You may have well noticed logos on new cars and trucks of “Flexifuel” or “Flexi-fuel”. You may have well wondered what this innovation is. Is something to increase fuel efficiency? Is it a means of being able to use regular gasoline instead of high premium test? The automobile industry has a well deserved record of relaunching and repackaging old products as new and simply applying chrome and simple modifications to previous models and technologies and selling them as new products and innovations.
Flexifuel is new. A Flexifuel vehicle is a flexible-fuel vehicle (FFV) or a dual-fuel vehicle. Flexi fuel vehicles may also be called flex-fuel as well. The Flexi fuel vehicles that you are seeing on American roads are designed to run on ethanol (a type of alcohol), gasoline or any mixture of both. Cars made previously to 1980 can not tolerate any ethanol at all. The ethanol played havoc with those cars rubber seals, aluminum and other components of those car models. Cars made after 1980 onwards could tolerate and run on gasohol – a 10 % mixture of ethanol mixed with 90 % ethanol.
What makes Flexfuel cars different is that they can run on gasoline or ethanol alcohol gasoline percentages up to 85 % ethanol. That combination of 85 % ethanol with alcohol is commercially sold and referred to as E85 fuel. No damage of any kind is done to cars certified with the Flexfuel certification when they run ethanol / gasoline combinations or straight gasoline. Further the owner can switch back and forth without skipping a beat. .
Flexi fuel cars have been used for a number of years in Brazil. Since the 1980’s and the energy crisis Brazil built up a substantial ethanol industry in tandem with its sugar cane production. As a result of Flex-fuel automobiles Brazil has substantially reduced its dependence on costly foreign imported oil. In the United States we take foreign currency for granted. American dollars a standard in the world. Everyone wants American dollars. However I most of the world foreign currency is a country’s most precious commodity. Without foreign currency – be it dollars , Japanese Yen or The European Union’s Euro a county can not buy essential items to improve their economy and feed their people – whether it be factory tools , tractors, computers or the money to send their students abroad to learn new procedures to improve their society. As a result of Flexi-fuel gas / ethanol cars Brazil has reduced its dependency on foreign imported oil and saved much precious foreign currencies.
Motorists choose their type and grade of fuel depending on availability or cost or a combination of all the above. Gasoline can be used by Flex-fuel cars. So can 10 % Gasohol. . Ethanol / Gasoline fuels can be used all the way up to 85 % ethanol mixed with 15 % gasoline.
There are some disadvantages to Flex-fuel though. Because the Flexi-fuel engine has to be all things to all kinds of fuel the Flex-fuel vehicle may not be as fuel efficient as a regular gasoline single fuel engine. Secondly ethanol’s higher volatility means that ethanol mixed with gasoline may actually increase smog which is not a good idea in large urban areas or in areas such as California which rely on a large amount of vehicles with much driving in an automobile culture.
However there are often tax advantages and credits both directly for using ethanol based fuels both for the motorist and the car manufactures in their fleets.
There are currently more than an estimated 4 million flexible-fuel vehicles currently being operated on American roads. Most of the owner’s of these vehicles have no idea of the capabilities of their engines to accept ethanol based fuels. In the last number of years many cars had the term Flexi-fuel without even the dealer never mind car owners even knowing what the term meant. Less expensive ethanol based fuels are not readily available throughout America. Time and the price and availability of gasoline at the pump for American motorists will change their preferences for Ethanol and Flexi-fuel.