Q. CAN VEHICLES BE CONVERTED TO OPERATE USING E85 ETHANOL?
A. This is a frequent question that is asked. There is not a simple answer though. In the strictest sense, yes, a vehicle that was made to operate on unleaded fuel only could be converted to operate on E85 ethanol. Realistically speaking, the conversion can be extremely difficult.
During the 80’s and early 90’s, many companies were formed that altered gasoline powered vehicles to use other forms of fuels such as propane, compressed natural gas, e85, and 85 percent methanol. The basic marketing strategy of these conversion companies was based on the idea that it was much cheaper to operate a vehicle on alternative fuels. However, the vehicles being converted were made, designed and built to operate on unleaded fuel only. Shortly after the start of the "conversion firms" the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decided that when converted from gas to another form of fuel, the exhaust emissions from these converted vehicles were often much dirtier than prior to the conversion. The use of alt-fuels in the transportation sector has been engineered around the objectives of using cleaner, non-gasoline based fuels.
Based on authority provided to the EPA through the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990, the EPA began regulations that required exhaust emissions from vehicles converted to operate on alternative fuels be as clean as the exhaust emissions of the original gasoline equipment. That is, if Ford Motor Company built a car to meet federal emissions standards on gas, a company converting that vehicle to operate on e85, must be able to certify that the emissions from the converted vehicle was as clean as the original. A process to license such after-market equipment was initiated and few if any conversion kits were actually able to pass.
99.9 percent of all the vehicles that are able to operate on alternative transportation fuels are produced by the original manufacturers such as Ford, General Motors, and DaimlerChrysler. Engineers from these auto companies are able to create vehicles that meet the EPA exhaust emission standards. These automobile companies are required to warranty the exhaust emissions from these vehicles for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Very few conversion companies
are able to accomplish.
Q. IS IT POSSIBLE TO CONVERT A VEHICLE THAT WAS MADE FOR GAS TO RUN ON ETHANOL?
A. Yes, but, there are no flex fuel conversions or after-market parts that have been certified by the EPA. None of the flex fuel products have met the standards to maintain clean exhaust emissions. Technically, converting a vehicle that was made to run on gasoline only to operate on another form of fuel is a violation of federal law and the offender may be subject to penalties. Unfortunately, no after-market conversion company has been able to certify a E85 flex fuel kit that would allow a gasoline vehicle to operate on e85.
The differences in fuel injector size, air-fuel ratio, PCM calibrations, material composition of the fuel lines, pumps and tanks are just a some of the components that contribute to allowing an ethanol conversion extremely complicated. It is our understanding that at least one company is working to obtain EPA certification. The situation will be monitored closely. Understand the certification process could be lenghty, hard and expensive.