GM Holden Ltd.’s Commodore sedan becomes the first Australian-made car capable of running on E85 bio-ethanol with the launch of the new VE Series II range.

Series II models powered by GM Holden’ s 3.0L SIDI V-6 and 6.0L V-8 engines have flex-fuel capability, allowing them to run on E85 bio-ethanol, E10, unleaded regular and premium gasoline or any combination in between.

The 3.6L SIDI V-6 also will be flex-fuel compatible by 2012.

GM Holden Energy and Environment Director Richard Marshall says the auto maker is committed to leading the development of alternative-fuel vehicles and to providing drivers with environmentally conscious options.

“We believe bio-ethanol has huge potential in Australia,” he says in a statement. “It is a cleaner-burning, renewable fuel, and long-term we think it has the ability to displace up to 30% of Australia’s petrol (gasoline) use.”

The Commodore has been Australia’s top-selling car for the last 14 years.

Caltex Australia Petroleum Pty. Ltd. will sell the new fuel under the name Bio E-Flex at 31 service stations in Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane and Adelaide by the end of October, increasing to 100 sites in 2011.

The fuel will cost A$0.20 per liter ($0.68 cents a gallon) less than regular unleaded gasoline.

“We estimate 90% of flex-fuel vehicle owners will live within a 10-km (6-mile) radius of a Bio E-Flex pump, making renewable fuel mainstream for the first time Australia,” Holden Chairman and Managing Director Mike Devereux says.

He says Commodore drivers can look forward to a range of performance improvements, including a new Holden-iQ 6.5-in. (16.5-cm) color liquid-crystal-display touch-screen infotainment system on every model.

Holden-iQ has Bluetooth, wireless, cable and USB connectivity for handheld devices.

The system is controlled through a touch screen mounted in the center stack – the cornerstone of a refreshed interior across all models.

Introducing increased plug-and-play music functions and the ability to rip and store CDs on an internal flash drive, the system also delivers advanced satellite navigation features on selected models, including live traffic-condition alerts.

Devereux says GM Holden knows Australians want better performance.

“But better performance doesn’t mean going faster in a straight line,” he says. “Better performance means driving more efficiently, more sustainably and the addition of simple-to-use technology that makes driving safe and fun at the same time. Series II makes these features available to every buyer across the Commodore range.”

Commodore’s smart technology extends to the Series II powertrain lineup, which delivers fuel economy improvements on all models.

Holden’s 3.0L SIDI V-6 now achieves economy of 26 mpg (9.1 L/100 km). The 2% improvement adds to the 12% fuel-economy gain made in September 2009, when Spark Ignition Direct Injection engine technology was introduced to the Commodore range.

The 3.6L SIDI V-6 used to power premium Commodore models increases fuel economy more than 3%, while all luxury and performance models powered by Holden’s Gen IV V-8 improve on average by more than 6%.

The fuel economy gains also result in reduced emissions across the range, with all V-6 models now achieving a 4-star rating in the federal government’s green-vehicle guide.

Holden also made aerodynamic improvements and added low-rolling-resistance tires to help with fuel efficiency.

Marshall says Australia’s ethanol supply is produced from by-products created during the industrial production of wheat, sugar and sorghum.

As a part of a new consortium, GM Holden is investigating the viability of establishing Australia’s first second-generation ethanol plant, which would produce ethanol from household and other waste.

The consortium includes the Victorian government, Caltex, Veolia Environmental Services (Australia) Pty. Ltd., Mitsui & Co. (Australia) Ltd. and Coskata Inc.

The plant could be capable of turning materials such as household rubbish and building waste into more than 528,000 gallons (200 million L) of ethanol a year.

The introduction of the Series II range also marks the debut of the Holden Caprice V-Series and the end of its long-running Statesman nameplate.

The sports luxury V-Series designation matches that of other premium Holdens and identifies this model as top-of-the-range.

The Age newspaper reports the Commodore’s newly engineered ethanol capability has launched sales to Brazil, the second-largest ethanol producer in the world.

It says the first batch of 600 Commodores will sail in October, followed by 150 per month thereafter. They’ll be sold as Chevrolet Omega Fittipaldi special-edition models, named after Brazil's former Formula 1 champion Emerson Fittipaldi.