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Polls: US Drivers Support Expansion of E85 Refueling Network; Have Misconception on Fuel Price

The House of Representatives will soon vote on a bill that would significantly increase the number of gas stations with ethanol or E85 fuel pumps nationwide. According to a just-completed series of snap polls conducted across the Autobytel online network, slightly more than half of the respondents support a “yes” vote on this measure.

Fifty-one percent of poll-takers say the government should pay for the expansion of E85 pumps across the nation while only 28% said it shouldn’t. The remainder admit they’re not informed enough to say.

Asked to name the single best thing the government could do to reduce the country’s dependence on oil,

  • 35% named funding research for alternative fuel technologies;
  • 32% named funding E85 pumps at more gas stations;
  • 22% named raising CAFE standards; and
  • 12% named increasing the tax incentive for hybrid vehicle buyers.

Although Autobytel’s car shoppers may be pinning a lot of hope on ethanol as an energy solution, at least some of this optimism may stem from some very basic misconceptions about the fuel. Nearly half (47%) of the car shoppers polled by Autobytel thought they would spend less to drive with E85 fuel, while only 32% understood that they’d spend more versus gasoline for the same amount of driving.

Not only does ethanol deliver worse fuel mileage than gasoline, but currently the price has risen sharply in some markets. The spot price for ethanol last week jumped to $5 per gallon, then settled back to the $4.00 and upper-$3.00 range.

Drivers may be in for a shock when they see E85 prices advertised at the local gas station—and when they realize that less-fuel-efficient E85 would have to cost about 20% less than gas to break even.

It also suggests, in turn, that US automakers’ marketing of ethanol-capable vehicles may become a harder sell as drivers become aware of E85 costs. Not surprisingly, 62% of the shoppers surveyed by Autobytel said they wouldn’t pay a penny more, per mile of driving, to achieve ethanol’s potential benefits of increased fuel independence and improved emissions.

—Autobytel

Other data points from Autobytel’s new automotive consumer polls:

  • 65% of car shoppers agree that we are in the midst of an energy crisis, similar to that during the 1970s.

  • Only 35% say their current vehicle gets at least 25 mpg—and only 16% say that their current ride gets at least 30 mpg. Yet 71% say that their next vehicle purchase must get at least 25 mpg, and 43% say it will have to get better than 30 mpg. 15% say it will have to get at least 40 mpg.

  • When asked to describe their general impression of hybrid vehicles, 39% replied “too expensive for the hybrid benefit” and an additional 28% selected “not a real solution, more of a statement.”

  • 72% think that Congress should raise CAFE standards for the automakers.

The number of responses to each poll varied, but averaged around 580.

Comments

sjc

Last time I heard, out of the 180,000 pumps nationwide only about 600 have E85 and most of those are in the midwestern states like Illinois. We have maybe 2 in all of California with more than 10 million cars.
Our ethanol production is at about 3% of our gasoline usage with a mandate of 2.58% nationwide. Even if we wanted to double the amount of pumps to 1200, I am not sure we would have enough ethanol made in this country.

George

“But the (news) story did not say anything about E85 being 20-30% less fuel efficient…”
Shame on the news department for not really knowing much about a subject, but acting like the expert.

The other thing is, the public is getting less and less, well, deep, at least, where their car is concerned. They don’t seem to know or care, how to properly change a tire, check the pressure, jump a battery, check radiator level, etc. Likewise, they don’t seem to notice how far they drive between stops at the pump. But they do notice when they see a big $3 something in the pump window, or see the total being higher than the old $25.00 fill-up.

In other words, people today, feel good when they think they got a deal and don’t really want to think about the details, that they didn’t. After all, that’s what they did when they bought the car.

john galt

I've noted before, which many will exclaim "a firm grasp of the obvious." WORK PROCESS AND WORK BEHAVIOR CHANGE. As a significant percentage of jobs are now in the knowledge sector, it is very possible for many to work at home, and to collaborate via personal computer and telephone (using broadband capabilities) with customers, suppliers, and co-workers. It is simply not necessary for many to drive to a work facility. How to effect this behavioral change is beyond my attention span to offer an intelligible solution. Although, a guess is tax incentives for companies that can definitively demonstrate their use of telecommuting. This is more attuning to a social engineered solution to reduce fuel consumption and harmful emissions, versus automotive engineering tweaks (improving vehicle fuel economy and reducing emissions) to a paradigm that is already quite flawed: excessive reliance on automobile transport.

t

John Galt.

