General Motors has named its Astra sedan that runs on petrol, alcohol, a blend of the two fuels or natural gas the Multipower.

The new model was shown to Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brasília, capital of Brazil on Friday.

GM will start selling the Astra Multipower at the end of this month – the sedan produced in Brazil is the previous generation European model.

The Astra sedan Multipower was developed in conjunction by GM and Bosch and is the first vehicle made in Brazil that can use three distinct fuels.

The model has a two-litre eight-valve engine with a special management control unit. The control unit adjusts the engine’s electronic mapping to work at its best whatever fuel is being used. The mapping system can control the volume of fuel needed, the air/fuel ratio mix and the injection timing.

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The new version has one tank for liquid fuels (alcohol and petrol) and a second tank for natural gas, installed in the luggage compartment. A button on the dashboard selects between the liquid fuels or natural gas.

Bosch has been developing this new flex-fuel system in Brazil since 2002, encouraged by the growing number of cars that run on natural gas as a second fuel. The country has about 500,000 vehicles that use natural gas.

Since March 2003, when Volkswagen launched the Gol Total Flex, the first brazilian-made vehicle with a flex-fuel system engine, there has been huge competition in this segment but, until now all flex-fuel cars made in Brazil ran only on liquid fuels (petrol, alcohol or a mixture of the two).

GM, Volkswagen and Fiat currently produce vehicles with flex-fuel systems in Brazil. Ford will enter the segment next month and Renault, Peugeot and Citroën have all announced that they will make cars with flexible engines from the beginning of 2005.

General Motors is the automaker with the biggest flex-fuel range. The company already offers flex-fuel versions of the Corsa hatchback, the Brazilian-designed Corsa sedan, the Corsa-based Montana pick-up, the Meriva minivan, the Zafira minivan and the Astra.

Rogério Louro

Earlier story here

Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is shown the Chevrolet Astra Multipower sedan