Ethanol - An alternative to petrol?
Several European auto makers are boosting efforts to build cars that run on alternative fuels such as ethanol.india Updated: Mar 31, 2006 17:33 IST
Several European auto makers are boosting efforts to build cars that run on alternative fuels such as ethanol, as oil prices continue to rise and stricter air quality legislation comes into effect.
Engines that run on ethanol require only a few modifications. They are considered one of the best short-term methods to keep motoring affordable.
Ethanol, an alcohol-based fuel, is produced by fermenting and distilling starch crops such as maize, barley and wheat.
Hybrid vehicles running with a combination of an electric motor and petrol engine will continue to gain a bigger market share, but caters mainly to a niche segment.
Car manufacturers DaimlerChrysler, Renault and Volkswagen have formed the alliance of Synthetic Fuels in Europe (ASFE) along with fuel producers Royal Dutch Shell and Sasol Chevron.
'Synthetic fuels can make a significant contribution in many of Europe's policy areas such as combating climate change, reducing energy consumption, diversifying energy supplies, ensuring security of energy supply and improving air quality,' said Thomas Weber of the DaimlerChrysler management board.
A number of synthetic fuel plants are being built and many others are in the planning stage in several European countries.
In Brazil, cars that run on alternative fuel are already being used on a mass scale.
According to Per Carstedt of the Bio Alcohol Fuel Foundation in Sweden, Brazil produces 15 billion litres of bio-ethanol annually. Sweden has a relatively good ethanol infrastructure.
Ethanol has an advantage over liquefied petroleum gas in that the vehicle needs fewer modifications including stronger fuel piping, hardened valves and a protective lining in the fuel tank.
Currently the offer of new cars running on ethanol is still small such as the Ford C-Max and Saab 9-5.