Queen goes green as her £10million Bentleys are converted to run on biofuel By Ray Massey
Last updated at 3:09 PM on 30th December 2008
The Queen is to set to 'go green' by having her two gas-guzzling state Bentleys converted to run on biofuels. This is part of a move by the British luxury car-maker to become more environmentally friendly - and a new biofuel-burning high-performance car is expected in the New Year.
The Volkswagen-owned, Crewe-based company is to produce a new range of engines which will offer a 40 per cent improvement in fuel economy by 2012, with all new vehicles able to run on the plant-derived fuel. But the 'flex-fuel' system, as it's called, will also allow the vehicles to run on conventional petrol.
Bentley executives said the Royal Family had been extremely supportive of moves to go green and it would be relatively simple to replace the engines of the two state limousines that they presented to the Queen and continue to maintain.
Green machine: The Queen stands alongside one of her two Bentley state limousines which are to be converted to run on biofuelPrince Charles has already converted one of his Aston Martins to run on bio-ethanol made from surplus English wine. His other cars - Jaguars, an Audi and a Range Rover - have been converted to use old cooking fat.
Stuart McCullough, Bentley board member for sales and marketing, said the company's own customer base included highly placed opinion-formers: 'We have the ear of some very influential people at a level lobbyists can't reach - not just in this country but abroad.'
The Queen's two state limousines are worth about £10million each. The first was a gift from the manufacturer for her Golden Jubilee in 2002.
She was so taken with it that she persuaded the company to revamp a mothballed prototype so she could have two - ensuring there was always one on hand when she was travelling from one end of the country to the other. The second car was bought from the company. Powered by a 400bhp twin-turbo 6.75litre V8 engine, it manages between 20mph and 25mpg.
A Bentley executive said: 'We have a lot of support from the Royal Family for our biofuel strategy. It is something about which they all take a keen interest.'
Bringing a new meaning to the term 'British Racing Green', the company's biofuel report says: 'Bentley will introduce a new powertrain offering a 40 per cent fuel economy improvement by 2012. Also, by 2012, 100 per cent of the range will be compatible with renewable fuels, delivering significant savings in CO2 emissions.'
BIOFUEL FACTSMinisters were initially in favour of biofuels, but their opinions have changed after claims that food-producing land is being turned over to making fuel for cars.
However, new second-generation biofuels get around this by being produced from rubbish, including household waste.
Biofuels are alcohols created from plants and can be derived from a range of vegetation including crops such as sugar cane, sugar beet and oil seed rape, or from forest clippings.
They do release carbon dioxide - the so-called greenhouse gas blamed for global warming - but this is balanced by the CO2 absorbed by the plants when growing.
But environmental campaigners, who once backed biofuels, have recently attacked the strategy, arguing that vast tracts of land used to grow food have been diverted to fuel plants, causing food prices to soar and creating global food shortages. Using household waste gets around this problem.
Oil is itself a carbon-based organic fuel, formed from crushed animals and vegetation over millions of years.
With little adaptation, cars can also run on alcohol or ethanol from sugar-beet or wood chip, and even vegetable oil.
- Bentley has had to curtail production and go on shorttime working as the recession has hit global sales. A spokesman said: 'We have to cut production. If the demand is not there, we have no choice.' He said that across the UK motor industry job cuts were 'inevitable', but would have to be dealt with 'sensitively', adding: 'This whole recession is about the credit crunch. Someone turned off the oxygen.'
Boeing 747 partly run on veggie oil completes test flight
By RAY LILLEY Associated Press
Dec. 30, 2008, 3:35AM
Paul Esrcourt NZ HeraldTest pilot, Capt. Keith Pattie, carries out pre-flight checks before their test of a biofuel mixture in the left engine of Boeing 747 in Auckland, New Zealand, today.
One engine of a Boeing 747-400 airplane was powered by a 50-50 blend of oil from jatropha plants and standard A1 jet fuel.
This year has seen an unprecedented push for alternative fuels by airlines, which were slammed by skyrocketing oil prices earlier in 2008 and are now bracing for a falloff in air travel in the face of a global economic slowdown.
While Air New Zealand couldn't say whether the blend would be cheaper than standard jet fuel since jatropha is not yet produced on a commercial scale, the company expects the blend to be "cost competitive," according to company spokeswoman Tracy Mills.
Biofuels were once regarded as impractical for aviation because most freeze at the low temperatures encountered at cruising altitudes. But tests show jatropha, whose seeds yield an oil already used to produce fuels like biodiesel, has an even lower freezing point than jet fuel.
Air New Zealand Chief Executive Rob Fyfe called the flight "a milestone for the airline and commercial aviation."
"Today we stand at the earliest stages of sustainable fuel development and an important moment in aviation history," he said shortly after the flight. The company's goal is to become the world's most environmentally sustainable airline.
The flight was the first to use jatropha as part of a biofuel mix.
In February, Boeing and Virgin Atlantic carried out a similar test flight that included a biofuel mixture of palm and coconut oil — but was dismissed as a publicity stunt by environmentalists who said the fuel could not be produced in the quantities needed for commercial aviation use.
Biofuels emit as much carbon as kerosene-based jet fuel, but jatropha — a Mexican plant that grows in warm climates — absorbs about half the carbon that jatropha-based fuels release. Air New Zealand's proposed blend, for example, would mean a one-quarter reduction in the carbon footprint of standard jet fuel.
Many biofuels — like ethanol which is produced from corn — have been blamed for raising the price of food by diverting it from kitchen tables to engines. While the link between biofuels and grain prices is debatable, Mills said that jatophra plants would not compete with food or other commercial crops since it can grow on land that would make poor farmland and needs little water.
"Ethanol is a first generation biofuel; jatophra a second generation biofuel that doesn't compete for land with food production," Mills said.
The test flight out of Auckland International Airport included a full-power takeoff and cruising to 35,000 feet (10,600 meters), where the crew manually set all four engine controls to check for identical performance readings among the biofuel-powered engine and those using jet fuel. Pilots also switched off the fuel pump for the biofuel engine at 25,000 feet (7,600 meters) "to test the lubricity of the fuel," ensuring its friction in the pipe did not slow its flow to the engine.
Capt. David Morgan, the airline's chief pilot who was on board the airplane, said results from the flight tests will provide the company and its partners with invaluable data to help jatropha become a certified aviation fuel.
The checks were "designed to test the biofuel to the fullest extent," Morgan said.
While the airline heralded the flight as successful, Air New Zealand Group Manager Ed Sims cautioned that it will be at least 2013 before the company can ensure easy access to the large quantities of jatropha it would need to use the biofuel on all of its flights.
"Clearly we are a long, long way from being able to source commercially quantifiable amounts of the fuel and then be able to move that amount of fuel around the world to be able to power the world's airlines is still some years off," Sims told New Zealand's National Radio.
The company bought the seeds from plantations in East Africa and India that total 309,000 acres (125,000 hectares).
The company hopes that by 2013, 10 percent of its flights will be powered, at least in part, by biofuels, Mills said. Most of those using the blend would be short haul domestic services.
The flight was a joint venture by Air New Zealand, airplane maker Boeing, engine maker Rolls Royce and biofuel specialist, UOP Llc, a unit of Honeywell International.
The flight, initially scheduled for earlier this month, was postponed after an Air New Zealand A320 Airbus crashed off Perpignan on the south coast of France on Nov. 27, killing all seven on board.
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