German car maker makes a push for plant power
30 January 2007

Volkswagen is supporting mass biofuel production, as well as developing a zero-emissions combustion engine, to ensure sustainable, environmentally friendly mobility in the future.

At a biofuels seminar in London Dr Wolfgang Steiger, Volkswagen Group’s head of powertrain development, said that aside from the tangible benefits of improving local air quality and reducing global carbon dioxide emissions, VW also wanted to reduce its vehicles’ dependency on crude oil. The German firm predicts oil prices will become unstable as early as 2020.

Second-generation biofuel, or ‘SunFuel’ as VW calls it, produces a closed carbon dioxide cycle - ie it absorbs as much CO2 as it creates - and could be operational on a large scale within 10 years. VW says that the yield from today’s existing biofuel acreage in Germany would be enough to power 25 per cent of the country’s cars.

However, Aaron Berry of the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs argues that there is broad uncertainty about the levels of CO2 produced from the differing crops used in biofuel production, which puts into question the environmental benefits. It also makes it incredibly difficult for the government to levy an appropriate level of tax, especially knowing that this fuel costs more per litre to manufacture than regular petrol.

But according to Dr Steiger “the goal is not just to produce a biofuel, it is to reduce CO2 production”.Volkswagen’s new engine technology, Combined Combustion System, would help achieve this. It applies the same principles of combustion as conventional engines, but biofuel combustion takes place at a lower temperature, thus preventing the production of noxous emissions such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide.

Click here to listen to Autocar’s exclusive podcast with Dr Steiger.

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