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Holden seeks US rules for flex-fuel test

Cold shoulder: Holden is appealing to Canberra to waive the cold-start requirement for vehicles running on E85.

Canberra to talk on emissions test rules that threaten to leave E85 out in the cold

14 Jun 2011

GM HOLDEN will ask the Australian government to adopt the American cold-start emissions testing regime for E85 ethanol-powered vehicles instead of the more stringent European test under new Euro 5/6 rules that threaten to upset its plans for the renewable fuel.

The government left the door open for negotiation on the issue when federal transport minister Anthony Albanese announced the timeline for the introduction of the strict new anti-pollution regulations at the weekend.

A footnote on the minister’s announcement said details of low-temperature testing requirements for “flex-fuel vehicles” – those that can run on E85, petrol or a blend of both – under Euro 5 and 6 would be determined by December 31 this year.

In the interim, E85-compatible vehicles – such as Holden’s Commodore and Saab’s range – need only be tested on petrol under a watered-down “core Euro 5” regulation to start in 2013.

The problem for the car companies is that while ethanol can help to reduce CO2 emissions, being sourced from renewable feed stocks including household rubbish, it struggles with cold starts that, under Euro 5/6, must be done at minus seven degrees Celsius.

 center imageFrom top: Commodore Sportwagon E85 ethanol, Coskata process, Caltex service station.

The 15 per cent petrol content in E85 helps overcome starting problems, but according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – which is responsible for all US vehicle emissions tests under the Clean Air Act – some emissions such as hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides (NOx), acetaldehyde and ethanol can be expected to increase when compared with petrol, while others such as carbon monoxide (CO) and benzene can decrease.

The US rules give ethanol-compatible cars some leeway in the cold test to encourage the adoption of the fuel across North America.

In Australia, Holden would like the same dispensation for its flex-fuel cars, in which it has invested heavily, not only engineering its locally made V6 for the fuel but also entering into a joint venture with Caltex and other partners to build plants to brew ethanol from waste using patented Coskata technology, starting in Melbourne.

While the US government is encouraging the take-up of ethanol, the European Community is less enthusiastic, apparently because of the argument that crops needed for food can be diverted into fuel.

GM Holden director external affairs Emily Perry confirmed to GoAuto that Holden was planning to negotiate with the Australian government to finalise the issue.

“We have got until the 31st of December this year to work through that with the government and agree on the cold-start test,” she said.

“The US and Europe have different cold test cycles so we will be working with the government before the end of the year to resolve that.”

Asked if Holden favoured the US test regime for E85, she said: “Absolutely.”

Around the world, fuels such as diesel are given special consideration, within the limits of automotive technology to eliminate emissions.

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