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Lawmakers and car manufacturers often find themselves on opposite ends of debates, and a proposed mandate to make most vehicles E85 capable only proves that point. The Detroit News reports that Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has sponsored a bill that would force automakers to make 90 percent of their E85 capable by 2016, but automakers aren't taking this proposed legislation lying down.

The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which includes the Detroit Three, Toyota and eight other automakers, is predictably against the idea, saying that the idea would amount to a $2 billion annual tax on car buyers. Shane Karr, vice president for government affairs, points out that there are already over eight million E85-capable vehicles on the road, yet only two percent of all gas stations feature the corn-based fuel. And most of those gas stations are on the Midwest. E85-capable vehicles will often struggle with new emissions standards in states like California, too. That means still more technology must be poured into vehicles on sale in states with the toughest standards, which will further boost the price of new vehicles.

Bob Dineen , CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, supports the measure even though there is a long way to go before consumers use E85 at a meaningfully increased rate, adding "efforts to expand (flex-fuel vehicle) technology must be a part of our energy future."

While increased E85 usage would likely go some way toward decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, we're thinking that adding all that cost to new vehicles could wind up slowing vehicle sales. And if vehicle sales slow, the amount of research and development money shrinks, which doesn't help the future of hybrids, electric vehicles and other fuel saving technologies.

[Source: The Detroit News | Image: General Motors]


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  • 61 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      I'm just falling in love with that rendered hotrod, despite my raging-nerd aversions to ethanol.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I heard it cost GM less than $200 a vehicle to make the conversion. There is no reason not too and this is a great way to push along Cellulosic and Algae ethanol fuels. Maybe they need an extra 3 to 5 years to make the conversion which is fine, however, there is no excuse why they cannot make this happen.

      For those that don't like ethanol, you don't have to buy it. For those of us that believe it is a good answer, we get the option of using it no matter what vehicle we choose to buy.

      Below is a link to a report I wrote for the county I live in back in 2009 regarding cellulosic ethanol and waste to fuel options. http://www.scribd.com/doc/33118890/Cellulosic-Ethenal-Report-for-Yamhill-County
        • 4 Years Ago
        @speed

        What does that have to do with this article, its giving people the choice to put what ever they want in their car. Read some crap on the media about how bad E85 is, then don't use it in a FLEX-FUEL car. All the problems with E15, E25, Exx would go away.

        I want all new cars to be at least E85 compatible so more stations will offer it across the country then the people will choose what they want.
        E0
        E10
        E15
        ' '
        E85
        • 4 Years Ago
        "For those that don't like ethanol, you don't have to buy it."

        No, we already HAVE to buy it in some states, in increasing ratios. That's the PROBLEM.

        http://canadafreepress.com/index.php/article/34936
        • 4 Years Ago
        A@Speedhump - Ethanol was used to replace MTBE, a VERY dangerous chemical. At this point you are still not required to buy E85. Though your point about E10 is well made, until something else can be found that can reduce emissions like MTBE or Ethanol, Ethanol will continue to be the additive of choice.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Its mandatory in a lot of states for gas stations to have E10 man, wish I lived where ever you are if you have the choice to avoid it, but that is not the case for me. I have to buy E10 whether I want to or not.
        • 4 Years Ago
        So let me get this straight: You want to force other people to conform to your preferences in the name of free choice? If you said the government needs to remove itself from ALL aspects of the marketplace, you'd have a case. And I would (actually do) support it.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I thought all the clowns on the corn based ethanol bandwagon would've given up after Al Gore acknowledged it was a hoax and he only did it for the votes.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Wow, Iowa wants to push Ethanol? No way! It's like there's some sort of ulterior motive there that I just can't place.
      • 4 Years Ago
      E85 Burns cleaner than any petrol on the market. Thats a FACT.
        • 4 Years Ago
        So, do you take off the catalytic converter?
        • 4 Years Ago
        @ dsuuper

        First off, your numbers are PER GALLON BURNED. When you look at per mile covered, the numbers are far worse.

