• May 10, 2011
Of the 1,076,350 alternative-fuel automobiles made available in the U.S. in 2009, nearly 75 percent (805,777) were flex-fuel capable (E85) vehicles, according to the report "Alternatives to Traditional Transportation Fuels 2009" recently released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The EIA notes that most of the E85-burning vehicles manufactured in 2009 were sold to private individuals and not to commercial or government fleets.

The conventional gasoline-electric hybrid came in second, with available vehicles listed at 261,312. Compressed natural gas vehicles were third (3,770) and electric-only autos placed fourth (2,255). Down at the bottom of the EIA's list, with only 26 units made available in 2009, is the hydrogen-fueled vehicle.

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 mandates that the EIA annually collects data on alternative-fueled vehicles made available in the U.S. by automakers and that it estimates the number of alt-fuel vehicles in use in the States. Anyone got guesses for the 2010 and 2011 numbers?

[Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 10 Comments
      rjstanford
      • 3 Years Ago
      And what percentage of these E85-capable vehicles, do you think, ever had anything other than pump gas in them?
        carney373
        • 3 Years Ago
        @rjstanford
        The higher the marketshare E85 capable vehicles get, the more likely those vehicles will be using E85. Gas station owners are more likely to switch a pump to E85 if a higher percentage of cars on the road can use it. Thus, rather than being an excuse to abandon E85 capability, any under-use of that capability should instead be seen as a spur to expand it. The best way to do that is simply to make flex fuel a required standard feature in new cars from now on. This is a practical suggestion because the burden of such a mandate is so light - around $100 per new car at the factory. Throw in another $30 per new car for compatibility with other alcohols, most notably ethanol, and you transform alcohol fuel from being an exotic to being a standard choice at most gas stations, like diesel is today. Even without flex fuel being standard, E85 has made strides. Only fifty stations sold it in 2001; today more than 2,300 do so.
          carney373
          • 3 Years Ago
          @carney373
          I meant "most notably methanol", with an M. Still no way to edit comments...
      carney373
      • 3 Years Ago
      Conventional (non plug-in) gas-electric hybrids are not alternative fuel vehicles. They are entirely dependent on gasoline, and only gasoline, to move. They are merely a complicated way to be fuel efficient. Setting aside the futility of fuel efficiency, the point here is that being efficient with gasoline is not the same thing as actually using some other form of motive power.
        letstakeawalk
        • 3 Years Ago
        @carney373
        In that case, an E85 capable vehicle is doing the same thing - they still require at least 15% Gasoline to operate; a conventional hybrid merely requires a higher percentage of gasoline over its drive-cycle.
          carney373
          • 3 Years Ago
          @letstakeawalk
          Incorrect. A flex fuel vehicle can use E100; it's just that E100 is rarely if ever sold as a retail product because pure ethanol tends to produce startup problems when the temperature dips below the fifties. The key thing an FFV does is break the monopoly that oil has on transportation motive power. As for the 15%, when gasoline becomes a startup aid, a minor component, in alternative fuel, rather than a fuel, that's a qualitative rather than merely quantitative change. Furthermore at that low proportion, it becomes more feasible to replace a large portion of the gasoline in question with synthetic, bio-, or other non petroleum gasoline, which would not as logistically or economically possible if you were simply using the gasoline as a fuel.
        paulwesterberg
        • 3 Years Ago
        @carney373
        Flex fuel capable vehicles are not efficient vehicles. Most flex-fuel vehicles are driven entirely on gasoline, and use the 10% ethanol mixture that all vehicles can use. They are merely a more complicated way to be fuel inefficient. Setting aside the futility of flex-fuel vehicles, the point here is that being efficient with gasoline actually reduces gasoline consumption.
          carney373
          • 3 Years Ago
          @paulwesterberg
          But reducing gasoline consumption (such as by increasing efficiency) is not an end in itself. Instead, it is a mere means to ends such as a cleaner environment, an economy safer from oil shocks, and a world less troubled by well-funded extremist and terrorist regimes and groups. If those ends can be better achieved by using an alternative fuel, even a higher volume of that fuel per given distance, than the rational course is to use that alternative fuel, rather than mindlessly fetishize efficiency and foolishly preserve oil's monopoly on transportation fuel. As for whether flex fuel vehicles actually use E85 or not, we can be certain that NON flex fuel vehicles use E85 even less. Therefore encouraging, or even mandating, that gasoline cars from now on be flex fuel rather than gasoline only is obvious common sense.
      lne937s
      • 3 Years Ago
      Considering how many of them there are out there, it seems like a good time to get rid of the ethanol mandates, ethanol subsidies and E85 CAFE credits. Ethanol had questionable if any environmental benefit to begin with, but there is no sense in continuing to waste tax dollars on it if so many E85 vehicles are out there and so few choose to use E85. The tens of billions of taxpay dollars going to lining the pockets of agribusiness, raising the cost of food, creating environmental damage from overfarming and fertilizer runoff, increasing flooding from cultivating near watersheds, etc. could be much better spent elsewhere.
        carney373
        • 3 Years Ago
        @lne937s
        If ethanol is truly as bad as you say, someone has to be buying it in order for the activity you decry to occur. You complain about lining the pockets of agribusiness. SO WHAT? We have a vast, mobile, advanced, energy-thirsty economy. Someone is going to be enriched by our need for fuel. Peaceful US agribusiness is a much more attractive candidate for those dollars than extremism and terrorism funding oil tyrannies. You claim that ethanol raises the price of food. Nonsense. Even while ethanol corn production went up several times over in the last decade, food corn production did not decline; it went UP 45%. Production of other staple crops such as soybeans went up too. There's huge slack capacity in the agriculture sector. Less than half our farmland is even cultivated. "Ethanol had questionable if any environmental benefit to begin with" Completely wrong. Ethanol is decisively better for the environment. Smog remains the most important and urgent air pollution problem we face, causing, according to the EPA, 40,000 deaths a year in the US alone. Unlike gasoline, burning ethanol emits no smoke, soot, or particulate matter, the cause of smog. Sulfur emissions cause acid rain. Unlike gasoline, burning ethanol emits no sulfur. NOx creates ozone smog when reacting to atmospheric ethanol or gasoline vapor; such vapors enter the air from leaks during refueling, or from tailpipes (due to imperfect combustion). Burning ethanol emits significantly less NOx than burning gasoline. Also, rainfall washes ethanol vapor out of the air, but cannot do so to gasoline vapor. Finally and most importantly on NOx, ethanol vapor is less than a tenth as reactive to NOx as gasoline vapor. CO2 is a greenhouse gas and thus contributes to global warming. The CO2 from gasoline would never have entered the atmosphere without human intervention (drilling, refining, burning); instead it would have remained sequestered underground, away from the air, unable to affect the temperature, effectively forever in human terms. By contrast the CO2 from ethanol emissions is already part of the current biosphere and carbon cycle, and would have returned to the air eventually on its own. There's an enormous difference between adding new net CO2 to the total system, versus not doing so. When spilled in water, petroleum (and its derivatives such as gasoline) remains undissolved (oil and water being proverbially disinclined to mix) and thus concentrated and toxic, requiring expensive cleanup efforts, often involving chemical dispersants. By contrast, as any bartender can tell you, ethanol dissolves easily and completely in mater. An ethanol spill thus dissolves on its own into effective nothingness in our vast hydrosphere, and is broken down into harmless components by naturally occurring bacteria.