ANYONE who _ proclaimed that cars should run on vege- table oil, or batteries was nor- mally regarded as at best ‘al- ternative, at worst eccentric.
But these are anything but normal times.
With fist fights on the filling station forecourts and flood waters swirling as we melt the planet, the days when we can rely on fossil fuels for power and transport are surely num- bered.
So will the ‘green’ car idea finally have its day and, first and foremost, does it actually exist?
The good news is_ that whereas five years ago these issues were hardly on the in- dustrial radar screen, now all the world’s major motor man- ufacturers have huge ‘green’ programmes and boast senior executives with titles such as ‘vice-president, environment.’
The prize for the company which cracks the formula for the green car of the future, before its rivals, will be meas- ured in trillions of dollars.
The prize for the human race will be cleaner air.
The bad news is that those same companies have found that solving the technology problem of alternative fuels is taking more time and money than they expected.
With petrol prices going through the roof, motorists are understandably looking for an instant solution to rising fuel eyeN KS
Even the most ambitious automobile §manufacturer’s admit that it will be late 2007 before hydrogen cars appear in showrooms and even then there probably won’t be any- where to re-fill them.
SUC Kmoormalunes off it seems, with significant implications for motorists not expected for another ten years Or SO.
So what is the solution?
The first and most straight- forward route is to join the droves of Irish motorists and convert to a diesel engine –
diesel models now represent 42 per cent of all new car sales in the Republic.
Alternatively, manufactur- er’s like Toyota and Honda offer hybrid petrol-electric models which again use less fuel than conventional petrol eran Nee
More and more manufactur- er’s look set to follow this ex- ample with Mercedes promis-
ing to unveil models in their showrooms come January 2007.
Significantly these models will reduce consumption by anything up to 25 per cent.
If you are determined enough you could really slash your fuel bill by going elec- tric. That is if you don’t mind also cutting your top speed to about 40 miles an hour.
The Reva G-Wiz, which is manufactured in India and is distributed in the UK by GoinGreen.co.uk is the only mass production and afford- able electric car on offer in Europe at the moment.
Fully-charged (which can take about six hours) the G- Wiz can manage about 40 miles. This however can also depend on temperature and driving conditions.
Although this doesn’t sound too encouraging at first, con- sidering the following – this electric model will still run at about one third the cost of a normal petrol car.
GoinGreen.co.uk have en- joyed significant interest in the G-Wiz since they launched the vehicle in May, 2004.
They have already sold 250 and have a further 50 on order at a nominal cost of £8,000.
For those who still want the bit of power, performance, prestige, electric windows, comfortable seating and the ability to travel decent jour- ney without having to seek out a handy road side socket, then maybe converting your car to run on liquid petroleum gas (LPG) might be just the thing for you.
Conversion companies can
charge anything up to €2,000 to carry out the required work on your vehicle, but it might well be worth it with LPG costs per litre running at about 40 per cent of typical petrol costs.
It’s worth noting though that this advantage is purely down the difference in VAT charges.
The British Motoring As-
sociation estimate that there are 100-125,000 vehicles in the UK running on LPG, and thankfully this fuel also cuts down on carbon dioxide emis- sions by twenty per cent when compared with petrol. Con- venient availability of LPG can prove a problem however.
On the continent LPG is widely available, particularly in Italy, Holland, Germany and France.
As usual, in Ireland, we’re well behind.
If you’d prefer to escape de- pendence on dissipating fossil fuels and third party suppli- ers entirely, you can then join
the growing ranks of people running their diesel cars on biodiesel.
Biodiesel is made from crops such as oilseed rape and sunflower seeds.
In the UK at the moment, biodiesel is currently being sold as a five per cent blend with conventional diesel at a growing number of supplier stations. Some motorists how-
ever are concocting their own 100 per cent blend, or buying it from independent manufac- turers to run their own vehi- cles. Few problems have thus far been reported.
Green Fuels, a_ biodiesel technology specialist, have been selling DIY biodiesel kits for about the last eighteen months in the UK.
James Hygate, Green Fuels MD, has been running his Audi A6 on biodiesel for over a year now.
Biodiesel DIY kits start at £4,106. The kit can produce biodiesel in batches of 150 litres. The process involves
mixing heated vegetable oil with other chemicals and then filtering off the end product.
In comparison to current petrol prices, you should once again save yourself about 60 per cent on your fuel bill.
Be warned however. If you do decide to switch to biodie- sel it could affect your vehicle Wee ETO ATe
Many car manufacturer’s are, as of yet, completely hap- py to endorse this fuel alterna- tive completely.
Despite this manufacturer reticence don’t be surprised if in a few years you look out your car window and see acre upon acre of golden oilseed rape.
These will become the 21st century oil fields and farmers will become oil barons as cli- mate changes and diminishing oil reserves turn plants like oilseed into a wonder fuel.
The above was once the fan- tastic vision of biofuel lobby, but now its closer to reality than we first suspected.
Technically there are two kinds of biofuel.
One is made from plant oils and the other, bioethanol, is made by fermenting grains.
Both can be used in unmodi- fied diesel and petrol engines When blended with conven- tional diesel and petrol.
Last month the EU increased pressure on Ireland to meet its biofuel targets – a request of course the coalition govern- ment have largely ignored.
In the UK the number of garage forecourts stocking biodiesel and bioethanol fuels while car manufacturer’s may also be converted.
Early this summer in Swe- den Saab released its first flex- ible fuel model and it is an- ticipated that more will follow this example.
Right now the dream of a clean biofuel future may be just that, but with the momen- tum created by the EU and the public the vision may become increasingly plausible with every field in Ireland becom- ing a practical oil field.