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Survey: US Consumer Awareness of E85 Flex-Fuel Vehicles High, Buying Interest Split About 50:50

Two-thirds of consumers surveyed are familiar with E85 flexible fuel vehicles, and more than one-half are interested in purchasing such a vehicle, according to the latest Harris Interactive AutoTECHCAST, a study conducted bi-annually among adult vehicle owners in the United States.

The survey was conducted online between 15 May 15 and 2 June 2006 among 12,857 US adults ages 18 and over who own or lease a vehicle, have a valid driver’s license, have at least one household vehicle and own a listed US model dated 2001 or newer.

Among consumers interested in purchasing flexible fuel vehicles, most (88%) cite a reduced dependency on petroleum as the leading reason for consideration. To illustrate this point further, Harris Interactive finds that more than half of all those surveyed (53%) indicate that they are willing to pay more money for a vehicle that relies less on petroleum-based fuel.

Sixty-nine percent of those interested in flex-fuel vehicles also indicate they would choose a flexible fuel vehicle because of the improved fuel economy that they expect will be realized. However, E85 vehicles will likely produce a slight decrease in fuel economy, though vehicle performance will be slightly enhanced given ethanol’s higher octane rating.

Consumers are assuming that a non-petroleum based fuel will result in better fuel economy, but that is not necessarily the case with ethanol. Still, beyond fuel economy, consumers are interested in flexible fuel vehicles for the impact they will have on the environment and that is certainly a benefit that this type of fuel can provide.

—Bryan Krulikowski, Senior Director of Harris Interactive’s Automotive & Transportation (ATR) Research Practice

Of the half of consumers who are less than enthusiastic about E85 vehicles, the majority (85%) indicate that the limited availability of fueling stations is a key reason for their lack of interest.

With approximately 800 E85 pumps available nationwide, concerns of availability will have to be addressed before flexible fuel vehicles can have a meaningful impact toward reducing the nation’s dependency on petroleum. As legislators and auto manufacturers continue to support increased production of flexible fuels, we should see a rapid increase in the number of fueling stations available. This will likely lead to increased consideration of these types of vehicles by those who are currently hesitant to consider this technology.

—Bryan Krulikowski



Why don't they do another poll and more research to find out why so many people could be so grossly mininformed about Ethanol's impact on gas mileage. Also, who the hell is Harris Interactive and why are they spending this to say that the decrease in fuel economy would be "slight".

My guess is that Harris Interactive is being paid by GM to figure out how more of these rediculous vehicles could be bought, especially given GM's continued losses.

Looking at the most optimistic scenarios, the positive effect on GHG would be negligible and the affect on our nation's soil and water supply will be negative.

They state that better fuel economy is not necessarily the case with ethanol. More evidence that Harris Interactive's main area of expertiese is understatement and spin doctoring.

And gee, I wonder why awareness is high. Could it be-----advertising?


Actually, you can get better fuel economy with ethanol, about 15% to be exact.


The problem with ethanol apart from the eventual choice between food and fuel is that it does not require change.

GM and Ford can continue to build huge E85 SUVs. Americans and Australians can continue to drive them and they seem to be green because they are using renewable fuel. However really they are just using the fossil fuel in a much more inefficient way. The problem will come when farmland and fertiliser become short and food prices rise. Even cellulostic ethanol can never entirely fuel the present fleet of fuel inefficient cars/trucks.

GM and Ford see ethanol as a cheap and easy way to appear green without spending too much money. They should be spending money on hybrids, plug in hybrids and battery electric cars all with V2G. Instead they invest in E85 that they well know is not viable in the long term.



i don't personally like SUVs either, but some people think they need them and i'm really in no position to tell another person what they need.

the most that society should do is make sure that all of the cost's of a choice are included. so, SUV drivers should pay higher insurance to cover damages to other parties, fuel prices should be high enough to cover the cost of associated envionmental impact, road maintenance, war efforts, etc.

this is a normal concept in environmental science, internalizing external costs.


"Actually, you can get better fuel economy with ethanol, about 15% to be exact."

J - I do not think that article was very clear. I'm fairly certain that what was meant was a 15% improvement over a non-Biopower E85 engine. This puts it closer to pure gasoline fuel consumption. If you also consider that you can use a smaller engine to get the equivilent power, it helps a little more, making it close to a wash.

Still, this is a very viable solution.


My main reason for lack of interest in E85 vehicles is that so far, just about all of them are being produced in huge vehicles with very low fuel economy.


