials and what happened to the car at the end of its life. ( 21).

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