        Some numbers:
        Energy density: Gas - 34.2 MJ/L E85 - 25.65 MJ/L

        So E85 is naturally 25% less energy dense than gasoline. I know FOR A FACT that approximately 40% more fuel must be burned in an E85 car to produce the same amount of power as if it were running on gasoline. So for the sake of argument, lets say E85 is 33% less energy efficient than gasoline, i.e. it would take 3 gallons of gas to move a car of fixed mass a certain distance on E85, which would only take 2 gallons of regular fuel. In a car specifically designed to utilize E85 ( higher compression, more boost, etc) you'd get an efficiency boost from being able to utilize E85's higher detonation resistance. But FFV's are a compromise to still be able to run on gasoline, so these beneficial effects are not fully realized. So lets say an FFV engine produces 25% less power per gallon burned on E85 than on a gallon of gas (that's being generous).

        Now, some major emissions comparisons, PER GALLON OF FUEL BURNED, in an FFV:

        NOx: 18% reduction with E85
        CO: 20% reduction with E85
        Methane: 92% increase with E85
        Particulates: 34% reduction with E85
        Non-methane HCs: 10% reduction with E85

        So, here's the comparison:

        Distance to be travelled in FFV; 30 miles. Required gasoline to travel 40 miles: 1 gallon. Required E85 to travel 40 miles: 1.33 gallons.

        Gas emmissions, in arbitrary units:
        NOx: 100 units per gal, 100 units total
        CO: 100 units per gallon, 100 units total
        Methane: 100 u/g, 100 units total
        Particulates: 100 u/g, 100 total
        NMHCs: 100 u/g, 100 total

        E85 emissions:
        NOx: 82 units per gallon, 109 units total
        CO: 80 units per gallon, 106 units total
        Methane: 192 units per gallon, 255 units total
        Particulates: 66 units per gallon, 88 units total
        NMHC's: 90 units per gallon, 120 units total.

        So you get the point. In FFVs that are not designed to fully utilize the benefits of E85s higher detonation resistance, your net emissions balance is at best even (except for particulates, which ethanol is admittedly much better at), at worst much worse than the same engine operating on straight gas, especially in the cases of methane, formaldehyde, and actedaldehyde.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @CABEZAGRANDE - Time to read up on facts and stop believing in the oil company lies.

        Well to wheel greenhouse emissions for different fuel sources as compared to gasoline:
        Corn Ethanol (current average) - 19% reduction over gasoline
        Corn Ethanol using Natural Gas - 28% reduction over gasoline
        Corn Ethanol Biomass - 52% reduction over gasoline
        Sugarcane Ethanol Biomass - 78% reduction over gasoline
        Cellulosic Ethanol Biomass - 86% reduction over gasoline

        Remember, it does takes energy and water to get oil just like any other fuel. The missing piece in most reports is the actual comparison of gasoline verses the alternative fuel.
        • 4 Years Ago
        All the effects of E85 burning cleaner are more than completely negated by it's inherent lower efficiency. You have to burn approximately 40% more of it for the same power output. So since you burn 40% more fuel and it's not 40% cleaner burning, your net emissions are worse.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I may be a Democrat, but I don't want any more freakin' corn in my fuel. I don't want any at all, to be honest.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Actually, being in Missouri, I DO have to buy it, even though I don't bloody well want it. I just love being forced to get lower fuel economy and power output because idiot legislators getting kickbacks have forced an idiotic fuel on me. And to those who say E10 doesn't affect power output, bull****. I dyno tested this. When sipping vapors, went and put 2 gallons of E10 87 fuel in my 06 Mustang GT. Went to the dyno, disconnected the battery for one minute to reset the autotune to base map, and made three runs. After the third run, 298 whp. Went out, ran it to fumes, went and put 2 gallons of E0 87 gas in. Same procedure, disconnect to reset, then three pulls. 303 whp, with up to 8 hp differences throughout the rpm range. Both sets of runs made on the same day, same dyno, same baro pressure, same humidity, one degree difference in ambient temp, and both sets run at 195 degree water temp after running on the street enough to ensure intake temps were as similar as is possible.
      • 4 Years Ago
      We can argue all day about production efficiencies, carbon footprints, foreign dependencies, etc. It can get very confusing, there's data available that ranges all over the map, much based on questionable assumptions. But for me, it's really rather simple. I can't cite any studies or numbers to support my basic gut feeling that burning FOOD in vehicles is morally WRONG. We in the US are lucky to mostly have plentiful food, but that cannot be said of the world as a whole. We all share this one planet.

