How Brazil's ethanol vehicles get a kick-start with gas

At the GM/US BioEnergy media event a while ago, GM had, appropriately enough, some of their flex-fuel vehicles from around the world on display. Not to drive, but to peek at. The one that stood out to me was the Zafira, usually sold with the Opel badge, but this particular minivan had the Chevy symbol and lots of Flexpower branding on the sides. GM is doing some tests with the Zafira here in Michigan, but nothing special.

What I wanted to share with you was one little bit of information about how GM's flex-fuel systems work in Brazil. It's a system that would not be possible in the US, thanks to differences in emission and safety laws, but it's both clever and annoying in the world's Number One ethanol-using country.

The problem with E100 is that you can't start a car with it in the cold, anything below 40-42 degrees Fahrenheit because there isn't enough vapor pressure. So, to start the E100 cars when it's chilly out, the Zafira and other Brazilian flex-fuel models have a six ounce reservoir that holds standard gasoline/petrol that is used to fire up the engine when necessary. This is also where the annoying part come in: GM's number one customer complaint in Brazil comes because people forget to fill this tiny gas tank up and can't start the car. In the photo gallery below, the reservoir is the thing with the red cap.

This little fact about E100 explains why E85 was developed in the first place. With E85, you don't need the dual-fuel system and can start the car in a wider range of temperatures. And now you know.

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