It seems that the current Flex-Fuel vehicles are made with the sole reason of gaming the fuel economy standards not improving fuel ecomnomy. I understand it only cost $100 to make a vehicle Flex-Fuel so it is cheap. I can't remember how exactly they game they system but it boosts the "official" fuel economy of the vehicle therefore the car maker can make more gas guzzlers.

John Ard

Somebody should sell an E85 optimized small car for niche markets (like Minnesota) where the fuel is relatively available. Volkswagen could do this by just bringing over some of their Brazillian engines.


VW, GM and Fiat all sell flexfuel compacts in Brazil

richard schumacher

Ethanol is not close to being viable as a fuel when it is derived from corn, as is now the case in the US. In the present situation E85 is just a green fig leaf for automakers.

allen Z

For me, it is either Butanol, E5 to E10, or B20 to B100.


From what I understand there is a very old rule that says if you have a car capable of running on e85 ethanol then the fuel mileage is effectively doubled. This is regardless of whether the car is actually run on ethanol or not. This is just a big scam so the domestics can keep their gas guzzling trucks.

From the Saab article it appears the torque is significantly better when run on ethanol. This is a function of being able to run more boost and advanced timing due to the higher octane of ethanol. This doesn't directly translate into better fuel mileage. If they made the engine smaller then I could see some benefit. However, you could only run it on ethanol and get respectable performance which isn't practical today.

More importantly, large scale use of ethanol just doesn't look sustainable. The amount of gas, coal and water required is huge. I recommend people listen to this podcast about why ethanol is ultimately not going to work on a large scale.


1. The Saab Biopower car that is referenced above indeed runs very efficiently on ethanol, but it was optimized for ethanol. No standard FFV on the American market has the capabilities that the Saab has. Perhaps they should, or perhaps GM should sell more highly optimized cars in regions with real ethanol availability, but as things stand, the Saab is not a good representative of real world results. Instead, check out, which lists MPG figures for both gasoline and E85 for most FFVs they test. Volumetric fuel economy is typically 20% to 30% lower on ethanol, depending on the model.

2. All this does not mean that fuel economy, on a cents per mile basis, is always worse on ethanol. Many stations in the midwest currently sell E85 at a 20% to 30% discount to gasoline, making the price per mile essentially equal. See Stations do this in spite of the recent run up in ethanol prices on the spot market. Perhaps they have long-term supply contracts locking in a good price, and pass the savings on to consumers rather than cashing in by reselling the ethanol on the market. Perhaps there are practical difficulties with resale. I don't know. The federal tax credit certainly contributes to this price reality.

Mark R. W. Jr.

Could a turbocharger and direct injection into a flex-fuel vehicle improve the mileage of either gas or E85?


Yes. That's the approach Saab is using in its Aero X and BioPower hybrid E100 flex fuel concept cars. Also see the recent Delphi post.


Considering ethanol has 77000 btu/gal and gas has 125000 btu/gal it is much more efficent, and comparing engines of equal HP E85 should have better mpg.


Just can’t stay this nonsense. Flex-fuel engine has almost the same THERMAL efficiency on gasoline and alcohol. When using gasoline, engine will have about 5% reduced max power, that’s all. Considering that ethanol has much less energy per gallon then gasoline, it will always have way lower mpg rating. Dedicated ethanol engine have only slightly better thermal efficiency, which is not nearly enough to compensate this.


I drive one of the "small percentages" of FFVs (Tahoe) that is actually running on E85 most of the time. Having filled up at many E85 fueling stations, I have experienced with my own eyes and heard with my own ears from station owners that the E85 fuel is actually pretty popular. I experience roughly a 15% decrease in fuel economy (from 15 gas mpg to 13 E85 mpg). I go over 90 miles before I use 1 gallon of gasoline!! Yes, it takes energy and water to produce the ethanol, but livestock feed, CO2, and other co-products are also produced at the same time. The corn was going to be grown, transported, and processed into something anyway. Ethanol just makes another use for it, and helps to keep at least this one gas guzzler from consuming a whole lot of gas, and greatly reduces pollution. I go twice as far as most hybrid compact cars can go on a gallon of gas!! However, it is a problem that these same cars are not made also as FFVs. Can you imagine how little gasoline an FFV hybrid Insight or Prius would use? I figure it could go about 350 miles before using ONE gallon of gasoline. How about it, Honda and Toyota? Actually, how about it, Ford and GM? There's no reason that many of the existing cars from all of these manufacturers shouldn't also be available as FFVs. This year, not 5 or 10 years from now, please.

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