Bentley’s Biofuel Bargain

Leaving no doubt that the green car movement is reaching into the furthest recesses of the automobile industry, Bentley Motors—the British-based ultra-luxury brand—has adopted a pro-biofuels policy. The carmaker, owned by Volkswagen, produces some of the world’s most expensive automobiles, but that doesn’t exempt the company from moving in an eco-friendly direction.

According to “Bentley and the Future of Biofuels,” a white paper issued by Bentley in December 2008, “engineering work is already underway and is on target to deliver
flexfuel vehicles across our fleet, with the first variant available in 2009.” The company is committed to producing “a full range bioethanol compatible vehicles before 2012.”

Bentley currently holds the dubious distinction of producing the least efficient vehicle in three different segments:

  • The 12-cylinder 6.0-liter Bentley Continental GTC is EPA’s lowest rated subcompact with 10 mpg in the city and 17 on the highway.
  • The 12-cylinder 6.7-liter Bentley Azure, rated at 9 mpg city and 15 mpg highway, is the least efficient compact car.
  • The biggest gas-guzzler in EPA’s large car segment, the 8-cylinder 6.7-liter Bentley Arnage RL is also rated 9 mpg in the city and 15 mpg on the highway.

Bentley’s efficiency levels and environmental efforts are not going to make a significant impact on the world’s energy crisis one way or the other. Bentley and other manufacturers of luxury cars don’t produce many vehicles. Nonetheless, Bentley is under pressure to take steps toward greener motoring—or face an anti-environment stigma. “It’s about corporate responsibility,” Brian Gush, Bentley’s chief engineer and head of powertrain, told “This is something we must do. Our buyers demand it. The industry demands it. And it’s the right thing.”

And, of course, governments demand it. Laws around the world, especially in Europe and the US are imposing stricter standards on emissions. Many of these new directives will intensify in the next three years. Carmakers that don’t meet minimum levels of fuel economy are charged fines—which are usually passed on to consumers in the form of higher sticker prices.

Bentley considered many alternative auto technologies—including hybrids, pure electric, hydrogen, and diesel—before deciding on biofuels. “We wanted to meet the needs of both sides of the Atlantic,” Gush explained. “The US is more keyed–in on reducing its oil dependency, while Europe is more aimed at reducing CO2 emissions. Biofuels address both of these concerns in the most comprehensive way, we believe.” Most auto companies have turned away from biofuels and are looking to various forms of electrification as a primary green strategy.

Bentley built its biofuel strategy with a British government study, known as the Gallagher report, as its cornerstone. The report concludes that there is a future for a sustainable biofuel industry and asserts that biofuels can be produced in a method that is both ethically and ecologically sound. Although the biofuel industry has faced mounting criticism, the Gallagher report suggests that biofuel production causes less disruption to the world’s food chain than fluctuating oil prices.

With its biofuels initiative, Bentley promises to cut CO2 emissions by at least 15 percent across the entire vehicle line by 2012, as well as offer a new powertrain that improves fuel economy by 40 percent. “Without any detriment to performance,” said Gush. Ironically, adapting vehicles to allow an 85-percent blend of ethanol is also one of the least expensive measures that the luxury carmaker can take to reduce the use of petroleum and carbon emissions. Unfortunately, E85 ethanol is not widely available to US consumers.

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  • Giant Sucking Noise

    9 to 15 mpg… I’d be curious what is the range of this vehicle. The car sure will get a smooth ride when carrying all that fuel. At that mileage, I think this car should belong in a museum!

    As far as relying on bio fuel goes, the thought of people going hungry because of bio fuel demand is unsettling.

  • Ross Nicholson

    Bentley is one of the finest names in the entire world. Anything those wizards want to do, they can do. Bentley could make velomobiles if they wanted and the entire world would desire them.

  • PatrickPunch

    9, 10 or 15 mpg is wasting energy. Biofuel or any other fuel.

  • Lost Prius to wife

    Hand crafted wood and leather, 286 to 313 miles per tank (23.8 US gallons) of 95 octane, 600 hp engine, 0 to 60 in 4.5 seconds, and top speed 200 mph. And biofuel reduces CO2 by 15% for those “requirements”. The top speed of 200 mph (Autobahn speeds) and reduction of CO2 by 15% means this car is really only destined for sale in Europe. Or the very rich in the US.

