Flexible fuel vehicles are just like an average car in the sense that they use a single gas tank. But it can run on a mixture of gasoline and alcohol based fuel. Any car made after 1988 can run on a mixture of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline. A flexible fuel vehicle can run on a mixture of up to 85% ethanol. Modifications are needed for this ratio as alcohol based fuels are corrosive.
Fuel tanks and engines must be modified in flexible fuel vehicles. In the US, there is a special indicator used that analyzes the ratio of the mix and adjusts itself accordingly to make sure that the fuel is burned clean. This is done by adjusting the timing and the fuel injection and happens automatically. Many flexible fuel vehicles are also required to use a special engine oil.
Why use ethanol?
Ethanol offers motorists an environmentally friendly alternative to using fossil based gasoline fuels, since ethanol is much more environmentally friendly and a renewable resource it seems to be an ideal alternative fuel for an environmentally friendly motorist. Studies show that using a mix of 10% ethanol reduces carbon monoxide levels by up to 17% , CO2 emissions by 4.2% and hydrogen emissions by up to 5%. By using a mixture of 85% ethanol greenhouse gas effects are reduced by up to 37%
What countries are using ethanol fuel?
There are three countries currently using ethanol in their vehicles – US, Brazil and Sweden.
* Brazil has been using ethanol mixtures in their fuel since the 1970’s and it is required by law that all fuel mixes be at a ratio of 29-25% ethanol.
* Sweden is the only country that has flexible fuel vehicles in Europe, although there are plans to introduce fuel mixes of up to 85% in other European countries.
* US has many cars designed to run on 85% ethanol fuel mixes. These flexible fuel cars make up 4 million of the cars in the US, although less than 1% of these vehicles are currently running on a mixture of 85% ethanol.
The future of ethanol based fuels
At the moment the future of ethanol fuel mixtures seems a little bleak. Until the fuel companies can make the mixtures of gasoline and ethanol fuel mixes more efficient and provide a superior mileage, people will still continue using gasoline and small mixes of ethanol such as a 10% ratio. Once this obstacle has been corrected, ethanol will be more widely used in flexible fuel vehicles.
There is potential for future growth in the ethanol industry. Last year an energy bill was created that is calling for refiners to begin using more renewable fuels. The national ethanol industry currently produces more than 4 billion gallons of ethanol fuel per year with more plants being built all the time. The ethanol industry is definitely set to sky-rocket in coming years.