      Even many proponents of ethanol are against corn based ethanol. Maybe some have the same moral issue as me. Celluosic ethanol sounds good to a point, but it's not the answer to our petroleum appetite. A U of Tenn. study estimates we would need 1.2 million km^2 of cropland growing switchgrass to offset our petroleum consumption. That is 2/3 of all US cropland. Even considering that more land can be opened to grow switchgrass, a large portion will need to replace food cropland. Using FOOD cropland to fuel our vehicles is WRONG.

      I am not totally against ethanol, for example, extracting ethanol from the existing celluosic waste stream is a great idea. It will make a welcome small dent in our oil consumption, but it will hardly replace oil as a fuel source. Same with bio-diesel, from waste oil = right, vegetable oil crops replacing FOOD crops = WRONG.

      When E85 makes economic sense, as in no longer competing with food, it will become readily available, and demand for flex fuel vehicles will be huge. The market will take care of itself. We do not need self interested lawmakers cramming it down our throats.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Exactly! Thank you for posting that.
      • 4 Years Ago
      I Have my 1998 Eclipse GST on E85 and it's Great. I get Much more power and a little better fuel milage (I average 27 MPG with 400+hp to wheels). I live in Florida and Finding E85 is HARD to say the least. I have to keep a 10 gal back up because the nearest filling station is 20 miles away. E85 need to be avalible in more locations here. Not only that but one of the stations that sell E85 will not sell it to you unless your car says that it's a "Flex Fuel" car. THATS NUTS!
        • 4 Years Ago
        It's not that my car does not run right on Gas, it's that there is no insintive for the car companies to program there ECU to run E85 more efficient. The DSM Link that is in my car has been tuned to run E85. Car companies would have to have a "user" select button so the ECU can change the way it reacts to E85. The way fuel is delivered and the air ratio has to be tuned for either Gas or E85. They are very different fuels and do not burn the same. So until the car companies offer this then Yes E85 does not work as well as gas, but it's all in the programming and fuel maps of the ECU. It's an easy fix, if the car makers wanted to fix it.
        • 4 Years Ago
        I changed from Premium! So yeah I did that already.
        • 4 Years Ago
        actually the only modification that needed to be done in order to use e85 on my 1998 eclipse was an slight need for bigger injectors due to the 20% more fuel needed to be thrown, but the gains were substantial...and think if economy based passenger cars that are going to start using nothing but boosted motors to power them (hint hint the ford eco-boost, and other manufactureres are catching on as well such as hyundai with their 2.0t in the sonata and their sister company using the same motor in half of their economy based line with the optima and the sportage and soon into the new tuscon)...now think with all of those companies using boosted applications to go up into the higher mpg and much better power numbers (b/c no matter what anyone says if they can get 35mpg and 270hp out of a car where most of the other contenders are getting 29mpg and the same power with worse numbers, guess what car is going to be bought more...) if the economy based passenger cars could utilize several fuel maps other than a wot and a not wot, that would appeal to a MUCH wider variety of people.. b/c for every person that wants to have fun there is one person that wants better mpg numbers and that can easily be attained with this fuel if the proper tuning from the factory was done.

        as for bcworkz, my dsm was great on 93, but alas 93 has far more impurities than e85 does and no matter what vehicle you put it in (as long as its properly tuned) for it the car will idle better, have better response and will easily cost less per capita due to the cost of e85 vs even 87octane....

