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High-tech fuel for tomorrow’s cars

Holden Commodore Omega - VE series (copyright image)

The Holden Commodore will be the first
Australian built car to be E85 compatible.

Home > News > Holden

25th March, 2010

· Victoria: potential site of ground-breaking renewable fuel technology
· Technology: second-generation ethanol production uses waste to produce fuel
· Sustainable: automotive leader makes E85 flex-fuel vehicles widely available

Victoria could soon be home to a ground-breaking eco-friendly fuel technology plant, with the announcement of a consortium formed between the Victorian State Government and a group of leading companies.

The consortium - which also includes Holden, Caltex, Veolia, Mitsui and Coskata - will investigate the viability of establishing Australia’s first ethanol plant capable of turning materials such as household rubbish and building waste into more than 200 million litres of ethanol a year. This ethanol will be blended into an alternative fuel known overseas as E85; a mixture of up to 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent regular petrol.

Holden Energy and Environment Director Richard Marshall said the organisations in the consortium were committed to sustainable motoring through the development of renewable fuels that reduced greenhouse gas emissions and improved energy security.

“Our vision is that this technology will, in time, cut Australia’s dependence on petrol by up to 30 per cent and make a major contribution to sustainable motoring and greenhouse gas reduction,” Mr Marshall said.

He said Holden would introduce Australia’s first locally produced flex-fuel vehicles capable of running on the high-ethanol fuel, later this year.

“We’ve always said we’d take a leadership position on biofuels, and provide the vehicles to do that. We’re committed to having locally built Holden cars capable of running on E85 in the market by 2010,” he said. “It’s about designing and engineering vehicles for Australians, built by Australians, using Australian fuel alternatives.”

Holden's leadership in alternative fuels in Australia is part of GM's global sustainability and energy diversity strategy. In the United States, GM is the leading producer of flex-fuel vehicles with more than 3.5 million E85-capable GM cars on the road today.

To ensure availability of the fuel for Holden's vehicles, Caltex Australia’s General Manager Marketing Andy Walz said the company had signed an agreement with Holden which committed to installing pumps in 30 metropolitan and regional service stations later this year, increasing to 100 within 12 months.

“Caltex’s expansion into this new fuel and participation in the consortium is part of our ongoing commitment to biofuels and tackling climate change, which fits well with a strategy of providing energy beyond the traditional fuel mix," Mr Walz said.

"Caltex already has about 400 service stations that sell E10 and a growing biodiesel market. We believe the biofuels industry has a vital role in a sustainable transport fuels future and that biofuels are good business opportunity for Caltex.”

The proposed plant would produce ethanol using a process developed by leading US biofuel company Coskata Inc, which last year unveiled one of the world’s few plants capable of producing ethanol from material such as agricultural waste and household rubbish.

Chief Marketing Officer Wes Bolsen said not all biofuels were created equal. “At Coskata, we don’t make fuel from food crops, we use sources like municipal waste that have reached the end of their lifecycle and turn them into renewable energy, which leads to a net positive effect for the environment,” Mr Bolsen said.

Simon Tori, Victorian Group General Manager for Veolia Environmental Services said the initiative was a quantum leap from the way in which Victoria currently receives, sort and treats its existing waste.

“Deriving energy from municipal, commercial and industrial waste that is otherwise bound for landfill, is an exciting possibility and such a facility will enable Veolia to be at the forefront of the emerging Advanced Resource Recovery Treatment sector.”

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is E85?
E85 is an alcohol fuel mixture sold in the United States, Brazil and Europe that contains up to 85 per cent ethanol and 15 per cent petrol. Ethanol is ethyl alcohol, the same type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. When Caltex retails the fuel, it will include between 70 and 85 per cent ethanol blended with regular petrol, depending on the time of year. This is similar to the seasonal variation in ethanol content overseas. Ethanol works best in warmer conditions, so during the winter months Caltex will decrease the amount of ethanol in the biofuel blend to ensure optimal performance.

What are the benefits of fuel containing up to 85 per cent ethanol?
There are several important benefits, including:
· It helps reduce our dependence on fossil fuels
· It helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions
· It can be used with conventional engine technology with some adaptations, such as in Holden flex-fuel vehicles (including the specially designated E85 compatible Commodore which is coming late this year)
· Ethanol, the major component of the fuel, is a renewable resource

Where can I buy the fuel for flex-fuel vehicles?
Later this year, Caltex will begin selling the new fuel at 30 selected metropolitan and regional service stations, increasing to 100 stations within 12 months. In addition, some selected independent fuel retailers currently sell E85.

Are ethanol-blended fuel or flex fuel cars being used anywhere else?
Ethanol-blended fuel is used in vehicles in the United States, Brazil and Sweden. In the US, GM is the global leader in producing flexible-fuel vehicles, with more than 3.5 million of the more than 7.5 million flex-fuel vehicles on the road are GM cars and trucks. GM has also committed to making more than half of its vehicle production flex-fuel capable by 2012.

What is the fuel economy of E85?
When driving on E85, the fuel consumption per kilometre will be higher because ethanol contains less energy than petroleum. The car needs the same amount of energy; consequently the car needs more fuel.

What about E10? Can I fuel my car with that?
Most new and many older model vehicles can run on E10 blended fuel without compromising the engine or manufacturer's warranty. Motorists can check their car’s compatibility with E10 fuel at

How is ethanol produced?
Today, Australian plants produce ethanol from the waste streams of the industrial production of wheat starch, sorghum and molasses. Unlike other technologies and facilities that often rely on one primary source of feedstock, the ethanol facility being investigated for Victoria would be producing ethanol from numerous sources, including wood biomass, agricultural waste, construction waste, and even household garbage. This is generally referred to as a second-generation ethanol production process.

Can I fuel my car with E85?
At this stage, very few cars on Australians roads are capable of running on E85, and, when it is introduced, Holden’s Commodore will be the first Australian-made car able to run on E85. This innovative fuel technology is not suitable for use in any motor vehicles other than those designed specifically for E85.

Will Holden cars be able to run on any other fuel other than E85?
Yes. The vehicles relevant to this announcement will have flex-fuel technology, meaning they are capable of running on fuels ranging from standard unleaded all the way to E85.


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