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 kilometers) 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 8.3 million km, 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 refueling. 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 compared 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.