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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Brazil Took Major Steps To Be Energy Efficient - Who Is Laughing Now?

The old VW Van (still built here new) is a very popular vehicle made in Brazil. It has been upgraded to a water cooled engine and the roof is raised a bit to make more headroom.

Thanks to some very smart planning - Brazil is not suffering many of the financial problems that the rest of the world is having.

Back in the 1970's when the Arabs held the world hostage with the "first" energy crisis -Brazil decided to play to their strength. They have a virtually unlimited supply of sugar cane - so they decided to run their cars on alcohol made from that plant. They make their auto fuel from the same source of their number one drink - Cacha├ža - sugar cane moonshine.

For years - all the cars in Brazil have been engineered to run on ethanol - a mixture of gasoline and alcohol. The cars can run on pure 100% alcohol - or any other combination of gasoline and alcohol. They call it full flex fuel. Presently - the national blend is 25% alcohol and 75% gasoline. When the market changes - they fluctuate the percentages. Presently ethanol costs about 3 Reile a liter - which comes out to about $6.00 a gallon.

There are other benefits of running on alcohol - like less pollution - less engine maintenance. Also - your mileage may vary. But the biggest benefit is that they are not at the mercy of the oil barons.

When you pull into a filling station here - you are not allowed to pump your own fuel. You can have a choice of pure alcohol - ethanol in the standard 75/25 blend - diesel fuel - and also natural gas. Yes - that is the kind we use in our back yard grills.

We hired a guide on Saturday to show us the sites and give us a little local flavor of Rio. He drove a small Chevy - made in Brazil. He had two tanks in it - one for ethanol - and one for LNG - liquefied natural gas. He starts the car up on ethanol - then flips a switch to run on natural gas. Mainly - he does this because LNG is 40% cheaper. So his car is sort of a hybrid - that runs on two different fuels. Also - LNG is a much cleaner burning fuel - you can even run the engine indoors - like with a forklift.

The guide took us to the filling station and we filled up with LNG. He had a large gas bottle behind the back seat. In America - you are not allowed to have LNG containers in an enclosed space. But here - it is normal - and our driver said they do not have gas explosions.

Ironically - after all of these conservation decisions - Brazil has discovered giant reserves of oil and gas off their coast. In the next few years - they will turn into major petroleum exporter. No wonder the depression isn't affecting this booming nation.

This VW can run on gasoline - alcohol - or any mixture of the two.

The guys in the red are filling station attendants. You are not allowed to fill your car. they also check the oil - the tires - and clean the windows.

This car is filling with LNG - Liquefied natural gas.

This tank holds several gallons of LNG. The conversion costs about $1300. But the owner gets back about $700 off his property taxes for using it - each year. He also pockets the 40% less the fuel costs per gallon.

Another car filling up with natural gas. Natural gas is the cleanest burning fuel except for hydrogen.

You can buy ethanol (75/25 blend) - pure alcohol- natural gas - diesel fuel.

Volkswagen manufactures cars and truck right in Brazil - like this wrecker truck. It was fun seeing VW tractor trailers.

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