E85 Boondoggle Of The Day: Don't You Forget About Me

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer
e85 boondoggle of the day don t you forget about me

GM Biofuels Communication Manager clearly doesn’t want go against his firm’s new emphasis on resurrecting the electric car. “When you think about it,” he writes at GM’s Fastlane blog, “the technology news at the auto show rarely has the same emphasis in back-to-back years any more than the Super Bowl features the same teams from one year to the next. GM has multiple approaches to advanced propulsion, including improved internal combustion engines, flex-fuel, hybrids, battery-electric, and hydrogen fuel cells. All have significant dedicated engineering resources, and the best stories – like the best football teams playing on Super Bowl Sunday – are told at the auto shows.” But a man can only feed on weak-wristed simile for so long. Sooner or later, GM’s resident biofuel booster has to wonder: “where is ethanol?” It’s dead, Mr Adler, hadn’t you heard? Price inversions? Refineries going under? The MSM figuring out what E85 does to your mileage? Sure, the huge federal and state subsidies have not yet been repealed,, and we’ll be singing the E85BOTD blues for at least another five years. But the days of GM spinning the stuff of tortilla riots into green PR gold are over. The great cellulosic ethanol hope is years away for GM’s Coskata partners, meanwhile electric cars have become The Big Thing Right Now. So thank you, Mr Adler, and condolences. We now know that the Volt will have a flex-fuel option, and that’s probably all the PR attention ethanol will get from GM for months. And on this point, The General has finally got it right.

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  • Martin B Martin B on Jan 26, 2009

    Is there any website with 100% reliable figures on how ethanol blends affect mpg? I've come across believable claims that many vehicles perform better than expected on ethanol blends. One just has to find the right blend to suit the vehicle. It's difficult to know if these claims are plants from the ethanol lobby, or the genuine experience of ordinary people. The ethanol debate seems to be 3/4 political propaganda and 1/4 rational argument. Let's stick to the rational argument.

  • No_slushbox No_slushbox on Jan 26, 2009
    50merc: Does China have economic misery? Cuba has pretty much always been run by murderous, totalitarian dictatorships. Castro is relatively benign compared to the puppet governments that Spain and the US put in place. Shutting Cuba off from trade with the US has simply helped Castro frame the US as an enemy, and prevented the emergence of the kind of educated middle class that questions murderous, totalitarian dictatorships. Castro is still in power because of the sanctions, not in spite of them. As I mentioned, even Dick Cheney and other conservatives opposed the sanctions.

  • FromBrazil FromBrazil on Jan 26, 2009

    Martin B: Ask anybody from Brazil. :) Well, what happens is that, with Brazilian gasoline, which is gasoline with anywhere from 23% to 27% ethanol (as explained in another thread), as a rule of thumb you get 30% less mileage when you fill it up with pure ethanol. So if the car gets 10 km/l on ethanol, it'll get 13 km/l on gasoline. SO you have to do the math, if ethanol's price is up to 70% of gasoline's, you're better off financially filling up with the sugarcane stuff. Up in the States, with pure gasoline this proportion will vary. I suspect that running the car on gasoline will probably get you 40% better mileage. So the price of ethanol would have to be just 60% of gasoline's. Get it? But, there are other things to consider. Here in Brazil, to better take advantage of ethanol properties the car makers have raised compression rates in their engines. So running the car purely on ethanol will net you anywhere between 1 and 10 extra horses (depending on the car). So the car will be faster. But it'll run louder and be a little more rough. But it'll also run cleaner, so over the long haul the engine will probably be cleaner and better off as the miles pile up. Because there are no unwanted deposits on valve heads, cylinders etc. (there are no sludge issues). But, ethanol is more corrosive. So, even though car makers take extra protective measures for these parts, hoses and even the exhaust will probably need to be replaced sooner. As they'll corrode faster. Anything in touch with the ethanol has to be more resistant. One more but. But a big pain in the ass but. At least in Brazil with E100 (the US avoids this by only selling E85) an extra tank is needed. You need to fill up this little extra tank, that they usually put in the engine bay, with gasoline. Because at temperatures below 20 degrees Celsius, alcohol is more difficult to ignite. So you need the gas to start the engine. This really becomes a pain at under 15 Celsius. In my Fiat the little tank can hold 1.75L of gas. In my Renault only 0.75L. At least the Fiat has a little idiot light in the instrument cluster that lights up when the level gets low. The Renault doesn't. It can lead to problems. Like the beginning of the year we took a trip in the Renault. It was stopped in front of our cottage for a couple of days. Because it only had ethanol in the tank and I forgot to check before we left and the car has no warning light, to fire it up was a pain. It only started after the 6th or 7th try and had me worrying about draining the battery and all of those problems that can happen when you do that. One final but, but I guess it's a choice. Running the car on ethanol puts out less CO2. But puts out more NOX (you know, the thing that causes acid rain). So on this front, despite what the greenies say, I think it's a toss. Hope to have helped.

  • John Horner John Horner on Jan 26, 2009

    “the technology news at the auto show rarely has the same emphasis in back-to-back years any more than the Super Bowl features the same teams from one year to the next." No kidding. First it was hydrogen being hyped by GM (Hy-wire anyone?), then it was Ethanol (remember Yellow is the New Green? ... didn't think so), this year we get all Volt, all the time. Salvation is always just around the corner ....