So here’s a bit of hearsay.
First some background. Flex fuel cars are cars that can run on either petrol or so called E85. E85 is a fuel made with 85% ethanol and 15% regular petrol. The big picture reason to find E85 cars interesting is that they offer the potential to transition the installed base of autos from a oil based supply chain into a bio-fuel based one. The hope is that we can find a means to produce bio-fuels at reasonable price points. Setting aside my doubts about how hopeful that is I recently came upon this bit-of-info. I wonder if it’s are true.
Now the depressing rumor. The feds relaxed the fuel efficency requirements (the so called CAFE standards) for these cars as follows. In effect they decided that only the consumption of petrol would count in the ratings. So if the manufacture could make the case that 100% of his cars were using E85 rather then petrol he could calculate his miles/gallon based on the 15% of the fuel that was petrol. So rather than say 20miles/gallon he could claim about 120miles/gallon. Of course the presentage of of ethanol burnt wouldn’t be 100% but more like 20%; but that’s enough to provide a significant uptick in the CAFE numbers. For some car models, and for GM most of their models, this uptick is desperately needed. Otherwise they would have had to pay fines.
Just as an aside E85 isn’t as energy dense, about 30% less, as regular petrol, so it doesn’t get as good milage per gallon. One can only hope that’s reflected in the price at the pump.
We desperately need an exit strategy from the oil based transportation economy. Migrating that vast installed base is not going to be easy. E85 is one of the few scenarios out there that seems even slightly plausable. If the above is true it’s a shame. Since it suggests that GM’s only reason for advocating flex fuel cars was to avoid the tightening of the CAFE standards. Tightening the CAFE standards is, of course, about forcing the migration. So, if this is true it certainly taints the motives behind GM’s marketing campaign for it’s flex fuel vechiles.
Here’s an article about the so called Flex-Fuel Loophole.
The dual-fuel credit creates a stark difference. A flex-fuel 2005 Chrysler Sebring was rated at nearly 46 miles per gallon for the purposes of the federal mileage standards. Its actual miles per gallon running on conventional gasoline in a government test: Less than 28.