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Holden charts new waters with ethanol

New fuel: Holden's Series II Commodore can run on E85 ethanol - if the drivers choose to.

E85 Commodore set to broaden Holden brand audience, despite consumption drawbacks

Holden logo1 Sep 2010

HOLDEN admits it has no idea what the take-up will be for E85 ethanol fuel by drivers of the new VE Commodore Series II 3.0-litre V6 and 6.0-litre V8 models that have been engineered to take the 85 per cent ethanol-petrol blend.

But the company says it believes early adopters, as well as people who value reducing their carbon dioxide emissions by around 40 per cent, will now consider the Commodore for the first time, thus boosting overall sales.

This is despite the fact that using the E85 pump means that the Commodore’s fuel consumption will soar by up to 30 per cent or more due to the lower stored energy rating of ethanol compared to unleaded petrol, outweighing its 15 per cent or so price advantage.

Caltex – Holden’s petroleum industry partner in the rollout of E85 pumps across Australia – sells E85 for 20c less than the ULP.

However, Holden hopes that, through education, Australians will realise that the E85 technology might improve resale values, especially if oil prices rise as dramatically as they did five years ago.

“It’s definitely a process of education,” said Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereux.

“(In Brazil) that argument has been fought and won for decades. It’s a supply and demand equation. If there’s more if it to go around, (ethanol) prices go down … and that’s in fourth largest car market on the planet, on its way to being the third.”

13 center imageLeft: Holden's Series II Commdore. Below: Holden chairman and managing director Mike Devereaux.

Mr Devereux added that Australia’s oil security would be stretched as emerging powerhouse nations add to the upward pressure to the price of a barrel.

“There is definitely an (oil) security (situation) in Australia,” he said.

“India is growing China is growing Oil prices are going nowhere but inexorably up over time as consumption increases. And it seems like a good strategy for a country to have some level of independence over that external price (effect on oil).” Mr Devereux said that introducing an E85-compatible V8 is in keeping with Holden’s Ecoline stance, despite the higher fuel consumption figure. V8s account for about 22 per cent of all Commodore sales in Australia.

“I think that reducing your carbon footprint by 40 per cent will make people think about their Commodores differently. It is a very green alternative.

“We’re going to sell what people want to buy. And as a company we are going to be set up to have options for folks.

“If they want to buy V8s – fantastic, we’ll make them as fuel-efficient as we can. And we have up to 12 per cent improvements on some of our V8 models this year.

“If they want to buy V6s – great. If they want to by four-cylinder cars, great.

“We have to be able to give folks out there what they want. We’re not pushing any particular size of engine.

“But I do think that having the ability to look at AFM cylinder deactivation, ethanol … these are green ways for people to drive V8s, no question.” Nevertheless, Holden will not actively promote the higher-octane virtues of using the E85 pump on either of the VE Series II’s compatible engines.

“There are no plans to try and make a performance angle out of (E85) even though the car will go better on ethanol than it does on standard petrol,” Mr Devereux said.

“We see ethanol as an environmental play.”

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