In my last post, I presented five facts which justify Malawi’s work on the Ethanol Propelled Vehicle Project. Now, I will present the current status of the project and the way forward.

Before going any further, let me point out that according a recent press release by the Malawi government, the goal of this project is to compare the performance of a vehicle running on 100% ethanol with a petrol driven one. Therefore, an old petrol vehicle was used for the tests. During the road tests, engine temperature was normal, torque was high such that the vehicle was driven on high gear (5th) most of the times.The vehicle was test driven at 110km/hour.Fuel consumption was high due to the high speed and old age of the car. The rate of fuel consumption was 8km per litre compared to 10-15km per litre for petrol on new vehicles of the type at normal speed.The acceleration was lower than petrol.All the components of the fuel system are so far intact and do not show any sign of damage due to ethanol use.The results show that it is possible to use 100% ethanol to drive petrol vehicles.

As part of the way forward, the project will continue to generate data on engine performance of the ethanol driven vehicle and to make comparison with the use of petrol.Such data shall help in the cost-benefit analyzes exercise. The team will continue to test and check on the long-term effects (if any) of ethanol on the fuel system of vehicles. The team will further gather data on the performance of a flex vehicle and build capacity for Malawians to maintain ethanol or flex vehicles.

I asked the office of the Director of Science and Technology a few questions on this project. The response was well detailed and very encouraging. As a blogger, I was very excited with this development. The response goes like this:

  • Question 1: In your current research efforts, besides the Lilongwe Technical College, do you collaborate with other organizations or institutions locally and internationally?
  • Answer : We collaborate with Ethanol Company(Ethco) at Dwangwa, Prescane Company in Chikwawa (Locally). These are basically ethanol producing companies and have assisted with free Ethanol, most of which has come from Ethco at Dwangwa. Ethco has imported a Flex vehicle for further experiments (I will give more details on this to your other question below, about re-inventing the wheel). We have other institutions and organizations which we call ‘partners’ such as Stansfield Motors and CFAO Malawi, where partnership has been established. There are other partners and institutions with which partnership is sought. Originally, there was a suggestion to include the Polytechnic but there were some logistical and financial constraints. As the project comes up with more results, we shall expand and include all other relevant institutions.We should be holding a National Stakeholder Consultative Workshop sometime this year and we shall invite all stakeholders to the meeting.
  • Question 2:I have been reading that ethanol propelled vehicles have been used in Brazil for quite sometime. In light of this, are we not re-inventing the wheel? Is it not possible for us just to send some people to Brazil for training on Ethanol propelled vehicles and see how we can implement the same in Malawi?
  • Answer: It is not easy to send people to Brazil for training. We allocated some funds during the last financial year (2006/07) for an officer from Lilongwe Technical College to go to Brazil, but it did not materialize, because he could not get the invitation letter for him to process the Visa. CFAO as our partner assisted a lot to get the invitations, they even send e-mail messages in Portuguese, the official language in Brazil, but it did not work! We are still exploring ways of getting around this problem.Secondly, in Brazil, they are manufacturing Flex vehicles which can use pure ethanol, pure petrol or any combination of the two fuels in a single tank. A Flex has been imported by Ethco for further experiments in Malawi. However,you can agree with me that this technology will be far above the reach of most middle Malawians. The experiments we are conducting now are targeting the Biwi-Biwi, or Ndirande-Mlanga road -Red cross type of people. We believe that this group consumes a lot of fuel and could help to reduce the petrol demand hence imports if they turned ethanol. Thank you for your enquiry and interest in the Ethanol driven vehicle project, we hope that every Malawian stand to benefit if the results are commercialized in the future.

My views
I must start by congratulating the Department of Science and Technology, team at Lilongwe Technical College and the Ethanol Company of Malawi for their different roles in this project. They have set the ball rolling. I hope other stakeholders will come in especially with the upcoming National Stakeholder Consultative Workshop.

From what I have read, preliminary results of this research have shown that some parts need to be fitted to the vehicle so that it can run on 100% ethanol. Automobile companies may come in handy on this issue because they are the ones involved in the manufacturing and repairing of these vehicles .Therefore, for this project to be a success, automobile companies such as Stansfield Motors , CFAO, Toyota Malawi and others must take part in a more active role.

For this project to be a success, I am of the view that Malawi must establish international collaboration especially with the Brazilians who are already manufacturing flex vehicles. I greatly appreciate the efforts being done by CFAO in trying to establish a link with the Brazilians. If you know any organizations in Brazil, India, USA or any other country that either do research on or manufacture ethanol propelled vehicles, feel free to forward this post to them so that I can link them to their Malawian counterparts. Everyone can read this post because language is no longer a barrier these days. You can translate this post to ten other major languages of the world.