Friday, May 30, 2008

Japanese carmakers set to announce E85 plans.

Bangkok, Thailand -- Japanese automakers in Thailand including Toyota are considering clarifying their plans on E85-compatible vehicles to clear confusion among consumers. Unlike their European counterparts, including Ford and Volvo, no Japanese automaker has announced its plan to import or assemble E85-compatible cars for the Thai market.

The move is in response to the government's announcement that it would make E85 fuel, a mix of 15% gasoline and 85% crop-derived ethanol, available in the third quarter this year, three years ahead of the original schedule.

An auto industry source said the Japanese car firms were worried that consumers might delay their decisions and choose to wait for E85-compatible cars, thereby affecting their vehicle sales.

The government's decision has deeply frustrated the Japanese automakers who noted that the development of vehicles running on alternative fuels called for cautious steps and a long-term plan, otherwise it would take a long time to revive the effort.

Many car companies complained the government's early introduction this year of E20 fuel, one year ahead of schedule, had affected their operating plans.

''We cannot avoid E85 due to runaway fuel prices but a thorough study on E85 is also needed, be it crop supplies for making ethanol or environmental concerns about E85-capable vehicles,'' said the source.

In addition, the Japanese automakers already have their hands tied developing eco-cars, which are expected to be rolled out after 2009, making it difficult for them to develop them in parallel the E85-powered vehicles.

''E85-fuelled vehicles should be put on a long-term plan,'' said the source.

A detailed study on possible effects of E85 fuel on engines is also needed, especially possible damage to engine valves and cylinders.

The Japanese automakers said it would take them at least 18 months to develop vehicles running on E85 after the government made clear the tax structures on both the fuel and the vehicles.

Meanwhile, automakers from western countries including Ford, Volvo and Chevrolet welcomed the government's plan to push the E85 this year. Most of them are ready to import E85-powered vehicles in three months since their flexible-fuel vehicles capable of running on E10 to E85 are already marketed in Brazil and the United States.

But the Japanese car companies, said the source, are unsure whether the E85-powered cars they are building elsewhere could meet the requirement of Euro 4 emission standard in Thailand.

They also have doubts whether the E85 technology in Brazil and the United States could simply be adopted here due to the differences in climate conditions and ethanol quality.

[Source : Bangkok Post 05/30/2008]


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