Are flex-fuel vehicles viable? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Are flex-fuel vehicles viable?

May 8, 2006

Albany -- Cars that can run on a mixture of gasoline and ethanol have been around for more than 20 years, but until recently there's been little interest in them. With gas prices soaring, many people want to know, what's all the hype about?

Let's start with the good news: You can select from a wide range of vehicles that are E85 compatible, like a Ford F-150 truck, that don't cost anymore than the standard fuel vehicle.

Ford General Sales Manager Brian Willian says, "It's usually just listed in your engine configuration. It's a no charge option just like you see here."

But here's problem number 1. Most of us have never heard of E85, so what is it? Flex-fuel vehicle is going to operate identically to a gasoline vehicle, you can put this alternative fuel in it.

And that's all it is, an alternative to gasoline, made mostly with corn in the U-S. That's another plus. You're becoming less dependent on foreign sources and a little more domestic focused.

Great, so now you have the vehicle, and a fuel that is better for the economy and environment. So where can you buy it? If you're looking for the slightly cheaper, cleaner burning ethanol, keep looking. You can't buy E85 in Albany just yet, but there is a blend offered of 10% ethanol, the rest gasoline.

But E85 isn't far away. Many stations across the country have started carrying it. We asked motorist Angela Lassiter if she'd like it if there were different sources for fuel. "A whole lot," she replied. "If it was cheaper than this."

And good news Angela, it is slightly cheaper, but, there's a downside. It takes a little more ethanol to go the same distance that you would on gasoline. Here's an example: Per year, it will cost about $2,921 to fill up that F-150 using gasoline, E85 will take about $350 extra.

But you don't have to use E85, you can still fill up on regular gasoline-- another plus. Bottom line, you'll have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself and see what's best for you, because like Angela, "It's ridiculous, it's outrageous." We could all use a little break.

E85 vehicles aren't necessarily in more of a demand because of high gas prices, but hybrid cars are. The Ford Escape Hybrid is so popular, Fordtown can't keep them on the lot. The last one was sold over the weekend.

Feedback: news@walb.com?subject=FlexFuel/Collier

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