Just took a spin in the new Saab 9-3 BioPower and - until the fuel light came on - I was busy being impressed. The 9-3-ey bits of the experience were painless enough; the recent facelift has dramatically improved the once crappy interior, muddled switchgear and garish instrument display. It drives pretty well too, apart from a leaden edge to the ride quality. Apart from the daft-looking frontal treatment - those heavy rimmed "glasses" are strongly reminiscent of Dame Edna - I quite liked it.

The problem came when it was time to fill up. Saab is making big play of its ethanol-fuelled "Biopower" range's planet-saving credentials: the corporate website is plastered with puff and praise for it.

There's just one problem: for something like 95 percent of the population bioethanol is a complete and utter non-option at present, Saab's website confessing that only 16 filling stations in the UK are currently capable of supplying it - most of which are clustered in Somerset and East Anglia.

Much as I'd love to reduce my carbon footprint, I don't think I'd be doing the planet any favours by driving from Teddington to Oxford via the nearest E85 filling station in Wellingborough. And although this is certainly a chicken and egg equation, I can't see any alternative to the infrastructure coming first on this one. Biopower cars can run on normal petrol when ethanol isn't available, but why should people pay to commit to the technology unless there's an obvious benefit to it?

With the British public evincing little enthusiasm for biofuel, and the green lobby briefing enthusiastically against it, I can't help feeling that Saab faces an insurmountable challenge on this one.

Technorati tags: , , , ,