hybrids & alt-fuel autos
You have likely heard about ethanol cars from the widely-publicized GM ad campaign “Live Green, Go Yellow” GM and the US government are heavily promoting the power of corn-based E85 ethanol as an alternative fuel. Several other countries have made ethanol a leading part of their energy strategies. For example in Brazil 75% of new cars are made to run on ethanol.
Ethanol (also known as ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol) is a clear, colorless liquid. Ethanol is produced from renewable crops like corn, sugar beets, sugar cane, and grains. There are also efforts being made to produce ethanol from biomass like corn stover, switchgrass, and other feed-stocks. Most ethanol in the US is made from corn and is sold in the Midwest.
As a fuel supplement, ethanol is blended with gasoline to reduce emissions. The most common form of this blend is known as E85, which is a combination of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. Ethanol is a high-octane fuel and has 80% or more of the energy content of gasoline. These fuels can be used in “Flexible Fuel Vehicles” or FFVs. These autos can run on E85, any standard gasoline, or other combinations of ethanol and gas. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, each year in the U.S. approximately 2 billion gallons of ethanol are added to gasoline to increase octane and improve the emissions quality of gasoline.
Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) are widely available. Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, GM and others all make FFVs. As of 2005, the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition estimated that approximately 5 million FFVs have already been sold in the United States. To search for FFVs by make and model, please visit: http://www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/byfueltype.htm
Compared with standard gasoline-fueled vehicles, most ethanol-fueled vehicles produce equivalent carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions as standard gas vehicles, and the same or lower levels of hydrocarbon and non-methane hydrocarbon emissions. Oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions are about the same for ethanol and gasoline vehicles.
You aren’t likely to save any money by using ethanol today. Because ethanol contains less energy than gas, an amount of ethanol equivalent to gas will cost you over $4 per gallon.
There is a good deal of debate over the costs and benefits of ethanol fuels. First, proponents of ethanol contend that the plants that are used to produce ethanol consume enough carbon dioxide to negate the negative effects of fuel emissions; but some scientists do not think there is such a simple 1:1 relationship. Second, there are critics who raise the issue that food crops like corn are scarce and in demand globally and that using such crops for fuel will drive up prices and worsen global hunger challenges. Finally, some experts raise the issue that ethanol based on current vegetation sources will not satisfy a significant enough portion of our fuel consumption to make much difference: even if all corn produced in the US went to ethanol fuel, it would supply less than 15% of our overall need. This would mean that we would need to produce ethanol in large quantities from other forms of biomass (switchgrass, etc.) and/or supplement ethanol with other renewable fuels.
To learn more about ethanol fuel issues, please visit: http://www.ethanol.org
General Motors has a fun “Cornulator” on its Live Green, Go Yellow Web site. Use it to estimate barrels of oil saved by fueling with E85.
Individual results of using green products and services listed herein may vary. Low Impact Living, Inc. takes no responsibility for individual results, nor for service providers or products listed on this website.