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Bio-fuel Saab on horizon

12 May 2005

Saab could introduce cars run on environmentally friendly bio-ethanol to the UK as early as next year, claiming interest in the cleaner fuel is gaining momentum.

Bio-ethanol 9-5 could be launched next year

Saab could introduce cars run on environmentally friendly bio-ethanol to the UK as early as next year, claiming interest in the cleaner fuel is gaining momentum.

Until now, Saab claims, there has been no realistic prospect of these cars arriving in the UK, because there’s not sufficient tax support or re-fuelling infrastructure.

However, since it showcased the cars in Sweden recently, the manufacturer says it has had a number of positive discussions which are likely to result in the cars arriving here in 2006.

Saab maintains that company fleets and local authorities which can store their own fuel are keen to use the cars. Interest from Tesco and motorway service station chains means a reasonable re-fuelling infrastructure for private motorists could also develop. Currently only a handful of sites clustered in Essex and the West Country sell bio-ethanol fuel.

Whatcar.com readers have also registered their interest in the fuel. In our pre-election questions to politicians many of you asked why bio-ethanol wasn’t given better tax breaks.

Labour pointed to existing lower duty rates but made no suggestion of further incentives. Although bio-fuel duty is 20 pence per litre lower than for petrol, higher production costs mean it’s only slightly cheaper at the pump.

The Saab 9-5 BioPower would probably be the first bio-ethanol car to arrive, although Saab is developing other versions based on the 9-3 saloon, estate and convertible.

Likely to cost around £500 more than a standard 150bhp 2.0-litre model, the 9-5 BioPower uses a mixture of ethanol derived from agricultural crops and waste and conventional petrol.

It’s 30bhp more powerful than the conventional 9-5 at 180bhp, but combined fuel consumption is similar. Carbon dioxide emissions are more than 160g/km lower at just 32g/km.

There’s no commitment from the Government yet, but if the BioPower Saab were treated in the same way as other alternatively fuelled cars it could drop down more than 15 company car tax bands.

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