The expanding Flex Fuel Vehicles and Ethanol

Many vehicles on the road today can run on blends of ethanol and gasoline, most on lower-level blends such as E10 (10% ethanol and 90% gasoline), and many on higher level blends such as E85 (85% ethanol and 15% gasoline). Because of the abundance of ethanol-compatible vehicles, the future is bright for ethanol as a fuel.

Most of today’s commercially available vehicles can run on blends of E10, which is mandated in some areas of the country to act as a fuel oxygenate to improve air quality.

In addition, many newer vehicles can use E85, which qualifies as an alternative fuel under the Energy Policy Act of 1992. Vehicles that can run on E85, gasoline, or any mixture of the two are called flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs). FFVs are widely available and include sedans, minivans, sport utility vehicles, and pickup trucks. More than 5 million FFVs have already been sold in the United States, although many of the buyers remain unaware that they have the option to fuel with E85.

General Motors recently announced a new E85/FFV campaign, "Live Green, Go Yellow." Learn more about this marketing campaign by visiting the GM Web site.

Because of limited crude oil supplies and refining capacity, and rising concern over environmental degradation, there is a good market outlook for ethanol. Ethanol can be produced not only from corn, barley, and wheat, but also from cellulose feedstocks such as corn stalks, rice straw, sugar cane bagasse, pulpwood, switchgrass, and municipal solid waste. Because of the variety of feedstocks that can be used, ethanol offers tremendous opportunities for new jobs and economic growth outside the traditional "grain belt."

Currently, most E85 fueling stations are located in the Midwest, but infrastructure is growing nation wide. Flex Fuel vehicles can fuel at these stations today.

Looking into the future, the ethanol industry envisions a time when ethanol may be used as a fuel to produce hydrogen for fuel cell vehicle applications.

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