Volvo Cars Expands Flexifuel Range

By: Glady Reign

Volvo launched FlexiFuel cars powered by renewable bioethanol on some European markets. The green range is extended to include the new Volvo C30, which will be featuring eco-optimised FlexiFuel power.

"Interest in ethanol as a vehicle fuel is growing in Europe," says Gerry Keaney, Senior Vice President Market, Sales and Customer Service at Volvo Cars. "We are therefore expanding our range with additional models on a total of 9 markets. First to get Volvo's FlexiFuel cars outside Sweden will be Britain, Ireland, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland and Norway."

"It's very encouraging that the market is expanding and that political initiatives are being taken," continues Gerry Keaney. In France, the government has announced its plan to build 500 fuel stations for E85 this year. E85, a mix of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, will be produced locally from agricultural products like sugar-beet and several grains. At present, there are 23 plants producing ethanol in Europe and said number is expected to rise to more than 60 next year. In said territory, about 1.8 million liters of ethanol are produced every year and this capacity is expected to increase threefold in 2008.

Ethanol, an entirely renewable fuel, is produced from about any biomass source. One method of generating ethanol is through fermentation of sugar. Ethanol is also known as ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol however, in common usage it is referred to simply as alcohol. As a vehicle fuel, ethanol creates very little pollution when burned.

According to the Renewable Fuels Association, as of November 2006; 107 grain ethanol biorefineries in the United States have the capacity to produce 5.1 billion gallons of ethanol annually. There are additional 56 construction projects underway in the US to boost ethanol production. They are expected to add 3.8 billion gallons of new capacity in the next 18 months.

Growth in American fuel ethanol production is attributed largely to financial incentives that exist when oil prices are in excess of a certain level, as ethanol typically costs under $1.50 per gallon to manufacture and is exempt from the $0.52 per gallon federal gasoline tax. Nonetheless, the biggest national fuel ethanol industries are in Brazil.

The C30, S40 and the V50, three of nine Volvo models, are now available in an environmentally optimized FlexiFuel alternative. These cars are powered by a four-cylinder naturally aspirated engine that is capable of producing 125 horsepower. Bioethanol and gasoline are both filled in the same 55 liter tank. like fuel hoses, gaskets and valves are enhanced to stand the corrosive properties of ethanol. Also, the injection valves are reinforced and made larger to accommodate more fuel needs. E85 has lower energy content hence more fuel is injected into the engine. In addition, the cars also come with an updated software calibration designed for ethanol power. To monitor the mixture of fuels and to automatically blend ignition and injection, the automaker use sophisticated engine management system to do the tasks efficiently.

"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.

Volvo Cars is expecting to sell 7,000 FlexiFuel cars this year; most are to be sold in Sweden.

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