Ford Motor has announced a new partnership with VeraSun Energy, the second-largest ethanol producer in the US, to expand the refueling infrastructure for E85, the 85%-ethanol blend used in flex-fuel vehicles (FFV). Flex-fuel vehicles can run either on gasoline or E85.
Ford also reaffirmed its commitment, made earlier by CEO Bill Ford, to increase production of flex-fuel vehicles in the US in 2006 (earlier post). In Europe, Ford announced that it is preparing to launch the new Focus Flexi-Fuel vehicle (FFV) and Focus C-MAX FFV in France.
Ford has produced flexible fuel vehicles for over a decade now, with more than a million on the road. Our introduction of four new models—producing up to 250,000 in 2006—reinforces our commitment. Fueling infrastructure for our customers, however, is lagging. We look forward to partnering with VeraSun and encouraging retail fuel providers to incorporate E85 fuel options in their operations.—Ford CEO Bill Ford
Only about 500 of the more than 180,000 fuel stations in the US currently offer E85. Ford and VeraSun will increase the number of stations offering E85, particularly in Midwest markets where ethanol availability is growing.
Increasing FFV production and E85 use represent the best near-term solution to significantly reducing our dependence on foreign oil. The two greatest challenges facing greater E85 use are access to convenient fueling locations and a lack of consumer awareness. Because flexible fuel vehicles can run on both gasoline and E85, most FFV owners are not aware they are driving an FFV and simply use gasoline. Our research indicates that nearly 70 percent of flexible fuel vehicle owners are unaware they are driving one. With Ford as a partner, we believe we can make great strides in both areas.—Bill Honnef, vice president, Sales and Marketing, VeraSun
The Ford/VeraSun partnership will convert existing fuel pumps to VeraSun’s branded E85—VE85—in existing retail outlets. A consumer awareness campaign to promote the benefits and use of E85 will also be launched. Local retail outlets and Ford dealerships will be asked to participate in the campaign.
The announcement about the expansion of FFVs into the French market follows similar introductions in Sweden and Germany, with the UK, Ireland and Spain in pilot projects.
Since the market introduction of the first generation Focus FFV in Sweden in 2001, more than 15,000 Ford FFVs have been sold. This accounted for 80% of all Focus sales and 80% of sales of environmentally friendly cars in Sweden in 2004. The most recent data shows that 40% of all Ford sales in Sweden are FFVs.
The FFVs, when burning E85, can lead to a 70% reduction in overall CO2 emissions compared to a traditional gasoline engine.