Ethanol Terminology Needs Clarification

Ethanol is receiving heavier press coverage than ever due to the President’s State of the Union address and new television commercials featuring vehicles that run on 85 percent ethanol, but amidst all of this attention there is evidence that specific misconceptions about ethanol fuel and vehicles still exist.

The American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE), a nationwide trade association for the ethanol industry comprised of grassroots members from 43 states, notes that the term “ethanol” means different things to different people. Because of the way the terminology is used, two misunderstandings frequently arise: people mistakenly believe it takes a special car to run on ethanol and that ethanol is only available at a few gas stations in the Midwest. “Every single automobile on the road today is ethanol-capable,” said Brian Jennings, ACE Executive Vice President. “All vehicles can operate on a 10 percent blend of ethanol with gasoline, and Flexible Fuel Vehicles can use E85, an alternative fuel containing 85 percent ethanol.” Ron Lamberty, ACE Vice President / Market Development, added that ethanol is much more widespread than many people realize. “Ethanol-blended fuel is available at thousands and thousands of America’s gas stations, literally from coast to coast. E85, the alternative fuel that is 85 percent ethanol, is available at a smaller number of stations and that figure is growing very quickly.” ACE indicates that it’s important to distinguish between three common terms associated with ethanol: — “Ethanol” is the 100 percent strength, fuel-grade ethanol produced at one of 90-plus ethanol production facilities across the United States. This pure ethanol is blended in various percentages with unleaded gasoline to make a finished motor fuel, the most common blends being 10 percent and 85 percent. — “E10” (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline) is a fuel for use in all vehicles, no matter the make or model. All automakers approve up to a 10% blend of ethanol by warranty, and many recommend it because of its cleaner burning, high-octane characteristics. According to 2004 fuel consumption statistics, ethanol was blended into approximately one-third of America’s gasoline. The majority of that ethanol was consumed as E10, the 10 percent ethanol blend that can be used in all automobiles. Some motorists are already filling up with ethanol-blended fuel, but just aren’t aware of it. Each state controls its own pump labeling requirements, so in some states this type of ethanol-blended fuel is labeled at the gas pump and in some it is not. — “E85” (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline) is an alternative fuel for use in Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs). These vehicles are truly flexible because they can be fueled by E85, any blend of ethanol up to that 85 percent level, or straight unleaded gasoline. E85 is a promising fuel that is evolving quickly as an alternative to gasoline. The availability of both the fuel itself and the Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) to utilize it is growing rapidly. Because it is for use only by these FFVs, E85 is always labeled clearly at the pump. Flexible Fuel Vehicles are produced by many major automakers, including General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Mercury, Mazda, Isuzu, Mercedes, and Nissan. E85 is available today at approximately 600 retail gas stations across the United States. The availability of E85 is expected to triple this year alone, according to National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition estimates. A link to a map of stations offering E85 and a list of FFVs is available at the link below.
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