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Ethanol-powered Commodore on the way

Pumping it up: Limited availability of E85 will not stop Holden from introducing cars that can run on the biofuel.

Holden to introduce local bio-power in the next few years

Holden logo15 Jul 2008

GM HOLDEN will introduce a Commodore that can run on E85 ethanol well before the eco-oriented bio-fuel is widely available in Australia.

Using a “build it and they will come” approach, GM Holden managing director Mark Reuss said Holden had a responsibility take a lead on bio-fuels.

Its premium Saab division has already introduced E85-capable models, which run on a blend of 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent petrol, despite just one E85 fuel pump being available in Australia. This is offered through United Petroleum in Sydney.

Speaking at the release of a CSIRO report into future fuels last week, Mr Reuss confirmed Holden would introduce an E85 Commodore before an the ethanol infrastructure was in place.

“The answer is yes. We will lead with equipment on vehicles before the supply is readily available,” Mr Reuss said.

“We only have E10 supply available right now, but we design our ethanol-capable cars up to E85 and you can expect to see that here from Holden and GM in Australia.”

 center imageMr Reuss did not provide a timetable for the introduction of an E85 Commodore, but when asked how long it could take all cars to change to alternative fuels he replied: “Within GM we can do that in the next two years.” While it might seem strange that Holden would introduce cost into its vehicles when the Australian ethanol industry is embryonic and could take decades before E85 fuel is widely available, Mr Reuss said Holden felt compelled to act.

He pointed to the US, where GM had introduced E85-capable vehicles before much of the fuel was available.

“This becomes almost a chicken-and-egg scenario and we intend to do the same thing in Australia, which is lead with equipment on the car, driving both the societal awareness of renewable fuels and the application of the supply base for them,” Mr Reuss said.

“The benefits of ethanol are huge, it is a comparatively clean-burning renewable fuel and it requires a very small cost to modify existing technology.” “I think it is our responsibility as an auto industry and as a company to lead this,” he said.

“If we wait until we have $8 a litre gasoline and we wait until bad things happen to respond, that is a pretty poor place to be. We owe the society, the economy and our customers a lot more than that as an industry and a company.” Holden is also currently developing a dedicated-LPG engine, which along with E85 ethanol could reduce Australian dependency on imported oil and promise reduced fuel bills without forcing large-car customers to switch to a smaller vehicle.

“I don’t know anyone who decides that they want to have the smallest car available,” Mr Reuss said. “They might not have any option because of the alternatives that we as an industry have provided from a technology standpoint.” GM’s promotion of E85 has triggered warnings of escalating food prices as arable land used for food crops is converted to crops used for ethanol.

However, the company has pointed to technology being developed that would see ethanol produced using waste products rather than food crops.

According to Biofuels Association of Australia chief executive Bruce Harrison, who took part in the CSIRO study, most of Australia’s ethanol was currently produced from waste starch and molasses.

He added that work was being done to advance other methods of ethanol production.

“In Australia, one of my members is currently growing algae (to make ethanol) and the commercialisation process has begun down here in Victoria,” Mr Harrison said.

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