Fiat geared up to reduce pollution on Italy’s roads
28 June 2002 – Turin - Car-maker Fiat has teamed up with the Italian Ministry for the Environment and the country's oil industry association Unione Petrolfera in a new drive to promote low-emission methane-powered vehicles and reduce air pollution in Italy's cities.
Until now, a vicious circle has made progress difficult: Drivers only buy a new car if the right fuel is available. And energy companies provide fuel for existing vehicles that need refueling. The alliance provides the technology and infrastructure vital to the development of this new market.
Poor air quality in Italy's urban areas is said to be causing chronic respiratory problems and increasing the risk of lung cancer. Authorities in several large cities have even had to ban cars completely on weekends and restrict their use during the week.
Fiat is expanding its range of efficient methane-powered cars, trucks and buses for the scheme which aims to put 300,000 of the environmentally friendly vehicles on the roads by 2005.
Meanwhile, Unione Petroifera is helping develop a new distribution network for the fuel, with 10 new methane filling stations planned for Turin this year.
"We stimulated the government and Unione Petrolfera into taking action, to increase methane distribution and make it possible for people in our country to buy these cars," said Ignazio Scola, who manages Environment and Ecology External Relations and Communications for the Fiat Group.
Fiat's participation in the voluntary agreement follows 10 years of environmental partnerships with the government, including a three-year old contract to supply methane-powered buses to a number of Italian municipalities including Turin which received 150.
Fiat expects to invest more than 280 million euros in the new programme.
"We believe that methane is a very environmentally friendly fuel," said Mr Scola. "Vehicles running on methane produce 30% less CO2 than conventional fuels. Sulphur dioxide emissions are zero, and nitric oxides are 40 to 50% less."
Fiat's other zero or low-emission innovations include vehicles powered by electric or hybrid drive systems, and the company is now developing an experimental 12-meter long bus to run on hydrogen fuel cells.
According to Fiat's Raffaello Porro, the alternative fuel initiative is just a part of Fiat's broader commitment to sustainable development worldwide. "A management system is in place, designed to reduce environmental impact of every project. We assess the potential environmental impact through the whole life cycle of every new vehicle, from production and use right through to how it can be recycled," he said.
Ten years ago Fiat launched F.A.Re, a system for removing recyclable materials such as glass, plastic, bumpers, seat paddings and catalytic converters from vehicles before scrapping, recycling 82% of the cars' weight. BMW and Renault later joined the initiative. By the end of 2001, the scheme had salvaged for recycling 45,500 tons of non-metallic materials that would have otherwise have been dumped in landfills.
Fiat also provides environmental and safety awareness training for schoolchildren of all ages. Since 1992, the company's education schemes have reached 185,000 classrooms in Italy and over 13 million students in Brazil, encouraging respect for the environment to be passed on to the next generation.