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Daily Telegraph: VW and Shell join forces on biofuel

(Filed: 21/01/2006)
Volkswagen has signed a letter of intent with Shell and the logen Corporation to conduct a joint study into the feasibility of producing cellulose-based ethanol fuel in Germany. The bioethanol, which is fermented and distilled from waste agricultural products such as corn husks, uses a new process from logen which it claims is up to 90 per cent efficient.
The resulting biofuel cuts carbon dioxide emissions by up to 90 per cent compared with conventional petrol, but initially it would be used to dilute petrol based on mineral oil at a rate of 15 per cent. EU biofuel directives for 2010 propose greater concentrations of ETBE (ethyl tertiary butyl ether), of up to 10 per cent, and VW is supporting this move.
VW Group boss Bernd Pischetsrieder explained the thinking: “The European agreement at Kyoto was to reduce new car emissions of CO2, but with a replacement ratio of 10 per cent and a CO2 reduction of 20 per cent as each old car is replaced [given a typical car life of 10 years], the overall CO2 reduction we can expect cannot be more than two per cent a year.
“In Europe, the car industry will now be measured on its total CO2 contribution rather than just on new cars, and that is why biofuels are the answer – they can reduce the CO2 output from every car on the road.”
Mercedes introduced its Bluetec advanced diesel technology in America last week, and is hoping that this will persuade Americans to buy diesels.
The engines, which are already in use in Mercedes-Benz trucks, use catalytic converters, particulate filters and nitrogen-oxide reduction technology. They meet the stringent exhaust-gas requirements in 50 American states. The first Bluetec engine will be the 3-litre, V6 turbodiesel in the E320 CDi, which goes on sale later this year. Sister company Chrysler will also be fitting Bluetec-equipped engines in future.
Nor is Mercedes the only company trying to persuade the Americans to love diesels. Volkswagen has already committed to bringing diesels to the States, as have Honda and Nissan.
“I see this as a battle of technology, with the Japanese pushing hybrids and the Europeans pushing diesel,” said Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn, when asked whether his company would import diesel engines to the US. “Hopefully, we will have both.”
Renault is currently developing a range of V6 and V8 diesels for its partner, although Ghosn did not rule out buying a diesel from an outside supplier in the meantime.
Nothing quite as exciting as Honda's hydrogen project on the Japanese island of Yakushima (Motoring, October 22) was unveiled at the Detroit show, but we did learn that the Australian state of Tasmania is also investigating creating a hydrogen economy for itself and its many offshore islands.
Like Yakushima, Tasmania is rainy and mountainous, so there's a basis for hydro-generated electricity. We'll keep you posted…

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