PHOENIX, Arizona---Parked side by side, 20 new silver gray sedans gleamed in the bright Phoenix sun while journalists from all over the US and Sweden were briefed on what Volvo calls the car of the future--its newest line of bi-fuel cars, the S70 and V70. The bi-fuels have two fuel tanks, one for gasoline and one for compressed natural gas (CNG)--which produces far lower levels of pollution and "greenhouse gases" such as carbon dioxide.
The crucial test for the bi-fuel cars came when the journalists were invited to test drive the cars from Phoenix to Biosphere 2 and back, a distance of 250 miles. The drive was the ultimate in comfort on highways that winded around the spectacular landscape of the Arizona desert with its ravines, red rocks and tall cacti. Somewhere along the way, without attracting any notice, the natural gas fuel gauge went to empty and the gasoline supply kicked in. There was no noticeable difference in the car's performance when fueled by the natural gas, and quite a few of the test drivers felt that if saving the environment could be achieved in such luxury, it was definitely worth it.
These cars are not for sale in the US and only about 300 have been sold so far in Sweden, Australia, Japan, Norway, the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Germany. But Volvo, already known for producing one of the safest cars in the world, is now ready to spread the word that it also produces one of the cleanest cars on the market. This applies not only to the car's exhaust emissions but to the production process and recycling of parts at the end of each car's useful life.
"Care for the environment is inherent in the Volvo corporate psyche because of its Scandinavian background," said Jeannine Fallon, Volvo's manager of media relations.
There is nothing new about using CNG as a vehicle fuel; CNG-powered vehicles have been in use since the beginning of this century. At present there are more than one million such vehicles in more than 40 countries. But with the increasing focus on environmental problems in cities, there is a growing interest in the latest generation of environmentally optimized vehicles, which combine CNG and state of-the-art catalytic converter technology.
CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE -->Written by: Ashali Varma
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