GM Continues E85 Push with 20 More Stations in Michigan
18 April 2006
General Motors continued to focus on its national ethanol campaign (earlier post) with plans for the addition of approximately 20 new E85 ethanol fueling sites in the southeast Michigan area through a collaborative partnership with Meijer and CleanFUEL USA.
GM made the announcement during an event at the Michigan State Capitol presided over by Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.
As part of the partnership, GM will promote the availability of the fuel through consumer and dealer outreach. The effort is similar to announcements GM has already made with other state government, oil industry, ethanol producers, and retail partners in Sioux Falls, SD; California, Chicago, and Texas.
GM, Meijer and CleanFuelUSA will work together to identify retail locations in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Warren, Pontiac, Detroit, Rochester, and Brighton over the next few months, with one station scheduled to immediately open in Jackson this week.
Michigan is currently among the nation’s leading corn producers with more than 257 million bushels a year and is 11th in the nation in terms of overall ethanol production. The state is also home to one of the largest concentrations of GM’s E85 flexible fuel vehicles in the country with 140,000 GM company vehicle drivers and members of the general public.
GM also provided an E85-capable Chevrolet Tahoe to the state for use in Michigan as part of a campaign to promote ethanol and E85-capable vehicles. As part of the campaign, the governor’s office will showcase the vehicle in various ways and events throughout the year.
Is there even enough ethanol refining capacity to support this?
Posted by: Russ | 18 April 2006 at 05:17 AM
Just heard on the news there are currently 30 ethanol plants being built as we speak in the US
Posted by: PaulH | 18 April 2006 at 05:35 AM
don't worry Russ, she'll be right
all California gas is already 10% ethanol since MTBE was outlawed and ethanol the required replacement. 20 stations in serving 85% ethanol will require anywhere near the amount that 10% of all Ca gas represents.
besides, it isn't rocket science (even though it can be used as model rocket fuel). it is just ethanol. you could make it in your back yard if you had a license
Posted by: shaun | 18 April 2006 at 05:39 AM
Ethanol has 60% of the energy value of gasoline. Unless Ethanol comes in very, very cheap, this isn't going to fly with the consumer that feels he/she is beleagured. This is sold as the salvation to high gas prices. But who will save us from the Ethanol lobby, which now includes GM?
I still say this whole campaign is a diversion intended to sell GMs inventory of monster trucks and SUVs. You don't hear them pushing E85 on any of their smaller vehicles.
Posted by: t | 18 April 2006 at 06:38 AM
How lame! This is GM's version of the Michael Jackson moonwalk.
It creates the illsion that GM is "moving" while doing nothing.
Posted by: dursun | 18 April 2006 at 07:29 AM
dursun, sure GM is moving...right to bankruptcy court.
Posted by: dave | 18 April 2006 at 08:03 AM
T - ethanol has 66% the energy value of gasoline. 75,500btus/gallon versus 115,000btus/gallon. Also, at a 10% blend, your tank of E10 has 96% of the BTUS that straight gasoline would have contained. Plus, you've got added protection against pinging and a fuel that extracts water from your fuel system.
At an e85 blend level, you have 71% of the btus available from a straight tank of gasoline. But, pure ethanol does have an octane rating of around 110, which results in a much more efficient combustion process, as long as the engine is tuned to take advantage of it - which E85 vehicles are. Btu for btu, ethanol will take you further than gasoline.
And Dave, yes, GM may be headed towards bankruptcy court someday. Haha, another lame GM joke. Very funny. How was the pertinent to the original post?
Most of us who read at GCC are forward thinking optimists who want people to succeed - as opposed to pessimistic aholes who hammer home sarcastic, overplayed, worthless banter in the comment section.
Posted by: Adam | 18 April 2006 at 08:51 AM
E85 is 81,000 BTU/gal. Typical US-blend gasoline is around 112,000 BTU/gal. That gives E85 72.3% the energy content of gasoline. Pure ethanol is 77,000 BTU/gal, which is still about 69% the energy content of typical gasoline.
You can run higher compression ratios and more spark advance on E85 and ethanol thanks to it's far higher octane ratings, typically quoted at 100 to 105 octane. Pure ethanol should measure around 110 octane on the US Anti-Knock Index, although no one's talking E100 in this country just yet.
As oil continues to get more and more expensive and we improve our ethanol production from other feedstocks besides just corn, the cost competitiveness will continue to increase. With a low-dollar feedstock like switchgrass, E100 shouldn't be much more than $2.50/gal. The problem is that that no one's doing it from that feedstock on a large scale yet, and refining capacity is still ramping up in the US.
Five years from now, we should have roughly four times the ethanol production capacity that we have today, which I believe would bring it to about 8% of our total transportation fuel consumption. To be honest, there's a good chance that 5 years from now, gasoline will be over $4/gallon anyway, further increasing the demand to ramp up alternative fuel infrastructure.
