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HSV ponders diesel and LPG

It may seem to go against the grain of what a performance car company is about but Holden Special Vehicles is almost certain to be selling cars using LPG and even diesel fuel in the near future.
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- David Twomey
British-born Managing Director of HSV, Phil Harding, told CarAdvice at a media briefing in Melbourne yesterday that the company was well advanced in looking at diesel, LPG and ethanol as alternative power sources for its performance cars.

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As if that wasn’t enough he made it clear that on the question of diesel power HSV was evaluating two different engines, one from General Motors and the second from an unnamed European car maker.

Mr Harding believes that if HSV is to become a serious exporter then it needs a diesel engine option to sell cars, particularly in Europe, in viable numbers.

The first engine is no secret and the company has been evaluating the 2.9-litre, VM Motori-sourced, V6 diesel that GM will offer in European versions of the Cadillac CTS.

Mr Harding was much more coy about the source of the other engine, preferring to leave it as ‘a European brand’ but it is widely known that HSV has been running a VE Commodore mule with a BMW turbo-diesel inline six cinder engine for some time.

He told CarAdvice that the project had the full support of parent GM-Holden and added that Fishermans Bend had no problem with him choosing a non-GM engine if that was the best solution.

Mr Harding said; "There are reasons why we're investigating different alternative fuel strategies.

“Diesel started because when we launched VXR8 in the UK, I got a lot of questions about where was the diesel version. Certainly the cars that you're 'battling' with on the roads are diesels."

"Diesel in Europe is a little more advanced than here. You don't fill the car up round the corner at the truck pump. You don't end up smelling of diesel when you get back in the car.

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"You look around at what Mercedes and BMW do and they come out with some great product at the top-end of the diesel market.

“So if HSV is going to do a diesel it will do a decent diesel that can replicate the expectation of what a performance car would be like.

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"With that in mind we've had a look at two diesel engines. The business case is not approved yet, it's still ongoing, but we think that it is crucial if we're ever going to export in larger numbers."

Mr Harding said that while a decision on the diesel engine could be made in the not too distant future it would take some time to engineer into the Commodore based vehicles.

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However, he said the option of using LPG fuel was also seriously under consideration and this could come on stream as soon as late 2009.

Joel Stoddart, HSV engineering guru, explained that with LPG the company y was looking at a liquid port injection system.

“It’s a dual fuel system that we feel replicates the performance of petrol in the 6.2-litre V8 engine,” he said.
Mr Stoddart said that the system was duel fuel because at full throttle the engine management system would switch the engine to straight petrol operation, before cutting back to LPG as the engine load reduced.

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Mr Harding said there was no approval yet for the business case on LPG and he was watching to see where the general automotive market was going with LPG.

He said HSV would be very careful to avoid the ‘taxi’ stigma attached to LPG and would probably not market LPG as a distinct model but would rather offer the option on its range of vehicles.

He said that the company had done ‘payback’ analysis on the cost of the LPG option when petrol was at $1.50 a litre and LPG was about $0.60 and on this basis the cost was returned in 12 months.

Mr Harding emphasised that a major reason driving HSV to examine all alternative fuel options, and he said E85 was also under consideration but this currently suffered from supply issues, was to ensure that its customers were not looked on in a negative way.

“We as a company should be responsible in ensuring that fuel supplies are used in a responsible way,” he said.

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“We also want to ensure that our customers are not looked on in a negative way, we want them to be looked on well by their peer group.”

He added that HSV did not want its customers to be considered socially irresponsible by their purchase of the company’s products.

“I also don’t think anyone will turn away from the chance to run their car at a cheaper price,” he added.