Alternative Fuel for Volvo Cars

By: Glady Reign

The increasing harmful effects of greenhouse gases from car emissions are being felt by almost every country in the world. Due to this, effort has been put to the development of cars that will use alternative fuels for it has been proven that such vehicles would be actually able to help produce less or no harmful emissions at all.

The choice of alternative fuels is great but the efficiency of these possible energy sources is still in question. Problems still arise from the use of alternative fuels to which dedicated companies are investing time, effort, and money to find solutions to. One of the first mass produced cars to address the problem is the Toyota Prius which uses an electric motor to drive the car though in a very limited capacity only. Other companies are also developing cars which will not only provide good performance but, at the same time, help in the campaign to protect the environment.

One such company is Volvo - the Ford Motor Company subsidiary based in Sweden which is known for their safety-first attitude towards the production of their cars. The company has developed a Flexi-Fuel system that allows the car's engine to work on a combination of ethanol and gasoline. This technology is already being employed by some of their car models available in selected European market. These models are the newly unveiled Volvo C30, the S40 sedan and the V50 wagon. Their fuel of choice is the E85 - the 85 denotes the percentage of bio-ethanol in the engine's fuel with the other 15 per cent being gasoline. The combination reduces the cars' emission of harmful greenhouse gases by as much as 80 per cent without endangering the cars' performance level.

The engine of the cars which employs the FlexiFuel technology has been modified slightly to accommodate the corrosive nature of ethanol. The different components which come in direct contact with the fuel have been fortified to increase their resistance to the corrosive effect of the biomass-derived fuel. Parts such as the , fuel hoses and different seals have been also modified for use with the ethanol based fuel. The injection valves are likewise reinforced and increased in size due to the fact that E85 has lower energy content than gasoline. Hence a larger amount of fuel needs to be burned to give the engine the same power produced by gasoline-only engines.

The use of ethanol as fuel is a good step towards harnessing alternative renewable sources of energy but it has its drawbacks. Problems experienced by ethanol powered vehicles includes, but is not limited to, the negative effect it has on electric fuel pumps by increasing internal wear due to the fuel's corrosive nature. E85 is also not compatible with capacitance fuel level gauging indicators which may result on erroneous fuel quantity indications. Another question on the ethanol's use as fuel is the manner by which it is produced. While cars which use this kind of fuel decrease our dependency on fossil fuels, the process to produce ethanol actually means having to use fossil fuels.

Whether the decrease in the emission of car is greater than the release of harmful greenhouse gases from the process of producing ethanol remains to be seen. While ethanol is priced lower than gasoline, the ethanol's energy content is lower than that of petrol which means that the engine will need larger amount of fuel in every intake stroke. This fact poses a question whether using E85 will increase the cost incurred by the consumer on their fuel consumption.

The use of ethanol on a mass produced car is just a small step in harnessing alternative sources of energy. This technology alone cannot single-handedly resolve the global community's dependence on the fast-depleting reserve of fossil fuels but it is a significant step forward.

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