We’ve all heard the buzz about alternative fuels. What types of ethanol fuels can run in certain vehicles? The truth is that all gasoline vehicles are capable of operating on gasoline/ethanol blends with up to 10% ethanol. In fact, some states require the seasonal or year-round use of up to 10% ethanol as an oxygenate additive to gasoline to mitigate ozone formation.
These low percentage oxygenate blends – such as ethanol fuel – are not classified as alternative fuels for vehicles. We speak of ethanol vehicles as those specifically manufactured to be capable of running on up to 85% denatured ethanol, 15% gasoline (E85), or any mixture of the two up to the 85% ethanol limit. E85 may be seasonally adjusted in colder climates such that the real proportion of E85 is less than 85% ethanol. Vehicles manufactured for E85 use are commonly called flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs).
Because there are various types of ethanol fuel being developed even as we speak, it’s difficult to determine what kinds of vehicles will be naturally equipped to run this type of fuel. Light-duty FFVs include a wide range of vehicles, from compacts to sport utility vehicles to pickup trucks.
Unlike bi-fuel natural gas and propane vehicles that have two unique fueling systems, FFVs have only one fueling system. To qualify as an alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) for tax credits, incentives to meet requirements for mandated fleets (federal, state, and fuel provider fleets) under the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct), a vehicle must be capable of using fuel blends up to 85% ethanol.
In the Midwest, where corn production is generally centered, you will find more people using ethanol fuel as one type of fuel for their vehicles. In fact, in the Midwest, E85 fuel is starting to become one of the most popular type of fuel with lines forming behind that one pump that dispenses E85.
Types of ethanol fuel that is used to power vehicles can be priced at about the same price as gasoline. Now we know that isn’t a comfort to those of us with gasoline powered cars who are paying a premium even for the cheap gasoline. However, the growing trend towards cleaner burning fuels can help set the market price lower than gasoline since supply equals demand. Ethanol is high in supply but low in demand right now. That could be flip flopped in the very near future and we could see a lower price for types of ethanol fuels to power our vehicles.