Development of a more wide-spread E85 refueling infrastructure is fundamental to any wider-spread usage of the 85% ethanol blend, and the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC) has established continued funding for E85 infrastructure as its highest legislative priority.
However, in an update to its members, the NEVC noted that it has been advised that it is “unlikely” that the Department of Energy will make any grants during calendar year 2007 to build additional E85 stations.
During Sept. 2006, DOE issued $5.4 million in grants which are intended to build an additional 168 stations. This program was apparently financed by using both FY 06 and 07 funding. Unfortunately, DOE has also indicated they will be unable to provide NEVC funds to make E85 infrastructure grants.
NEVC says that it is negotiating with DOE officials in an attempt to receive up to an additional $800,000 to continue to provide E85 technical support, and is urging support for the bills currently in Congress that would provide more support for infrastructure build-out.
Funds available for spending by NEVC in 2007 are approximately half of the amount available in 2006, due to a reduction in federal support from what the organization had anticipated. As a result, the organization said, it is unlikely it will be able to provide grants to assist with building new E85 stations at this point.
Nor is there good news about UL certification of an E85 fueling system. In October 2006, Underwriters Laboratories suspended the authorization to use UL Markings (Listing or Recognition) on components for fuel dispensing devices that specifically reference compatibility with alcohol-blended fuels that contain greater than 15% alcohol—e.g., E85. Fuel dispenser components as they relate to use with traditional fuel blends (e.g., E15 or less) were unaffected by this decision. (Earlier post.)
Insurance companies and local fire marshals generally require the use of “listed” equipment as a condition of coverage or code-compliance. The suspension by UL doesn’t put an immediate end to E85 sales, but it definitely complicates the picture.
Although UL had indicated that initial materials compatibility testing was to have begun sometime in mid-December, 2006, local building codes are going to require structural changes be made to the testing facilities prior to the start of such E85 equipment testing, according to the NEVC.
At this point, the NEVC is:
not optimistic we will have any form of UL certification prior to the second quarter of 2008. We are hopeful this schedule can be advanced; however, much work remains to be accomplished.