12-20-2008, 02:43 PM
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Bentley banks on biofuels
The luxury car-maker is putting all its eggs in the second-generation biofuel market to meet forthcoming emissions requirements – and maybe also to transport the Queen
Bentley has revealed further details of its biofuels strategy that it is hoping will help it to reduce the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from its cars by 40 per cent within three years and perhaps win over the British royal family to the benefits of plant-derived motoring.
The Crewe-based luxury car maker says it will unveil a bioethanol-fuelled car at the Geneva motor show in March, which will be on sale by the end of July. The company also says it is talking to the royal family about the environmental impact of its car fleet and has not ruled out a supply of bioethanol engines to the Royal Household.
In 2002 and 2003, the Queen was presented with two Bentley state limousines, which have been in regular service since then.
Bentley claims that second-generation biofuels offer far superior well-to-wheels CO2 emissions than electric or hybrid cars, but that the fuel has been overlooked by European regulations, which concentrate mainly on tailpipe emissions.
"The emissions contribution from every Bentley ever made represents a single Coke can in an Olympic-sized swimming pool," says Stuart McCullough, Bentley's sales and marketing board member, "but we are serious about the environment and we are very serious about well-to-wheels figure – or net CO2 emissions,"
McCullough says that Bentley cannot change what it is, but it can help bring about a change in the way biofuel is perceived and increase demand for the fuel. He admits that using the fuel "is fraught with social and ecological issues", but points to Sweden, which has Europe's largest biofuel-compatible fleet of more than 115,000 vehicles, and Brazil, which is the world's second largest producer of bioethanol, as examples of the successful use of the fuel in a ecological and environmental way.
McCullough says that Bentley wants to be seen as innovators and that the use of bioethanol will contribute about 15 per cent to the target of reducing Bentley's current 400g/km fleet corporate average by 2012.
"If we engineer our cars to accept the flex fuels, as the vehicle parc grows the demand will push the supply," he says. He has not ruled out the use of diesel engines in a future Bentley, but says the current push is towards biofuels.
The company, which is part of the Volkswagen group, says the recently-passed EU rules on new-car CO2 emissions mean that it has the opportunity to register itself as a small, sub-10,000-unit per year producer and negotiate its own CO2 targets with the EU, although it has not definitely decided to adopt this strategy yet.
"The recession means we are likely to remain a sub-10,000 a year producer for some time," says McCullough, "but this EU compromise has given us some comfort for the future of emissions regulation at least."