Wednesday, April 19, 2006

FlexFuel E85 For Freedom And Life

Chevrolet Astra Multipower - Photo Credit: Women Motorist

Interestingly, there are about 6 million flex-fuel vehicles in the US, but only 600 stations where they can refuel with E85.

The biggest and best lessons about the ethyl alcohol fuel transition experience come from Brazil. This South American country has been serious about the use of cellulose derived fuels for about 30 years now and their experience is paying big benefits as petro based fuel prices skyrocket.

Excerpts from Women Motorist -

Alternative Fuels - Lessons from Brazilia
by Bill Siuru, PhD, PE

In his 2006 State of the Union address, President Bush made a commitment "to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East by 2025." He also said ethanol from not only corn, as now produced in the U.S., but also cellulosic ethanol from wood chips and stalks and switch grass would be key in achieving this goal. Brazil, which should be independent of imported oil this year, is showing it doesn’t require any advanced technology like fuel cells. Not only will Brazil be foreign oil-independent, its motorists will not be dependent on only one fuel.

When the first of the fuel crises hit, the Brazilian government reacted with Proalcool in 1975, 75-percent gasoline blended with 25-percent ethanol produced from sugar cane, a major Brazilian crop. It responded to the second crisis with vehicles running on pure alcohol. By the mid-1980s, over 90-percent of Brazilian cars and light trucks ran on alcohol that was substantially cheaper than gasoline and available everywhere in Brazil.

When oil prices dropped in the mid-1980s, coupled with the discovery of new offshore oil fields, gasoline became cheaper. This was further compounded by a drought and a poor sugar harvest disrupting the supply of alcohol. Then by 1989, sugar prices started to rise dramatically and producers exported sugar rather than turn it into fuel. By 1997, alcohol capable cars represented less than 1-percent of new vehicles sold in Brazil.

Brazil learned a lesson from these ups and downs. The result were flex-fuel vehicles (FFV) that could run on any fuel from pure gasoline to pure alcohol. All Brazilian gasoline is blended with at least 20- to 25-percent ethanol. Some 29,000 out of 31,000 fueling stations in Brazil also offer 100 percent ethanol for the older alcohol-only vehicles. Brazil currently has between 3-million and 4-million ethanol fueled vehicles.
We could also look at fuel economy in fuel in a new way, that is 'miles-per-gallon of gasoline produced from fossil fuel' (MPGFF.) Thus, while vehicles running on E85 get less MPGs, they get significantly more MPGFFs. For example:

FUEL ECONOMY - Combined City/Highway Mileage
Vehicle MPG City MPGFF (miles-per-gallon-of-fossil-fuel)
Chevrolet Tahoe Gasoline 17
E85 13, 88 mpgff
Chevrolet Impala gasoline 24
E85 19, 126 mpgff
Ford Crown Victoria gasoline 21
E85 14, 93 mpgff
Toyota Prius gasoline 55
E85 35-45, 233-300 mpgff

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Distribution, Distribution, Distribution ... Oh, and then let's grow something!

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