The biethanol-powered Ford Focus Flexi-Fuel Vehicles (FFV) will be trialled by Somerset County Council, Wessex Grain, Avon and Somerset Police and Wessex Grain and Wessex Water – all members of the Somerset Biofuel Project.
By March 2006, 40 Focus FFVs will be in use. They will be refuelled at five stations in Somerset offering the fuel produced from wheat.
Ford is hoping the Somerset pilot will stimulate wider interest in the FFV and bioethanol. Already other rural economies have expressed an interest in setting up a bioethanol infrastructure – using local crops such as sugar beet to produce the fuel.
Paul Thomas, Ford of Britain managing director said: "As number one in the car and commercial vehicle markets, Ford is expected to lead in the alternative fuel market also. Our customers should not be making any compromise for green motoring. With the Flexi-Fuel Ford Focus we are offering the performance and handling of the UK's favourite car with the option of filling up with bioethanol as the fuel becomes more available. We believe this will happen as more and more vehicle fleets – and eventually private buyers – come to see the benefits of this renewable fuel."
In Sweden, where 80% of Focus models sold are FFVs, bioethanol costs more than 40% less than petrol. The Somerset project draws on the Swedes' experience of establishing regional bioethanol distribution networks and the introduction of flex fuel cars.
In Somerset, Wessex Grain is planning a new bioethanol production plant next to an existing grain storage site in Henstridge. The facility will be able to convert 340,000 tonnes of wheat into 131,000,000 litres of ethanol a year at full capacity from 2007. In the meantime bioethanol powering the Focus FFVs arriving next year will be supplied by Wessex Grain from crops grown locally and processed elsewhere.
The 1.8-litre Focus FFV – priced at £14,095 - offers an overall 70% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions compared to the same petrol-only model. This is achieved by factoring in the CO2 absorbed by the crop when grown prior to harvest for bioethanol production.