Japanese car companies may have the hybrid technology lead in the U.S. auto market, but American car manufacturers are looking for their own ways to make their vehicles more environmentally friendly. Biodiesel may be an increasingly important part of that effort.Auburn Hills, Michigan – September 10, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] The Chrysler Group, announced that starting in late 2004, each new 2005 Jeep Liberty Common Rail Diesel (CRD) sport-utility vehicle rolling off the assembly line and factory floor will be fueled up with a five percent biodiesel blend. Biodiesel fuel is produced from vegetable oil, in this case soybeans grown in Ohio, the home state of the Jeep Liberty plant in Toledo. The first of the Liberty diesels will be produced in November. “This is an important first step in encouraging wider use of these clean, renewable, environmentally-friendly fuels in the United States,” said Dieter Zetsche, Chrysler Group President and CEO. The company said the Jeep Liberty diesel will be the first diesel-powered mid-size SUV to be offered in the United States. Yes, it’s still a SUV — inherently less fuel-efficient than typical cars, especially smaller hybrids — but consumer demand has pushed manufacturers to find ways to add fuel-efficient technologies on larger vehicles since those have such strong market demand. Among the manufacturers, both Ford and Lexus will offer their own hybrid SUV in 2005. In addition to a reduction in fuel consumption, diesel engines also reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 20 percent compared with gasoline engines, Zetsche noted. “With biodiesel, we can increase these benefits even further. And because biodiesel is made from renewable resources, we further reduce our dependence on petroleum for our transportation needs,” Zetsche said. Biodiesel fuel reduces emissions of particulate matter, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide. In addition, the biodiesel portion of the fuel is virtually carbon dioxide neutral; that is, the amount of carbon dioxide released when the fuel is burned is matched by the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by soy plants during growth. Dodge Ram diesel pickup trucks have run successfully on B20 (20 percent biodiesel) in fleets required to use alternative fuels by the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT). However, there are currently no standards to guarantee consistent quality of B20 fuels. Thus, DaimlerChrysler currently recommends its diesel vehicles be run on a biodiesel blend of maximum 5 percent (B5). Of course, that first tank of biodiesel in the Jeep Liberty Diesels represents more of a statement than a long-term commitment, as it will be up to the new vehicle owners to continue using biodiesel on their own if they choose to. The company is working with the biodiesel industry, petroleum industry, government, and standard-setting organizations to establish standards for biodiesel. Conventional diesel fuel is currently available in about one-third of all filling stations in the United States. Biodiesel blends of up to five percent concentration (B5) are available in public fueling stations at certain locations across the country, particularly in areas with substantial soybean farming. B5 fuels are already widely used in Chrysler Group diesel engine vehicles in Europe where the parent company DaimlerChrysler has gained considerable experience with the fuels. Demand for biodiesel may not just be fueled by consumer demand at the pump either. Next year, two percent biodiesel (B2) will be required for all diesel fuel in Minnesota. Missouri and Delaware are considering similar mandates.