2010 LA Auto Show - Still Big Oils' Best Friend
By Bob Gordon
Sprinkled in among about 1000 beautiful shiny gasoline slurping new car offerings from the world’s auto makers are 50 “Alt Fuel” models…some plug-in electrics, an extended range electric, some gasoline hybrids, a diesel-hybrid, a few new diesels , and even a couple of fuel cell concepts. But if their total projected sales is added up they really don’t offer a realistic and timely solution to reduce our insatiable and unfortunately necessary appetite for gasoline.
Nowhere in this great venue, among the 1000 vehicles have I seen or heard any mention of Ethanol, nowhere, nada, so in effect here in the automobile capital of the United States, Flex-fuel has been made invisible.
The greenest of the immediately available replacements for gasoline has been purposely pushed out of view…does anyone know what gives with this?
The Auto Channel believes that removing our country from under the yoke of the gasoline cartel is important for our children and grandchildren’s future, but unfortunetly even those car companies that are producing Flex-fuel models and are exhibiting here in LA are also adding to the distraction, by adding to the cacophony of EV fairy tales and seem to be content to just whisper instead of SHOUT! about their Flex-fuel models a real and timely solution to our oil addiction.
Flex Fuel (E85)
While pure ethanol is rarely used for transportation fuel, there are several ethanol-gasoline blends in use today. E85 is a blend of 85 percent denatured ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. In certain areas, higher percentages of gasoline will be added to E-85 during the winter to ensure that vehicles are able to start at very cold temperatures.
E85 cannot be used in a conventional, gasoline-only engine. Vehicles must be specially designed to run on it. The only vehicles currently available to U.S. drivers are known as flex fuel vehicles (FFVs), because they can run on E85, gasoline, or any blend of the two. Much like diesel fuel, E85 is available at specially-marked fueling pumps. Today, over 1,900 fueling stations offer it.
Another common mix is E10, a blend of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline. E10 is available in many areas across the United States and can be used in any gasoline vehicle manufactured after 1980.
Flex Fuel Vehicles
Ethanol-fueled vehicles date back to the 1880s when Henry Ford designed a car that ran solely on ethanol. He later built the first flex fuel vehicle: a 1908 Model T designed to operate on either ethanol or gasoline.
Today's FFVs feature specially-designed fuel systems and other components that allow a vehicle to operate on a mixture of gasoline and ethanol that can vary from 0 percent to 85 percent ethanol. These cars and trucks have the same power, acceleration, payload, and cruise speed as conventionally fueled vehicles. Maintenance for ethanol-fueled vehicles is very similar to that of regular cars and trucks. However, owners should identify the car as an FFV when ordering replacement parts.
Today, the United States has nearly 8 million FFVs on the road. These vehicles are available in a range of models, including sedans, pick-up trucks, and minivans. Additionally, several auto manufacturers have announced plans to greatly expand the number of FFV models they will offer. In fact, you may even be driving one now. To find out, check the inside of your gas tank door for an identification sticker.
FFVs are priced the same as gasoline-only vehicles, offering drivers the opportunity to buy an E85 capable vehicle at no additional cost.
In general, E85 reduces fuel economy and range by about 20-30 percent, meaning an FFV will travel fewer miles on a tank of E85 than on a tank of gasoline. This is because ethanol contains less energy than gasoline. Vehicles can be designed to be optimized for E85--which would reduce or eliminate this tendency. However, no such vehicles are currently on the market. The pump price for E85 is often lower than regular gasoline; however, prices vary depending on supply and market conditions.
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