By on May 5, 2010

As TTAC readers well know: There is a huge E85 flex-fuel loophole in the new federal fuel economy CAFE standards. Ford will drive right through that barn door-sized hole.

By the end of this year, Ford wants to deliver 370,000 flex fuel vehicles, a number which they can trade against fuel oinkers. Let’s review:  A flex-fuel vehicle is one that is capable of running on E-85. But it doesn’t have to. It can also run on straight gas. Or on any mixture of the two fuels. As long as it’s E85 capable, it counts at least for a Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha at the DC CAFE.

At the 2010 BIO International Convention in Chicago, Sue Cischke, Ford’s group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering said that “Ethanol and other biofuels help reduce the county’s dependence on imported oil.”

She even had stats to prove it: More ethanol is now produced and used in the U.S. than the amount of gasoline made from oil imported to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia and Iraq combined. Now there’s food for thought …

Ford is ready to expand flexible-fuel vehicle output to 50 percent of total 2012 model year vehicle production. Under one condition, says Ford:

“Assuming incentives continue to encourage the manufacturing, distribution and availability of renewable fuels as well as the production of flexible fuel vehicles.”

So CAFE credits aren’t incentive enough?

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14 Comments on “Meanwhile, Back At The Farm: Ford Promises Flex-Fuel Bumper Crop...”


  • avatar
    daga

    What is the actual multiplier or numerical benefit that these get under CAFE? For example, if a Taurus gets a combined 20MPG on gas, what MPG would an E85 rated Taurus be counted as?

    • 0 avatar
      TR4

      I don’t have a concrete reference but I read someplace that you basically rate it on the gasoline consumption alone and ignore the ethanol consumption. So you divide your 20 mpg by 0.15 and get 133 mpg. Great, huh?

    • 0 avatar
      cdotson

      TR4, you are partially correct.

      It is actually rated as a 50/50 average between its gasoline-only combined rating and the E85 combined rating counting only the gasoline portion.

      So if it is 20mpg combined on gasoline, and 15mpg combined on E85, then the CAFE calculation would be [20+(15/.15)]/2= 60 mpg.

  • avatar

    Meanwhile, the New York Times is reporting that the EPA is ready to issue the rule “permitting” 15% ethanol blends at the pump, but the car manufacturers claim that detailed testing has shown that half the engines have problems with their exhaust systems or otherwise with the higher blend. The ethanol industry says that they’re exaggerating.

    The reason why they’re raising the ethanol percentage is that the law mandates a certain number of gallons of ethanol be used, a number that is mathematically impossible to achieve with E10 alone at current consumption. (Presumably the number was set assuming that consumption rates would continue to rise, whereas instead they’ve fallen and stagnated over the last 4-5 years.)

  • avatar
    Robert.Walter

    ” Peppermint White Chocolate Mocha ” too many of these and I bet one gets either heart-burn or a heart attack!

    “So CAFE credits aren’t incentive enough?” Bertel, I read the Ford quote again, and what leads you to think that CAFE credits are not what he is talking about?

  • avatar
    Z71_Silvy

    E85 is such a joke. In my Silverado…my mileage (straight city driving) went from 15.1MPG to 11MPG on E85.

    I will never use E85 again.

    • 0 avatar
      YellowDuck

      “E85 is such a joke. In my Silverado…my mileage (straight city driving) went from 15.1MPG to 11MPG on E85.”

      What were you expecting? Ethanol has 66% the heat of combustion of gasoline on a volume basis, so if you buy E85 you are giving up 0.85 x 0.34 = 29% of your fuel energy. 15.1 MPG x (1-0.29) = 10.7 MPG. So, you actually did a little better than expected, perhaps because ethanol also oxygenates the fuel a bit, maybe increasing the combustion efficiency of the gasoline fration.

      To be a fair deal for the consumer, E85 should cost about 70% of the price for straight gas. How much were you paying?

    • 0 avatar

      Supposedly the new Ecoboost engines will benefit from the higher octane of E85, improving the mileage.

  • avatar

    >>>She even had stats to prove it: More ethanol is now produced and used in the U.S. than the amount of gasoline made from oil imported to the U.S. from Saudi Arabia and Iraq combined. Now there’s food for thought …

    The big question: how much oil went into the production of that ethanol? In the US, agriculture causes more greenhouse gas emissions than automobiles.

  • avatar
    YellowDuck

    “The big question: how much oil went into the production of that ethanol? In the US, agriculture causes more greenhouse gas emissions than automobiles.”

    Oh, oh, pick me pick me, I know!

    Very very little *oil* went into producing the ethanol. On a lifecycle analysis, only about 1/3 of the energy used to make corn ethanol is associated with any aspect of crop production, and of that, only a small fraction is from petroleum (gas, diesel) – much of it is in the form of natural gas used to make nitrogen fertilizers, etc.

    Most (2/3) of the energy used to make ethanol is consumed by the ethanol plant itself, and almost all of that is natural gas or coal, not petroleum.

    So, even though the total “energy balance” of ethanol is not great (about 1.4 BTU out per BTU in), the “petroleum replacement value” is awesome – about 7 BTU worth of gasoline replacement for every BTU of petroleum put in.

    So, ethanol is really about converting abundant, domestic sources of energy (coal, natural gas) into a replacement for a more scarce, largely imported source of energy (oil). It is really not that fundamentally different from the process of converting coal (abundant but useless to most people) into electricity. A major difference though is that ethanol also offers a (modestly) positive energy balance because of the capture of solar energy by the crop. In the coal-to-electricity conversion you lose about 2/3 of the energy you started with.

  • avatar
    SkiD666

    Subsidizing ‘Corn Ethanol’ is bad.

    Converting waste biomass to Ethanol is good (why just bury garbage).

    ‘Normal’ engines being less fuel efficient on Ethanol is bad.

    Small turbocharged engines can be as efficient on Ethanol as gas (think ecoboost) is good.

  • avatar
    joe_thousandaire

    Mr. Schmitt:
    +1 for not taking the obligatory (and ill-informed) cheap shots at ethanol that this site has jumped on in the past.
    -1 for showing a pic of a SWEET corn (or possibly seed corn) harvest with the post, they’re not gonna be making much E85 out of that.


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