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by Mike Zazaian September 20, 2006 - 12:55pm, 2 Comments

Schematic for Fiat's Multipla Multi-Eco Concept

Fiat is rolling out a new line of enviro-friendly cars that allow drivers to switch between an array of two or three different fuel sources.

The Italian automaker will announce at the Paris Auto Show, begining September 30th, that it’s new Panda Panda will feature two separate methane tanks as an additional fuel source for its 52-horsepower engine. Panda Panda, an extension of its Panda lineage, will not mix the two fuels, but instead allow users to select which power source they prefer with the simple flick of a switch.

One of the major benefits of such a system include lower CO2 emissions, emitting only 114g/km while running on methane as opposed to 133g/km on standard gasoline. A substantial increase in the vehicle’s range is also seen, as the Panda Panda will be able to travel an additional 186 miles on a single fill-up if the methane tanks are employed.

The idea of the Panda Panda stemmed from the Fiat’s Multipla Multi-Eco concept, which will also be featured at the Paris show, and takes the multi-fuel idea even further. Like the Panda Panda the Multipla Multi-Eco runs on both methane and gasoline, but adds an additional tank for E85 bioethanol, a mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% regular gasoline. The bioethanol tank would give the car even greater range, fuel efficiency and CO2 neutrality than the methane-only Panda Panda.

Bioethanol is an even better enviro-saver than methane, ultimately producing little or no CO2 because the plants from which it is derived absorb a great deal of CO2 during their growth cycle. And while not entirely practical in the past due to the expense and inefficiency of using corn and sugarcane for production, new methods promise to make ethanol a viable fuel source in the future. One such method, devised by Honda, uses a unique microorganism to break down biomass such as rice straw, thereby creating ethanol from an efficent and renewable source. Honda’s ethanol is already in use in 30,000 vehicles in Brazil.

While the Multipla Multi-Eco seems like the be-all-end-all of enviro-friendly vehicles, there’s currently no word from Fiat as to when or if any will be put into production. Panda Panda models, however, will go on sale in Italy in January of 2007.

[via Autocar]