The Malawi government is looking to procure three more vehicles for use in further experiments to test the practicability of using locally produced cane ethanol to power vehicles.
Henry Mbeza, a director in the Ministry of Science and Technology, says the government intends to conduct a second series of experiments, after successfully completing the first series, which involved the testing of a Mitsubishi Pajero that had been modified to run on ethanol and a flexi-fuel vehicle imported from Brazil.
"The experiments [conducted to date] have established that Malawi has reached the stage where it can modify a petrol vehicle to become a flexi-fuel vehicle, which is a vehicle that uses petrol and ethanol in any combination in a single tank,” he says.
The experiments were carried out by the State-owned Lilongwe Technical College, with the ethanol used in the project supplied by Press Cane and Ethanol Company of Malawi (Ethco).
Meanwhile, Ethco says Malawi’s ethanol production has increased to such an extent that the country is now the leading exporter of ethanol in the Southern African Development Community region.
Ethco GM Daniel Liwimbi reports that, in less than 10 years, Malawi’s ethanol production has surged from only one-million tons to 18-million tons, with exports to the region growing to an average of 25%.
“Now, about 50% of our annual production is blended with petrol on the market. The other half is both used locally and exported to East Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Botswana.”
Malawi currently blends its petrol with 10% ethanol, saving 10% of the cost of importing petroleum products.
The Southern African country boasts two cane ethanol producing plants owned by Ethco and Press Cane. The two plants are located adjacent to sugar-producing factories and plantations owned by multinational sugar group Illovo.
Currently, Ethco produces about seven-million litres of ethanol a year, while Press Cane produces 11-million litres.