        as for my own personal experiences, there are a great many shops across the country dabbling in the e85 applications of just about every car imaginable from civic's to malibu's, to frontier's, and even bmw's. Just here in the central florida area the consensus from every shop that has done these mods to the cars states they wont use anything else and wish it was available in better quantity here. looking at statistics doesnt paint a real picture, you must go out and do real research, i assure you if you find any later model vehicle that isnt e85 based and see that it has had a conversion to run the fuel that the owner of said vehicle will report nothing but praise.

        as for all of that, im a gay republican and i cant stand our government so rest assured im sure as hell not here for the governments sake and i could care less about the farmers that produce the corn needed for this.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Your mileage and hp numbers have more to do with the obvious mods you done that anything that corn fuel could ever dream of doing. Try running non-corn fuel and I bet you'll get 29mpg and 500hp!!!!11!1!1!1
      • 4 Years Ago
      While increased E85 usage would likely go some way toward decreasing our dependence on foreign oil, we're thinking that adding all that cost to new vehicles could wind up slowing vehicle sales.

      What about all the oil in Alaska?
        • 4 Years Ago
        And the Dakotas and Montana, and the shale oil in Colorado and Utah. Those existing deposits (mostly on the citizens land, basically the land from which the native Americans were displaced) are equal to around 7 times the total that is and was Arabia. There is a BLM report supporting the fact relating to the Dakotas and Montana. And how about the the west and east coasts.
        That Senator is a complete and total stupid ass pandering and being paid by the agribusiness lobby.
        President Eisenhower warned of the military industrial complex, but more dangerous now is the agribusiness complex and its paid toadies. Notify your representative to stop that idiocy. Food prices, transportation, everything is on the way up. Inflation courtesy of IDIOTS like Harking, not to mention the increased cost to the car manufacturers and the harm caused by the ethanol to the existing cars, boats, airplanes, and everything else that has an engine that is over four years old. Not mentioned by Senator Greedy Pandering Dumb, D Iowa, you do not get the power or mileage from ethanol as you do from gasoline.
        Drill baby drill, and then let's produce it for ourselves. We can be totally independent. Finally, stop blaming the arabs for the oil price, and blame the commodity traders and the fat cats financing them, and those Inside the Beltway, the blathering do nothings presently blocking every energy policy that promotes our independence. If we start now, independence in about five years, but stop ethanol from corn now.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Decreasing our dependence on foreign oil starts with producing our OWN oil, not paying Brazil to recover oil from our own territory, and blocking US efforts to do it.

      Handicapping our own energy industry, while the government pushes outsourcing to other countries, and fighting yet another war in another oil-producing country, is not energy policy.

      Driving the cost of foodstuffs up, and the cost of energy up is starving, and creating unrest in the third world, and not doing great things for industrialized countries, either.

      It takes energy to grow crops, harvest, process, ship, and export crops for food, let alone poor-return energy efforts. Farmers might like the high corn prices right now, but everyone else is paying that price, especially people in developing countries that can't afford it.

      This is monumentally stupid on many levels. Energy is energy, food is food. One powers machinery, the other powers biology, and they don't work very well the other way around.

      The people in charge have no idea what the end results might be of what they are trying to do.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Ugh, NO I don't burn 40% more. As I stated I get Better mileage now than I did with Premium. I was only getting an average of 25mpg now I’m over 27mpg. A tank of fuel used to last me about 290 miles now I easily get 310+ and this myth about power loss, I gained over 40hp just switching to E85. So losing 40% in efficiency is not true.
        • 4 Years Ago
        That's because you have a car quite well suited to utilizing the beneficial effects of E85. Due to it's increased detonation resistance, you are running more boost, and therefore your engine efficiency is way up (higher compression and/or more boost = better efficiency). You can probably realize a 10-20% increase in engine efficiency by raising your boost to the moon. An FFV has to maintain a safe compression ratio or boost level to be run on pump gas, usually 87 octane. So the ONLY efficiency gains available to it are a slight increase in timing on cars with variable cam timing, which MIGHT ammount to an increase of 3-5%, if you're lucky. So your car is by far the exception to the rule as opposed to probably 97% of the cars this legilation would impact.
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