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Fleets call for bio-fuel incentives

Date: 22 June 2007   |   Author: Hugh Hunston

Bioethanol or E85-powered cars will remain a minority business car market unless the Government recognises the sustainable fuel's superior "well to wheel" CO2 emissions rating and applies greater "kick start" fiscal incentives.

This call on the Government to encourage wider use of E85 and the creation of a more accessible supply infrastructure came from Alan Carpenter, Volvo's international fleet sales director, at a Ford-Volvo Swedish bioethanol seminar at the same time as the Government pledges its support for the fuel with launch of a new biofuel consultation.

Carpenter cited "genuine and growing interest" among major fleet players in the greener fuel but claimed progress required "alignment between manufacturers, fuel suppliers and legislators".

He said: "There is a pressing need for the Government to demonstrate leadership with an agenda supporting this greener technology through its market infancy."

The environmental argument was overwhelming, he argued, pointing to an E85-powered 1.8-litre Ford Focus generating just under 100g/km on a well to wheel basis, while the petrol-only equivalent's tail pipe rating is 160g/km.

"We need E85's recognition on the CO2 absorption basis from raw material to exhaust pipe for a fuel which has ecological, strategic and ultimately economic benefits," reasoned Carpenter.

He added: "E85 might be 2P a gallon cheaper than unleaded petrol but is 30% less fuel efficient and 50% down on diesel. This is a major cost disadvantage restricting fleet sector restricting uptake."

Carpenter said a growing choice of flexi fuel Fords and Volvos, including the new Mondeo and upcoming V70 variants, covered "the fleet market heartland", even if combined sales will only be around 330 cars this year.

Chris Pascall, head of transport for EDF Energy, charged with a 20% cut in CO2 levels across 1500 cars and 2000 vans by 2012, said: "The time may come when we remove diesels from our choice list but any relative saving in CO2 relates to the effectiveness of spending on that reduction. We have shown our staff Al Gore's film 'The Inconvenient Truth' and people are keen to be involved."

Phil Maud, fuel director for Morrison, E85 retailing pioneers, which plans to increase its bioethanol pump network from 14 to 25 this year, said: "High profile early fleet adopters would help raise the profile and create demand."

Marcus Puddy at Lloyds TSB Autolease, which manages a 130,000-vehicle fleet, said that while the business car sector is increasingly "aware and receptive" about greener car initiatives "the reason many companies go environmental is to reduce costs".

"E85 can live in the market but it needs support and the Government can act quickly if it wants to," he added.

He said that E85 ran contrary to the diesel rule of lower CO2 and higher mpg, with a bioethanol car involving "fuelling up seven times a month rather than five".