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GM, DaimlerChrysler Fuel Biodiesel Production

September 23, 2004

Automakers are stepping up research and development of biodiesel as an alternative fuel. Biodiesel is commonly made from soybean, vegetable or rapeseed oil and can be used by vehicles with diesel engines. This is synopsized from a Wired News story from Sept. 23:The consumption of biodiesel in the United States grew from 15 million gallons in 2002 to 25 million gallons in 2003, according to the National Biodiesel Board. Buses and trucks used the overwhelming majority of biodiesel, largely because until recently Volkswagen was the only auto manufacturer selling diesel passenger vehicles in the United States. DaimlerChrysler said this month that it would fill the tanks of all its new Chrysler Jeep Liberty vehicles with biodiesel. DaimlerChrysler will fill the vehicles with B5, which mixes 5 percent biodiesel with diesel fuel. DaimlerChrysler believes that biodiesel could provide up to 20 percent of the fuel for diesel vehicles in Europe, according to prepared statements released Thursday by Herbert Kohler, head of vehicle body and drive systems at the company. Kohler said DaimlerChrysler is helping to create a new biodiesel fuel using biomass, including wood, straw and corn waste. DaimlerChrysler has joined with competitor Volkswagen and fuel developer Choren Industries to produce SunDiesel, which would reduce particulate emissions by 50 percent, according to the companies. The fuel can be used in any diesel engine without modification. DaimlerChrysler released its first diesel vehicle for the U.S. market in six years, the Mercedes-Benz E320 CDI sedan. The company sold out its initial allotment of 3,000 vehicles, and an additional supply of 1,000 vehicles has been purchased, according to DaimlerChrysler spokesman Florian Martens. General Motors will be increasing its support of biodiesel in the near future, according to GM fleet account executive for government, Brad Beauchamp. He said that the warranties for all GM vehicles with diesel engines would be updated to allow for the use of B20 (fuel composed of 20 percent biodiesel mixed with regular diesel) and as soon as a standard is passed. Biodiesel will soon become more available in the Southwest, thanks to a new commercial biodiesel-distribution terminal. Blue Sun Biodiesel will open a blending facility Oct. 14 in Alamosa, Colorado. The new hub will provide up to 180,000 gallons of biodiesel per day, which will be delivered via tanker and railroad cars, according to Blue Sun president and CEO Jeff Probst. While the fuel will primarily be used to fuel government and private fleets of vehicles, Probst hopes that the new distribution center will prompt the opening of more retail biodiesel fuel stations. Probst said there are currently 15 retail biodiesel outlets in Colorado, and a new pump will open in New Mexico in October.
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