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The 1908 Model-T Ford was the first vehicle designed to run on ethanol—which Henry Ford termed “the fuel of the future.” Today, about 8 million Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) on our roads are capable of running on either gasoline or gasoline blended with up to 85 percent ethanol (E85). By using E85, these flex fuel vehicles help to decrease our reliance on imported oil and reduce carbon pollution. The “Big Three” U.S. auto makers (Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler) recently announced that half of their entire 2012 vehicle line will be FFVs—including the hybrid-electric plug-in Chevrolet Volt.
Today’s ethanol, essentially a non-drinkable grain alcohol, is made from corn or sugar cane. Researchers have also been developing processes to convert the cellulose in agricultural wastes like corn stalks, waste woods and other non-food biomass into ethanol. This biofuel, known as “cellulosic ethanol,” will further reduce carbon pollution and is expected to enter the U.S. market in significant amounts in the near future.
The good news is that the difference between the engine performance of a FFV running on E85 and a conventional vehicle running on regular gasoline is unnoticeable. And for information on how E85 reduces pollution, see Energy Balance of Ethanol and the U.S. Department of Energy Biomass Program's Environmental Benefits page. For information on how driving a FFV, as well as other driving habits, including vehicle maintenance and weather, affect fuel economy go to www.fueleconomy.gov, a useful website maintained jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Energy.
According to EPA’s rule determination, lower ethanol blends up to 15 percent ethanol (E15) can be used in all gasoline vehicles manufactured after 2001, E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) can be used in all gasoline vehicles manufactured after 1980, but only FFVs have been specially designed to run on E85. A surprising number of Americans are driving FFVs and don’t realize it. To find out your vehicle is an FFV, check the owner’s manual, look inside the driver’s doorframe, or visit www.fueleconomy.gov. FFV drivers can easily calculate the money they save and the pounds of GHG emissions they eliminate when they fuel their FFV with E85. Just visit the FuelEconomy.gov website at www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/byfueltype.htm and select the appropriate FFV model on the search tool for alternative fuel vehicles.
E85 fueling stations are continuing to spring up across the country. Today, more than 2,000 E85 refueling pumps are operating in the United States. Using the Alternative Fuel Station Locator, drivers can type in their address and search for nearby stations that sell E85. Drivers on the move can use the tool’s mobile version to find the five stations closest to them.
Decreasing U.S. reliance on imported energy improves our national security, economic health, and future global competiveness.