VANCOUVER, CANADA -- Westport Innovations Inc., a major manufacturer of natural gas engines, said it has acquired Alternative Fuel Vehicle Sweden AB (AFV) of Gothenburg, Sweden, for approximately SEK 51 million (approximately US$7.6 million). AFV is the sole supplier of natural gas fuel systems to Volvo Car Co.

Founded in 2009 by a team of former Volvo employees, AFV builds and installs the natural gas systems at facilities located inside Volvo’s main production center in Gothenburg. 

"Natural gas technology is playing an increasingly important role in European automotive markets, where there is a longstanding interest in cleaner, more economical transportation solutions," said Ian Scott, president of Westport Light Duty (LD). "We have seen steadily growing demand in Sweden, particularly from corporate and fleet customers. As fueling infrastructure continues to expand and more automakers offer natural gas options, we expect to see that trend to continue across Europe."

Volvo dealers in Sweden have offered a bi-fuel 231-hp 2.5 liter turbocharged version of the popular V70 wagon, with the natural gas fuel system engineered and installed by AFV, since 2009. The Volvo V70 Bi-Fuel has been approved as a company car for Swedish businesses, and Swedish drivers can fuel up at more than 100 public natural gas filling stations. In addition to emissions benefits, corporate and private customers are eligible for tax incentives that make natural gas an even more economical alternative. AFV now aims to expand into other European markets.

According to Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance Europe, there are currently more than 1.4 million natural gas vehicles on European roads. Most of them are cars or other light-duty vehicles — a more than three-fold increase over the past decade. Europe has more than 4,000 natural gas filling stations. Demand for natural gas vehicles is expected to grow as tough new CO2 emission standards begin to take effect in 2012.