Posted by: Sid Hoffman | 18 April 2006 at 08:54 AM
If all these E85 vehicles are tuned to ethanol, why is their gas mileage suffering so much? Do you have documentation that shows that GM vehicles are appropriately tuned. These vehicles may or may not be getting more mileage per btu, but they are going a lot shorter distance per tank of gasoline. That is the relevant fact for most consumers who could care less about what the vehicle is getting per btu.
Posted by: t | 18 April 2006 at 10:55 AM
It would seem to me that the E-85 vehicles couldn't be tuned to take advantage of the higher octane if they can also run on low octane gasoline.
I guess they could have a sensor to make the switch, but that would require the ability to innovate.
Posted by: Lucas | 18 April 2006 at 11:03 AM
The industry is going gangbusters by expanding the number of plants devoted to the conversion of corn to ethanol, including the use of coal as part of the conversion process. Doesn't sound like a very environmentally benign approach to me.
We keep hearing about switchgrass, but where is the production? Until that occurs, I think ethanol should be evaluated by what is happening, not by what might happen.
No doubt you can do certain things to automobiles to make up for the lower btu content, but it does not appear that GM is doing that-- at least not in a way that would equalize gas mileage. There is still a significant penalty as far as mileage goes.
Posted by: t | 18 April 2006 at 11:03 AM
Hey! Am I already on 10% ethanol in California? On the last couple tanks it's been "harder work" to stay above 50 mpg.
A note from a chemical engineer doing biofuel stuff - ethanol is "thermodynamically challenged." I don't think I've heard that phrase before. Funny.
And as a last note, my local Orange County California prices now average $2.95/gal ... wooo hooo.
Posted by: odograph | 18 April 2006 at 11:21 AM
Tahoe 8 cyl, 2 wd mpg
Tuned or not tuned, that is the question. In any event, if they are tuned, they are certainly not making up for the btu deficit. The penalty for the city is 31.25% The penalty for highway is 25%.
One good question above, is can these engines be tuned to maximize mileage with E85 if they can also run on gasoline. Or would tuning them for E85 make the mileage using gas suffer?
Posted by: t | 18 April 2006 at 11:23 AM
Y'all forgetin' sometin'.
heres a link:
Just tweak swithchgrass or some other low impact plant that grows rapidly. Now, yes y'all gotta test it out for unintended consequences, but it could work. For the Brazilians, it could improve their yields way over 1-12 input output-energy budget for their cane ethanol. And use the enzymes to convert unaltered or tweaked starch or celluose. Just blend some in the batch with the rest of the biomass.
PS: The Australians might not cash in on this as much as y'all might think. The geology and climate makes Australia less able to regenerate soil. Whats there ain't easily replaced.
Posted by: allen zheng | 18 April 2006 at 11:56 AM
But the Tahoe will still use way less gasoline than a Prius when running on e85.
The only problem is there needs to be a lot more e85 stations. There is plenty of unused land that could be used for growing switch grass, but the big corn produces will probably stand in the way of this.
Posted by: James | 18 April 2006 at 12:08 PM
James, "thermodynamcially challenged" also refers to the upstream diesel used to grow that corn. Why don't you add that in?
(you can count switchgrass when it is a majority share of ethanol production)
Posted by: odograph | 18 April 2006 at 12:14 PM
James. If the only issue is oil, then GM and you have a point. But the issue is beytond oil. I know there is a lot of debate about what the precise EROI is, but it ranges from about 1.2 to about 1.35. In any event, that's not very good and still requires a lot of fossil fuels, including the dirtiest fuel of all, coal, to produce that ethanol. With respect to global warming, that argument comparing E85 does not wash and is intended to mislead people to sell more gas guzzling Tahoes.
And I haven't even mentioned the effects on the soil and water of growing all that corn.
I wish people would quit calling ethanol renewable, because it's not if you consider the whole fuel cycle. It's environmental effects are debatable, and even the University of California, which rebutted Pimental and others by concluding it had a positive EROI thinks that it is very much up in the air as to whether it really helps the environment with respect to GNH.
Posted by: t | 18 April 2006 at 12:18 PM
Look up switchgrass. It improves the soil. (Like Clover)
Posted by: Lucas | 18 April 2006 at 12:21 PM
Let’s give the Global Warming debate a rest already! The European Countries can’t hit their GW CO2 targets they agreed to follow in the Kyoto Treaty and the USA didn’t sign the thing. There's big money being spent on Ethanol plants (ADM), so more of our nation’s fuel will come from green fuels in the future. Until Plug-In Hybrid cars hit the road within the next 5-10 years, everyone is still going to be using liquid fuels to run the transportation sector. Big deal if GM is promoting E85 fuel use, it’s their money to spend as they see fit and not yours. SUV sales are way down from a few years ago, so what's the point of talking about what MPG they get anyway? If you have a good idea on how to fix the many problems facing our nation, stop talking about it and spend your own money. Crying about the government is or isn’t doing is a waste of everyone's time.
Posted by: MP | 18 April 2006 at 01:11 PM
A vehicle designed to run on either gasoline or E85 will be less efficient running E85 than a vehicle designed to run E85 only.
Here is why.
