“Let all cars convert to ethanol”

Everyone should be allowed to convert their cars to run on ethanol. That is the view of an expert at the Swedish National Road Administration.

Olle Hådell told Swedish Radio that he hoped that it would be possible to convert most of the cars on Swedish roads to take the environmentally-friendly fuel. Hådell is currently conducting an investigation into the matter, which he will present to the government later this year.

Converting petrol cars to take ethanol is currently illegal in Sweden, but this could change if Hådell’s proposal is accepted.

A number of carmakers have started selling ethanol-powered cars in Sweden, and there are currently 15,000 such vehicles on Swedish roads, against 4 million cars powered by conventional fuels.

The main potential problem with converting cars is that poor conversions can lead to cars letting out dangerous pollutants. Hådell suggests that only authorised companies should be allowed to carry out the procedure.

“It’s important that this is done in a serious manner,” says Hådell.

“If you look at new cars, they are very clean. Decades of hard work have gone into getting rid of substances in exhaust fumes that are damaging to health. We don’t want to throw this away because of poor conversions.”

With todays high oil prices, using ethanol can save drivers money, but it is not certain that supplies of the fuel will be sufficient in the future to keep prices low. Most ethanol fuel is today produced in Brazil, and fuel produced in Sweden and other European countries tends to be more expensive.

Nonetheless, Swedish service stations are gradually introducing ethanol pumps.

“We are establishing a nationwide network,” Einar Botten, fuel manager at oil company Statoil in Sweden, told The Local.

As well as selling ethanol, Statoil also sells biogas at three petrol stations in Stockholm. But Botten says that it is unlikely that biogas will become available across the country.

“It is too expensive to build the infrastructure to handle the gas,” he said, adding that ethanol has an advantage because it comes in liquid form, and can use much of the same infrastructure as petrol.

It will be the price of ethanol, not its green credentials, that will encourage drivers to convert their cars, argues Botten.

“Only relatively few people are motivated by environmental concerns. To get people to use ethanol, it must be cheaper.”

“The authorities will have to think about how they can use tax to encourage Swedish production of the fuel,” he added.