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France Begins First Tests of E85 Flex-Fuel Cars

E85 rolling in La Marne.

France today launched its first tests of E85 flex-fuel vehicles. E85 is currently not authorized in France, but the Marne regional government in eastern France has a special permit to test the ethanol-based E85 fuel in a fleet of seven Ford Focus flex-fuel (BioFlex) cars for one year.

French government approval of E85 is expected by early next year and the fuel should be widely available by 2010.

Only Ford and Saab currently have flex-fuel models for the French market, but Renault has said it will make half of its cars flex-fuel capable by mid-2009.

France produced 100,000 tonnes of ethanol in 2005; that is due to increase to 900,000 tonnes by 2008, propelled by the government insistence on a higher percentage of biofuels. France is setting a target of 7% biofuel use by 2010 and 10% by 2015. The European Union has set a target of 5.75% by 2010. (Earlier post.)

These experiments will show, to those who are still in doubt, that ethanol cars are possible in France and not only in Brazil or Sweden.

Our objective is simple: we want, by the end of the decade, the market to offer cars that can drive equally with gasoline or with a biofuel that is almost pure.

...The struggle against high-priced gasoline moves ahead by the reduction of our dependence on fossil-fuels and in particular by the diversification of our sources of energy, notably in transportation. Biofuels are one of the means of improving our energy independence, while assuring the protection of the environment and providing new outlets for French agriculture.

With flex fuel, we are preparing the economy of tomorrow. A post-industrial economy...and from now on, a post-petroleum economy.

—Industry Minister François Loos

Siplec, a top French gasoline distributor, which became the first in the country to sell gasoline mixed with five percent ethanol, is supplying La Marne with the E85.

The Ford Focus Bioflex uses a 1.8-liter engine that develops 92 kW (123 hp) of power and 165 Nm of torque, with European combined-cycle fuel consumption (E85) of 7.0 liters/100km (33.6 mpg). Euro-4 compliant, the car emits 169 g/km of CO2 gross or 50 g/km net (factoring out the carbon dioxide from the ethanol).



French ethanol I understand is made from sugar beets. This should be interesting to follow.

Rafael Seidl

The French farm lobby probably realizes that the long-running trade-distorting gravy train called the CAP (common agricultural policy) will slow down after 2013 and - hopefully! - come to a complete stop by 2020. By ramping up ethanol production and pushing E85, they are laying the groundwork for future legislation that will guarantee them a captive market. Wily peasants indeed!

So far, the 20-by-20 (20% market share for alternative on-road motor fuels by 2020) target set by the EU commission is just that - a target. If it looks achievable, it may well become mandatory.

allen zheng

____Although sugar beets are high yielding than corn(600 vs 300-400 gallon/acre ethanol), they require large energy/water inputs. Their energy balance is far inferior to sugar cane (1.9 vs 8.3; 1 unit in, x units out) ethanol, and more in line with corn (1.3- 1.8). Gasoline has an average energy balance of 0.817, if you want to know.
____Sweet sorghum, yielding 600-700 gallons acre (sources indicate as low as 400 to as high as 900 gallon/acre), needs more nitrogen than has corn (crop rotate with Soy/legume) but a little less water (10-20% less). It has a range of 3.4-6.1 in its energy balance due to irrigation considerations.

allen zheng

...corn (600...
...larger water/energy inputs....


@rafael seidl:
You've got it!. For that reason I have bought already in 2004 a French farm ("grande culture") over 450 ha. A good investment indeed.


@corndog: Not only from sugar beets, at least the same amount from corn. There are currently 4 ethanol plants under construction. And they are about to construct a cellulosic ethanol plant together with ABENGOA (Spain).

@Rafael Seidl: I agree with you 100%. Not only will the CAP (which is paid to farmers all over Europe, not only in France) will be obsolet amid higher corn and sugar beet prices. Farmers will get a welcome extra income by using the (more or less useless) straw resulting from corn harvest in cellulosic ethanol plants. This will allow the EU to dramatically reduce the amount of farm subsidies. This will also be a relief for further WTO talks.
Recently I read an article, where some farmers in Iowa said, they could deliver about 1 mio. tonnes of straw p.a. from their own fields in order to produce cellulosic ethanol (that was the story about the plan to construct a cellulosic plant by IOGEN). Extra income for the farmers p.a.: 25 Mio. to 35 Mio. US$.


A very interesting application also could be the use of E85 for piston engines in general aviation, thus phasing out the rarer and rarer - and very expensive - aviation gasoline. The Americans are already working on it:
If the specifications of AGE85 were made common for ALL E85 on sale, it could also be very beneficial for motorcycles and other high performance engines that need extra lubrication by the added bio-lubricant (essentially bio-diesel)

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