A spark ignition engine you want the fuel to be ignited by ..well the spark ... not before by spontaneous combustion due to the temperature and pressure in the cylinder.
Compression ratio is typically 8 - 10:1 for gasoline engines and 19 -21 for diesel (just to give you an idea not hard limits here folks)
The octane rating of a fuel describes its anti knock properties (remember that spontaneous combustion)
A fuel octane rating of 100 would have the same anti-knock properties as 100% Octane
C8H18, a fuel with an octane rating of 0 would have the same anti knock properties of heptane C5H12. A 91 octane would be equal to 91% octane and 9% heptane.
I don't know how they calculate octane ratings over 100.
A higher compression ratio gives you a higher cylinder pressure and hence more power
but requires higher grade fuel . If the engine must run on 87 or even 85 octane gas that is sold as regular in some areas that will limit how high the compression ratio can be.
If the engine was only ever going to be run on 100 -110 octane gas it could be optimized mechanically to take advantage of this ... these optimizations would make it such that the engine could not run on 87 octane gas. It would ping so bad that the engine could be damaged if it was run on 87 octane gas.
Having the ability to run on both 85 octane crap regular gas and high octane ethanol is a compromise ... such an engine will do neither very well. The two fuels are different enough that mechanically tuning the engine for one is mutual exclusive of the other.
Electronically you can advance the ignition timing when running with the high octane stuff and you'll have to change the injector duty cycle (it takes more fuel to get the same # of btu's) but you can only do so much.
Yes, they do use a sensor to detect when they are running E85 or gasoline. All reports that I have read indicate that it is done by monitoring the O2 sensor, as ethanol is an oxygenated fuel.
If the numbers quoted for BTU content of gasoline at 112,000 and e85 at 77,000 are correct the taho is more efficient in terms of BTU's used per mile than gasoline.
It does not matter how much gas a civic , or uses compared to a taho because a civic can't seat 6, tow 5000 lbs, haul large objects, or go at all in anything over a few inches of snow (you can't drive in a foot of snow in a car with 4" of ground clearance)
It is like hey I need a 18 mm wrench ... and some one trying to sell you a dozen roses ... nothing wrong with roses or the civic but it doesn't matter how nice roses smell when you really need a wrench.
and no not every one needs a taho.
Posted by: rj | 18 April 2006 at 02:09 PM
MP, I'll give global warming a rest when we've fixed it. But you can't even justify E-85 vehicles if you ignore it; when 80% or more of this "renewable" energy actually comes from oil, coal or natural gas AND there is nowhere near enough ethanol produced from all sources to run the "flex fuel" trucks already on the road, the whole thing is a fraud.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 18 April 2006 at 06:45 PM
There is not enough clean electricity sources to run electric cars or plug in hybrids, they are a fraud, right?
Or maybe ethanol production will become more efficiant as more people switch over to it?
As for flex fuel vehicles not running as well as they could on E85, Saab use turbo charging to up the compression when running on it, perhaps this could be used on all flex fuel vehicles.
Posted by: James | 19 April 2006 at 03:30 AM
MP - Are you still unsure about global warming? Our best science seems to have fairly well confirmed it. That man's polution of the air we breath is obvious, anytime an aware person goes outside.
Are you getting your opinions from that great scientist, Rush Limbaugh?
I expect that renewable - plant based - fuels are the fuels of the future. Those that stand in the way are going to get runover. Those who help bring this to reality are going to profit from it.
Posted by: Lucas | 19 April 2006 at 06:45 AM
We'd also get a huge amount of backup generation for the grid; it's a two-fer.There are physical limits to the process efficiency (if there's huge room for improvement, why hasn't anyone exploited them over the history of distillation?), and there isn't enough feedstock to replace gasoline with ethanol no matter how good the process gets.
The problem with ethanol is that it will be fed into those same 15%-efficient vehicles; barely more than 1/7 of the input fuel energy actually gets to the wheels. An electric car can get something close to 70%, which requires roughly 1/5 the energy. Conversion from biomass to ethanol is about 48% efficient, CC turbines can convert most any fuel to electricity at 50% or better; even if you start with grass, you need many times the feedstock to go ethanol.Figures for the tank-to-wheels efficiency of the typical car are 15-17%. We could burn oil in simple-cycle gas turbines instead and get 40%, or combined-cycle powerplants and get something close to 60%. Even after losses we could cut gasoline needs by at least half and maybe over two-thirds... and that's without changing fuels.
Posted by: Engineer-Poet | 19 April 2006 at 08:02 AM
Yes, electric vehicles are a fraud all they do is move polution/environmental impact to a the generating site.
Good point, forced induction can be used to increase cylinder pressures. Turbo charging / supercharging have their own trade offs.
A common missconseption is that turbo charging is "free" energy, not so, the gains made by higher intake pressures must offset the higher exhaust back pressure.
SAAB and others have devised methods to vary compression ratios while running by using a moving cylinder head or a crankshaft that moves its centerline up or down a bit.
O and GM owns SAAB that is sure to get the Gm haters all wound up.
Posted by: rj | 19 April 2006 at 09:03 AM