Some manufacturers installed in Brazil bet that a combination of ethanol and electrification is the best solution for reduce CO2 emissions, especially cars. A Stellantis (a forum created in January 2021 from the merger of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles and PSA Peugeot Citroën) is currently the main advocate of the cause.
The company’s recent study revealed that an ethanol fueled car in Brazil emits 25.79 kg of CO2 after traveling 240.49 km, while a 100% electric car in Europe emits 30.41 kg – based on the concept of ‘good from the wheel’ , which emissions are also counted in the car manufacturing process, and not just what comes out of the exhaust.
“Of the current fleet of about 42 million cars, about 10 million use ethanol. So, if ethanol has almost the same production rate as a battery car, it means that we currently have the equivalent of 10 million electric cars in use in Brazil. Which country in the world has this fleet of trams? China has 6 million”, says João Irineu, Product Compliance Director at Stellantis for South America.
According to AEA (Brazilian Association of Automotive Engineering), Brazil’s energy matrix has 80% renewable energy, while in the rest of the world this rate is 27%. The ethanol car is the second most popular 100% electric car in Brazil.
Since the introduction of variable-fuel vehicles in 2003, the use of ethanol has prevented the emission of more than 620 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, according to calculations by Unica (Union of the Sugarcane and Bioenergy Industry).
The most available will be the hybrid type BSG (Belt Starter Generator), where the belt that connects the engine to the alternator feeds the 48V battery. In practice, the system comes into action to save the engine’s effort, such as overclocking, for example. There is no driving in electric mode in this case. On the other hand, its smaller batteries cost less. “The economy here will be 10% to 20%”, calculates Irineu.
Standard hybrid (HEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) are also available. In this case, a more powerful electric motor supported by a larger (and more expensive) battery is connected to the wheels – the first is self-charging, but has less freedom; the second can be recharged, increasing the range and driving experience only with power.
According to Marcio Tonani, Senior Vice President of the Technical Engineering Centers of South America, the three sets – BSG, HEV and PHEV – will be able to be connected to the most modern platforms of Stellantis in Brazil: MLA, the basis of the Fiat Pulse models. and Fiat Fastback; CMP, in which the Citroën C3 and Peugeot 208 models are installed; and Small Wide, birthplace of the Fiat Toro, Jeep Renegade, Jeep Compass and Jeep Commander.
“Our whole space can be ethanol only. Ethanol is a jewel, which we, as Brazilians, use very little. We cannot spread solutions. What is good for Europe does not mean that it is good for Brazil right now”, Tonani assesses. “Ethanol is a country project “, adds Irineu.
It won’t be a cheap solution anytime soon. “Our forecast is to start production next year. The technology will be available for all Stellantis brands. The definition of the brands and models that will use it will be based on the market strategies that we will define later”, explains Antonio Filosa, Stellantis President for Latin America.
However, the company guarantees that the rookie will be a modest car.
In the wake would come the Fastback, placed on the same foundation.
The government also bets on flex hybrid
A hybrid flex car has never appeared in Brazil – Toyota has been selling the Corolla Hybrid sedan here, with a flex 2.0 engine plus an electric one, since 2019. However, the technology is imported and installed on the car only in Brazil.
In April, the Japanese automaker announced its adoption of the ProVeículo Verde Program, which encourages projects to produce environmentally friendly vehicles by offering accumulated ICMS credits.
There is also support at the federal level: during the official inauguration of the Great Wall Motor (GWM) plant, in Iracemápolis (SP), in April, the Vice President of the Republic Geraldo Alckmin announced that the flex-fuel hybrid is one of the main assets of the country towards decarbonization.
“You’re going to mix ethanol, which is a clean, green, renewable energy; by electricity. In a continental country like Brazil, it is a good alternative that preserves the environment”, assessed the Minister of Development, Industry, Trade and Services. At that time, the Chinese brand confirmed that one of its future launches, the Poer image, will be a hybrid with variable oil.
“The speed of development of new technologies and solutions will be proportional to the forecast that the authorities expect from their decisions. Development is the result of investment guided by strategy. This is why the reform of Rota 2030 is very important for us”, adds Filosa.
The French confirmed the project, but did not want to share the information until the report was closed.
General Motors, on the other hand, is against the fuel-flex hybrid. It will offer as a decarbonisation solution in Brazil the electric Bolt – which has already been ordered at its end in the North American market, where it is produced.