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Ford wants slice of biofuel market

Ford is considering supporting a network of bio-fuel pumps in London, following the introduction of its bioethanol Focus.

The new Focus Flex-Fuel Vehicle (FFV) coincides with next year’s roll out of a 40-strong bioethanol fleet in Somerset and the introduction of five refuelling sites in Taunton, Bridgwater, Yeovil, Bristol and Bath.

Somerset County Council has joined forces with local farmers’ cooperative, Wessex Grain, to make 131 million litres of bioethanol annually at its Henstridge, Wincanton grain store and refinery. Fuel subsidiary Green Spirit wants to expand the distribution nationwide from the refinery and open four other production plants. The new Cornwall Biofuel Project team is investigating the potential of a local bioethanol economy.

A pilot scheme using Swedish specification Focus FFV models publicised in the Somerset area has seen a number of calls to the council from people who want to buy a Focus FFV and use bioethanol made from locally grown surplus wheat.

Ford expects to sell 200 of the special Focus models in two years in the county and other authorities are about to follow the lead of Somerset, which is planning to hold a special bioethanol national conference in Taunton next spring.

The price of the 1.8 litre, 123bhp, Focus FFV is £14,095 and will initially be offered in five door or estate derivatives. Ford said the Focus C-Max is also likely to be offered with the FFV engine later.

The Focus FFV will not carry a prohibitive price premium and can be refuelled with normal unleaded petrol if bioethanol is not available.

The 1.8 litre engine has been modified with hardened valve seats, larger fuel pump and non-rubber lines, and the electronics have been changed to permit it to sense whether unleaded or bioethanol is in the normal fuel tank.

Although bioethanol is 30% less economical than unleaded petrol it does not attract as much duty and pump prices are likely to be highly competitive as a result.

The main attraction of bioethanol apart from its homegrown credentials is the fact it only emits the same amount of carbon dioxide it absorbed in growing the wheat.

Saab has launched a BioPower 9-5 with 180bhp 2.0 from £21,651 and it also runs on unleaded when the greener fuel is unavailable.

The Government says all forecourts must offer 5% biofuel by 2010 or face financial penalties, in accordance with EU legislation.

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