Bioethanol: Flex Fuel technology

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"Bi-fuel": Brazil defends bioethanol.

The soaring price of a barrel of oil is changing the behavior of Brazilian consumers who are looking for alternatives to the gas car and are opting more and more for "bi-fuel" vehicles (gas / alcohol).

In September, one in three cars sold in Brazil (32%) was already bi-fuel or "flex fuel", against 4,3 only in 2002, said the association of car manufacturers (Anfavea).

This new technology allows a vehicle to run only on gasoline, only on alcohol (ethanol, a sugarcane biofuel), or with a mix of both.

Renault is the fourth automaker to have tried the flex fuel adventure, technology cleaner, to equip its models after Wolkswagen (in March 2003), General Motors (June 2003) and Fiat this year. The Peugeot-Citroën PSA group promises to enter the 2005 dance.

Renault has just presented its "Clio Hi-Flex" at the Sao Paulo Motor Show.

"The client finds a freedom he did not have. Depending on the price at the pump, the customer can choose any gasoline-alcohol proportion. The car's software adapts the mix to the engine, "said the company's product director, Alain Tissier.

"Renault delayed a little more because he had never made alcohol engines but today his flex fuel technology is 100% Renault," he added.

According to him, as the alcohol has "aggressive chemical characteristics", the rubber hoses, for example, have been reinforced.

"So there is no problem of sustainability and the customer uses gasoline or alcohol depending on price changes. This has an immediate effect on his portfolio. The bill of a full tank of gas is 300 reais (94 euros) and 180 for flex fuel (56 euros).

Brazil can now, according to Mr. Tissier, export technology, cars and ethanol, which represents "a new datum of Brazil's sustainable and renewable energy matrix".

According to Anfavea, this year, 218.320 bi-fuel cars were manufactured in the country and 35.497 to alcohol. In 2005, half a million fuel flex cars, all brands combined, will be sold in the country.

Since the launch of dual-fuel cars, the share of alcohol-only cars, which was 5,1% in January 2003 of Brazil's total sales, rose to 24,4% in April 2004.

This is still very little compared to the 1980 years when 90% of the cars produced in Brazil were powered by alcohol. But at the time, producers preferred to use sugar cane for sugar production for export, causing a supply crisis.

Now, with this flexible system, the user will no longer suffer from the lack of one or the other fuel, bet the automakers, especially since there is also the alternative of gas.

"We are at the beginning of the end of the oil era," says Roslaino Fernandes, vice president of the Latin American Gas Association.

Brazil has the world's second largest fleet of vehicles using natural gas (NGV), with 770.000 vehicles, behind Argentina which has 1,2 million (13% of the fleet). The economy is close to 60% compared to gasoline, according to Francisco Barros, manager of Ipiranga's vehicular gas department.

In September the conversion of gasoline engine to gas engine increased by 15% in Brazil and 52% in Rio, according to the Brazilian Petroleum Institute. In Rio, 80% of the fleet of 35.000 taxis are already operating on gas, according to the taxis union.

While the current CNG fleet represents 3,3% of the country's total, the predictions are that 1,7 million vehicles will be reached in 2009 at least, ie 7% of total automobiles.


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