Flex-Fuel Automobiles and Light Duty Vehicles


Flexible fuel automobiles and light-duty vehicles choices include engines that range from 4 cylinder, including turbos, to V8s, including several that generate more than 300 horsepower. Cars such as the Ford Fusion, minivans like the Volkswagen Routan, SUVs like the Ford Expedition, and pickup trucks like the Toyota Tundra all fall under flex-fuel vehicles. New automobile and light duty vehicle purchasers now have more vehicles to choose from that can run on E85 fuel. More cars and minivans have become E85 capable, but light duty trucks and SUVs still dominate this vehicle market. The most fuel efficient E85 automobiles for 2012 are the midsize Chevy Malibu and the new compact Buick Verano, both getting 15 mpg city and 23 mpg highway using E85, according to the EPA.

Fleet operators looking to support flexible fuel technology and lessen their fleet emissions while reinforcing American jobs, agriculture and national security ought to consider flexible fuel automobiles and light-duty vehicles for their fleet vehicle choices.

Flex-fuel vehicles are specifically designed to run on gasoline, E85, or a mixture of the two. Cost usually varies regionally when it comes to purchasing ethanol and is cheaper than gas in areas such as the Midwest, but more expensive in others. There are currently more than 2000 E85 filling stations and over 8 million flex-fuel vehicles on the roads in the United States and that number is increasing rapidly.[1] Currently in the United States, the average E85 price is $3.42 a gallon where the average cost for a gallon of gasoline is $3.87.[2]

Another advantage of flex-fuel vehicles is their reduced carbon footprint when compared to gasoline vehicles.  A study in 2007 by Argonne National Laboratory found that life cycle GHG emissions can be reduced by 19% to 52% when using corn-based ethanol instead of gasoline. They have even found that using cellulosic ethanol as opposed to corn-based ethanol can reduce GHG emissions by up to 86%, providing even greater benefits.[3]

Lastly, the octane rating of E85 is equivalent of that of 105 octane gasoline. As a result, the comparable octane level makes E85 vehicles as knock resistant as a typical gasoline vehicle, allowing for similar ignition timing, compression and engine power.[4]

[1] U.S. Department of Energy, Flexible Fuel Vehicles, http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/flexible_fuel.html, (May 22, 2013).

[2] E85prices.com, E85 Prices, http://e85prices.com/, (May 22, 2013).

[3] U.S. Department of Energy, Ethanol Vehicle Emissions, http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/flexible_fuel_emissions.html, (May 22, 2013).

[4] Zeitronix ECA, Award Winning Zeitronix Ethanol Content Analyzer, http://www.zeitronix.com/Products/ECA/ECA.shtml, (May 22, 2013).