  • Samie

    Alert: Green washing comment:
    Brian Gush said “The US is more keyed–in on reducing its oil dependency, while Europe is more aimed at reducing CO2 emissions. Biofuels address both of these concerns in the most comprehensive way, we believe.”

    Hello what planet is he from? How dumb does he think people are? Most should put this together but lets remind ourselves that any transferable energy source that can be imported will change the way we think of a domestic source of energy, meaning that like it or not biofuel, cng or ethanol will be imported into the U.S due to cheaper supply hitting the market. How does that give us optimism for energy independence? As for CO2 with biofuels that’s not always easy to understand if one does not consider total energy in production, and transportation along with CO2 output of a vehicle.

    When Bentley Motors says its going with biofuels, at this time shows no real mass production capabilities or great innovation but only showing a quick get rich scheme by a few special interests. Its sad that Bentley has turned its back against technologies that show greater potential. You would think that some of the greatest luxury brands out there would show a bit more responsibility and innovation instead of nonsense like a V8 or 12-cylinder 6.7-liter vehicle.

  • qqRockyBeans

    9 mpg is for GASOLINE
    With E85, fuel economy drops about 30%

    So let’s say that your BioBentley gets 6 mpg on E85
    That’s really 40 miles per gallon of GASOLINE
    Still not great, though, considering a FFV Chrysler minivan:

    taken from EPA website 2009 Town and Country, combined mpg
    19 mpg on gasoline
    13 mpg on E85

    The 13 mpg on E85 is 87 miles per gallon of gasoline
    If small cars were available as FFV’s:
    Take a small car that gets 30 mpg combined, on petrol
    Say it gets only 20 mpg on E85
    That is still 133 miles per gallon of gasoline!

    Hybrids could probably do even better
    E85 isn’t THE solution
    It’s A solution, or rather, PART OF the solution

    There isn’t only one answer to the energy problem!!

    can all coexist!

    No, the Flex-Fuel Bentley isn’t the greatest, most environmentally-friendly car available, but it IS a (small) step in the right direction

  • Samie

    No its not possible for all these things to coexist and compete with petroleum on a mass scale. Think about it in terms of production economies of scale along with the great rate of combustion, petroleum has over other inferior fuels. Nor is it possible to accurately subsidize all these fuels and technologies to dev. over 10-20 yr. period as resources are limited. I argue that everything is good philosophy slows down the rate of actual progress in moving towards non fuel sources and eventually renewable sources. The idea that everything is good only bogs us down with short-term ideas with special interest groups that don’t go away. You won’t look at imports that is the globe problems that evolve over fuels or starvation due to competition for land resources. Where does independence to produce your own energy like solar to power your car play into your reasoning or do we forever bend over and complaining about the Exon’s of the world as they shift to something like CNG? Hybrids can bridge the gap to EV’s and eventually hydrogen or water vapor sources to power cars either a internal or external renewable energy to power tomorrows vehicles. Lets think long-term instead of getting caught up in short-term scams.

  • mpower830

    Here’s a thought; why not make the thing weigh less than 3 tons? Instant fuel savings. That’s really the biggest part of the battle, we’ve got all of these high tech engines that really are pretty efficient, but they’re stuck lugging around 5 and 6 thousand pounds! Throw whatever kind of eco-wizardry you want on the thing, something that heavy ain’t gonna be efficient. This is basic physics.

    I would be very supportive if someone, the DOT, the President, whoever, came out and mandated that by 2020, no passenger vehicle sold in the United States can weigh more than 4,500 pounds. Plenty of time to re-engineer, get on with it. You would see a huge savings in the amount of fuel this country uses and the green people would be happy because we would be killing less polar bears. I really wish someone would get ballsy and advocate some regulations that would actually make a difference.

  • Shines

    qqRockyBeans what good is 40 miles per gallon of gasoline if at the same time you must burn more than 5 gallons of ethanol?!? You are still burning a lot of fuel. It may be true that you are burning less foreign oil by using ethanol but it is far different story than say a hybrid Ford Fusion getting 40 miles per gallon of gasoline without burning any ethanol. I’m not a fan of using valuable cropland to produce vehicle fuels. Bio fuels are best created from waste or as a byproduct of food processing, not a replacement of it.

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