And yet, Hewlett Packard is cutting back on their telecommuting. According to press reports, they couldn't manage their workers effectively through the wires. I don't really understand this,however. If you establish output metrics, measure and manage those metrics, why can't you manage someone who is not physically present?

An Engineer

Oh and the reason a fuel cell will take over is it shouldnt take long before a fuel cell is cheaper then a transmission and an engine and radiator and all that stuff... and alot more efficeint too.
Nice little joke, Wintermane! A hydrogen fuel cell car currently costs about $250,000. Others put the current cost at more than $1 million! Yes, mass production could bring that number down, but how much? It needs a 10 to 100-fold price reduction to be competitive with today's vehicles. How many major breakthroughs will that take?

allen zheng

Maybe this will force the farmers to move to sweet sorghum (~2x ethanol, better energy balance and less water vs corn). After that it is off to cellulose/biomass from waste, and maybe algae.

wintermane

Wrong a fuel cell does not cost 250k A one at a time test model used in a concept car that csts 250k.. but then so do 1 off concept engines for concept cars.

As I said soon enough fuel cells will be cheaper then engines and the other stuff that goes with em. This is an inevitable fact.

An Engineer

Wrong a fuel cell does not cost 250k
As I said, some put the cost at >$1 million...

A one at a time test model used in a concept car that csts 250k.. but then so do 1 off concept engines for concept cars. As I said soon enough fuel cells will be cheaper then engines and the other stuff that goes with em. This is an inevitable fact.
OK, you believe that, and Santa Claus will deliver the first fuel cell cars before you know it!

wintermane

Go ahead be clueless and ignorant. I on the other hand keep tabs on what progress they make on important tech no matter my personal feelings on said tech.

The fact is they have managed to greatly cut the cost of the still hand made units and mass prodytion and a new round of cust reducing designs will get the price down greatly. That is why several manufacturers re now soo keen on research into it. Its near.

Nemo

I'm just waiting for Santa to bring me a solar powered Smart Forfour. It should be here by Christmas.

wintermane

PTHTHTHT if your gona ask santa for a car make it a solar powered lamborgini! With cup holders dangit!

rj

http://www.delphi.com/news/pressReleases/pr_2006_06_20_001/

assuming volume production, ... achieving an estimated $770 per kW.

1 hp ~ 746 watts

150 hp = $86,128

mach1

I new here, so don't pounce too hard. Here are my points:
1.) The comments about E85 being less efficient are true for engines that are not set up for it. (Meaning lower compression and/or no turbochargering.) A properly configured engine, with the correct cam and piston combination can actually get better mileage then regular unleaded. Ethanol has an octane rating of 104. The potential is there.
2.)E85 uses 15% gasoline to mitigate the water absorbtion properties of pure ethanol and to add lubricity to the fuel, as alcohol is a very dessicating substance. Plus it runs much cooler than gasoline, helping to reduce the heat-related wear on engines.
3.) Corn is only one source of ethanol, and not the richest source, at that. Jerusalem Artichokes are far higher in the starches needed. And it's practically indestructive.
Alcohol was the original fuel of choice when Daimler built the first successful internal combustion-powered vehicle. Gasoline was a waste product that the refining companies were dumping into rivers and streams after extracting kerosene from the crude.
The major by-products of ethanol production can be used as fertilizer.
Additionally, individuals can brew there own E85, legally, using inexpensive distillers assembled from readily available plans. You acn't do that with gasoline, natural gas or hydrogen.
Finally, as far as the issue of availabilty, recently, Walmart announced that they were considering becoming E85 distributors. Should that come about, the demand on Detroit to produce more efficient E85 using vehicles will increase.

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