Just five short years ago, it seemed like our dependency on foreign oil could be solved by a simple fuel known as ethanol. We’d been putting a small percentage of it in our gasoline for years, and Brazil has been running 100% ethanol in their cars for even longer. Then the biofuels argument got complicated by claims that ethanol might not be all that much cleaner than gasoline, and the effects of transforming farmland to fuel land could have an apocalyptic effect on nations already on the verge of famine. So ethanol has quietly slipped to the sidelines as electric and hybrid cars lead the way.
But that hasn’t stopped Ford from sticking to its pledge it made in 2006 to double its offering of E85 capable cars (85% ethanol/15% gasoline). Now if we could only get politicians to stick to their campaign promises.
Right now, Ford offers 11 different models (ten if you count the outgoing, fleet-only Crown Victoria) that are E85 capable. This includes the Ford Escape, Fusion, F-150, Lincoln Town Car and Navigator among others. This is nice, but the reality is that less than 2% of the nation’s fueling stations offer an E85 blend. GM and Ford have been making flex fuel vehicles for close to a decade, but the fuel simply has not caught on. So are they wasting their efforts?
I think E85 still has the potential to be a viable alternative to gas. While the world is certainly moving towards electrified vehicles, I have a feeling that high-mileage hybrids will prove more popular than straight electric cars at first. And if the oil supply is interrupted for any reason, or demand outstrips production, we’ll need a viable fuel to power all of those hybrids. The infrastructure for E85 fuel is there; it is just a matter of getting more consumers to make the jump. That might not happen though until oil prices eventually surge again. Until then, E85 will warm the bench, waiting for its turn in the limelight. Hey, at least we have more options now, right?
Source: Motor Trend | Image: Ford