Yet another record for two Fiat Chrysler Automobiles stars: Panda – the ageless best seller of the Fiat brand, leader of the A class in Europe in 2016, with nearly 15% share, up 1.4% compared to 2015 – and the G. Vico di Pomigliano d’Arco plant, winner of several awards after its full renovation completed in 2011. Manufactured in the plant near Naples, the 300 thousandth Panda Natural Power has been celebrated by staff and is destined to be used in many events, beginning with the forthcoming International Motor Show in Geneva. No other methane-powered car in Europe has the Panda’s numbers. It was the first mass produced CNG car, and from 2007 to date, has been the best selling methane car in Europe. During the same time period, behind the Panda is another Fiat car: the Punto. The record-braking Panda is a white Lounge, which will be on show with a custom made livery. Equipped with a two-cylinder TwinAir Turbo Natural Power engine, with dual petrol - methane fuel, it develops 80 HP (59 kW) and consumes 4.5 litres of petrol or 3.1 kilos of methane (per one hundred kilometres of combined cycle), with minimal CO2 emissions: 106 g/km when using petrol and 85g/km when using methane. Compared to petrol, methane reduces CO2 emissions by 23 per cent and nitric oxide emissions by 52 per cent.
FCA has been the leader in Europe for petrol-methane dual fuel vehicles for twenty years, with over 700 thousand sold vehicles and a range of six Fiat brand models (Panda, Punto, Qubo, Doblò, 500L and 500L Living), one from Lancia (Ypsilon) and four from Fiat Professional: Fiorino, Doblò Cargo, Ducato and Ducato Panorama. In order to obtain real benefits in air quality, and thus sustainable mobility, we need to continue working on combined traditional and alternative technologies, keeping in mind the specific rules of each market. Among these, methane has the potential of being a renewable source thanks to biomethane, a fuel with high development potential. Biomethane denotes a bio-gas that yields a concentration of methane after a refining process (from urban, agricultural of farming waste), so that it can be used as bio-fuel for engine vehicles just like natural gas. Biomethane produces 20% less CO2 emissions than petrol. The real advantage of biomethane becomes clear when we consider the full life cycle of this fuel, the so called “well-to-wheel” cycle. In this case reduction in CO2 emissions can exceed 95 per cent, depending on the original raw material: biomethane fuelled vehicles produce the same amount of CO2 as electric cars using renewable source energy. If we consider a 40% methane-biomethane mix instead, its CO2 emissions are the same as those of an electric vehicle using energy from the energy mix of European production plants. Like all other Fiat Chrysler Automobiles methane models, the Panda Natural Power is already biomethane compatible.
The Pomigliano d’Arco began production in 1972 with the Alfasud model. Over the years, its production lines churned out many models of Alfa Romeo (33 and 155, 145 and 146, 156 and 147, GT and 159) until November 2011, when Panda production began, reaching 830 thousand cars since then. In 2012, the plant obtained a Silver award in the World Class Manufacturing certification programme, as well as the Automotive Lean Production Award as Best in Europe. In 2013 – only a year later, and still within the WCM programme – the plant was certified at Gold level. A new international accolade was obtained in 2014: the Lean and Green Management Award, a testament to the progress made in optimising all “resources” needed to produce cars. The G. Vico plant continues its drive to reduce the environmental impact of production via continuous improvements, including responsible consumption of energy and water, and quality air and waste management. Finally, the plant is often visited by technicians and researchers (not just from the automotive industry), keen to study its technologies and efficiency.