Who could have imagined just a few years ago that a Panda would travel on fuel made using sewage sludge? Even the screenwriters of "Back to the Future" did not dare as much, yet it is a more practical reality than electricity or hydrogen. The viability of this fuel will be demonstrated in the extended test (which will last several months and cover 80 thousand kilometres) which started today in Turin, at the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Mirafiori Motor Village, where a Fiat Panda Natural Power was handed over to the CAP Group, the Utility Company that manages water works, sewage and treatment facilities in the Metropolitan City of Milan. During the test, a number of in-depth investigations will be performed by the engineers of CRF (the FCA Research Centre) to study the effects of the biomethane made by the CAP Group. The goal of this experiment is to explore various biomethane sources.
The keys of the Panda were handed over by Elisa Boscherini, FCA Institutional Relations Manager for the EMEA Region, to CAP Group Chairman, Alessandro Russo.
The Panda Natural Power is fitted with a 0.9 cm3 two-cylinder TwinAir engine capable of delivering 80 HP when running on natural gas. This version, which was introduced one year after the launch of the model in 2006, is the best-selling natural gas powered car in Europe and a few weeks ago reached the important production milestone of 300 thousand units.
The car handed over today will be powered by biomethane made from sewage sludge, produced in the Niguarda-Bresso facility where the CAP Group is turning their purifiers into bio-refineries capable of producing wealth from waste water. Studies conducted by the CAP Group - which is planning on opening the first locally produced biomethane fuel station in the Milan area shortly - estimate that the Bresso facility alone could produce nearly 342,000kg of biomethane, enough to power 416 vehicles for over 20,000km a year, that is a total of over 8.3millionkm, equivalent to over two hundred times the circumference of the Earth.
The extended test of the Panda will be accompanied by the #BioMetaNow hashtag, allowing people to follow the project and its developments on social media.
Biomethane has the same features as methane gas but is made from renewable or zero impact sources. It represents a valid solution for future mobility with the advantage of being ready today. It allows motorists to save up to 56 percent compared to petrol and up to 30 percent compared to diesel on refuelling. In all cases, the ecological aspect prevails over economic concerns. Methane is already the cleanest fuel available today. It is a practical alternative to petrol and diesel with minimum harmful emissions: lower levels of particulates (nearly zero), nitrogen oxide and reactive hydrocarbons which can form other pollutants.
These qualities are improved even further by biomethane, particularly in the well-to-wheel calculation. For instance, a Fiat Panda running on methane has 31 percent lower emissions comparted to the petrol model ,and this value increases to 57 percent when mixing 40 percent of biomethane with natural gas. In other words, the reduction of pollutants is equal to that which can be achieved by an electric car recharged with the current European energy mix. The reduction of CO2 emissions may reach up to 97 percent by powering the Fiat Panda entirely with 100 percent biomethane extracted from sewage sludge, matching the emissions of an electrical car recharged with electricity from renewable sources, such as wind-generation.
What is biomethane
Biomethane is a biofuel obtained from waste water and, in this case, by biomass waste from farms (which is renewed over time and during its lifecycle has incorporated carbon which is already present in the atmosphere) and the organic fraction of the solid urban waste deriving from sorted waste collection . FCA and the CAP Group support biomethane particularly for its potential in emission abatement. The BioMetaNow project aims at promoting biomethane and demonstrating its value, sustainability and real world useage.
It is a further contribution to overturn the regulations which today in Italy still prevents the introduction of biomethane into the refuelling network. Furthermore, it may also help in fighting climate changes, reducing atmospheric pollution, and in the major waste management challenge. It offers interesting possibilities for the new Italian energy system and in the European Circular Economy.
The advantages of biomethane of biological origin are numerous and real; firstly, it is a renewable fuel and as such it is virtually inexhaustible. It ensures particularly low emissions of polluting substances and greenhouse gasses. Furthermore, its well-to-wheel environmental impact is equal to that of electric cars. No changes are needed for cars which are currently methane-fuelled and the national distribution network is ready and expanding. It reduces dependence on oil, creates employment along the national supply chain, contributes to the economic sustainability of agriculture and animal farming, efficiently reuses waste and, if made from sewage sludge, allows the reduction of the local waste tax.
Turin, 14 March 2017
FCA - Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) is the eighth large auto maker in the world. The Group designs, develops, manufactures and sells cars, commercial vehicles, components and manufacturing systems worldwide. It operates on the automotive market with the brands Abarth, Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Fiat Professional, Jeep, Lancia, Ram and Maserati, in addition to SRT (racing division dedicated to high-performance cars) and Mopar, the brand for aftermarket services and spare parts. Businesses also include Comau (manufacturing systems), Magneti Marelli (components) and Teksid (iron and castings). FCA also supplies financing, leasing and rental services to support the automotive business by means of subsidiaries, joint ventures and agreements with specialised finance operators. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles operates through companies located in 40 countries worldwide and entertains commercial relationships with customers in over 140 countries. FCA is listed on the New York Stock Exchange ("FCAU") and the Milan Stock Exchange ("FCA").
CAP Group - CAP is the entire public-own company that manages the Integrated Water Service in the Metropolitan City of Milan and in various towns in the provinces in Monza-Brianza, Pavia, Varese and Como applying an in-house providing method to guarantee public control of partner organisations while respecting principles of transparency, responsibility and participation. For its size, its assets amounting to nearly 800 million Euro and its over one billion Euro of invested capital, the CAP Group is one of the most important monoutility companies in Italy and guarantees Integrated Water Services to one two million and a half people. It received the Top Utility award as best Italian Utility Company in 2017.