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United stance on E85

Ethanol-eater: Facelifted 9-3 offers E85 compatibility for an extra $1000.

Saab BioPower makes sense as petrol retailer confirms E85 pump for Melbourne and Sydney

9 Nov 2007

INDEPENDENT petrol retailer United Petroleum has stepped into the local ethanol debate by promising to open two E85 pumps in Australia within three months.

The two ethanol-based pumps are expected to be located in South Melbourne and on Sydney’s lower north shore.

GoAuto has also learned of at least seven other E85 outlets located in NSW, but these are not yet licensed to sell to private consumers. They currently supply a fleet of 180 vehicles that have been converted by Australia’s largest bio-fuel producer, the locally-owned and Sydney-based Manildra Group, which will also supply United.

United Petroleum general manager David Szymczak said that the E85 fuel – which comprises 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent petrol – would be blended locally, with the ethanol content made from sugarcane or wheat.

United claims to be Australia’s leading independent petrol retailer, with 280 stations nationally, and also sells E10 (10 per cent ethanol) in all states except WA.

The only new cars currently able to run on E85 are the Saab 9-5 BioPower that was released last month and similar versions of the new 9-3 that were formally launched in Melbourne last Friday.

Interestingly, Saab Australia has put a $1000 premium on the price of 9-3 BioPower models (starting at $44,400), whereas the 9-5 model carries a $1500 premium.

Mr Szymczak said at the Saab launch that United needed to work through some government and EPA compliance issues before opening the E85 pumps, but he does not expect any complications and said they should be operational in two to three months.

He estimates that United will sell E85 fuel for “about $1.00 a litre”.

 center imageLeft: 9-5 2.3t BioPower engine.

Car dealer Kurt Sims from Heartland Saab Parramatta told GoAuto that he recently filled a 9-5 BioPower demonstrator with E85 at an independent service station located in Sydney’s western suburbs for 92 cents a litre (while ULP was selling for $1.25).

However, there is no net financial benefit from the cheaper price for consumers because both Saab BioPower models use considerably more fuel than when they are running on regular unleaded petrol – 27 per cent more in the case of the 9-5 and 30 per cent more for the 9-3.

Nevertheless, Saab Australia director Parveen Batish believes that buyers will appreciate the environmental benefits and the extra power when running on E85, and described the United move as “a critical step forward”.

Although BioPower cars still produce CO2 emissions, Saab claims an overall reduction of up to 80 per cent because the crops from which ethanol is made absorb CO2 from the atmosphere while they are growing.

Asked if parent company GM-Holden would follow Saab’s lead and offer E85-compatible models in the future, Mr Batish said he could not comment on another brand’s plans, but he repeated what he told GoAuto last week – that other car companies would be offering E85-compatible models in the near future.

“Saab took the first leap and United Petroleum is taking the same bold leadership position with its commitment to make E85 commercially available to flex-fuel car drivers,” said Mr Batish at the 9-3 launch.

“This is a big investment by United Petroleum. We think with this support, BioPower will be a success in Australia and will stimulate other manufacturers to bring their flex-fuel vehicles to this country as well.

“This is the tip of the iceberg.” Sweden aims to be free of fossil fuels by 2020 and offers big financial incentives for people buying and using E85. Consequently, some 80 per cent of Saabs sold in the company’s home market are BioPower models.

Saab Automobile managing director Jan-Ake Jonsson said that BioPower cars are so popular in Sweden that the company is even thinking of discontinuing petrol-only 9-3 models in that country.

Read more:

First drive: Saab 9-3 buyers spoilt for choice

Saab ready for ethanol, but is Australia?

Saab offers ‘flex-fuel’ car for Australia

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