Natural Gas Roadster to Debut at Geneva Auto Show
Toyota 1/X Plug-In Concept Makes North American Debut At 2008 Chicago Auto Show

GM Introduces Flex-Fuel Version of Chevrolet HHR; First Four-Cylinder Flex-Fuel Engine from GM in North America

The FlexFuel Chevy HHR.

GM has introduced a flex-fuel version of the Chevrolet HHR, marking the first introduction of a four-cylinder model in GM’s North American lineup that can run on either gasoline or E85 ethanol.

The HHR will be available with an Ecotec 2.2-liter or Ecotec 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine, both of which will be compatible with E85. For the first time, the Ecotec 2.2L is equipped with variable valve timing (VVT) to improve engine performance and efficiency. The Ecotec 2.4L continues to offer VVT.

The 2008 Chevy HHR with conventional 2.2L engine and 5-speed manual transmission has an EPA mileage rating of 24 mpg US combined (21 mpg city, 30 mpg highway).

Ecotec 2.2L with VVT. Click to enlarge.

GM North America President Troy Clarke unveiled the FlexFuel Chevy HHR during a speech at the Midwest Automotive Media Association breakfast at the Chicago show, during which he noted that the use of the four-cylinder flex-fuel engine in the HHR “opens the door” for many more products with the Ecotec 2.2L and 2.4L engines to become flex-fuel capable.

GM has pledged that half of the vehicles it produces by 2012 will be flex-fuel capable. The company currently has 11 flex-fuel models for 2008, and more than 15 planned for 2009.

We will continue to make more of our lineup FlexFuel-capable because we believe ethanol, and specifically E85, is the best near-term answer to reduce our nation’s dependence on oil as energy demand rises here and around the world. The focus needs to be on making E85 more available by developing cellulosic ethanol sources and dramatically increasing the number of stations that offer E85.

—Troy Clarke

Earlier this month at the Detroit Auto Show, GM announced a partnership with and investment in Coskata, a start-up syngas fermentation ethanol company which says that its process can produce ethanol from cellulosic biomass or waste for less than $1.00 per gallon. Coskata just announced a partnership with ICM for the design and construction of its first sygnas fermentation ethanol plant. (Earlier post.)

An HHR running on E85 would emit up to 23% fewer carbon dioxide emissions than if running on gasoline, based on a well-to-wheel analysis by the Argonne National Laboratory.

The HHR, whose January sales of 9,650 were up 73% from the same month a year ago, will become the latest Chevrolet FlexFuel model when it goes on sale later this year. Chevrolet has more than 2 million of GM’s more than 2.5 million FlexFuel vehicles on the road.


Bob Bastard

I've always wondered what purpose this vehicle segment (HHR and PT Cruiser) served. The only thing they seem to do well is improve the self identity of middle aged suburbanites. "Hey, look at me, I'm not driving a minivan or a station wagon!" I suppose from that standpoint, it is at least preferable to the alternative of an SUV.


I grew up driving Volvo station wagons that were big, comfortable, practical, and got at least 30 mpg. I think the HHR gets around 29. So for families (like mine) that ferry around people and stuff 5 days a week, then drive 200+ miles on weekend trips, these kinds of cars are a worthwhile balance.

Ed Lomax

I have had the opportunity to test drive an HHR as a rental recently and, although it is unlikely that I would ever buy one, I was impressed with its potential as a mini-truck and sub-urban hauler. While I am pleased to see this Flex-Fuel offering from GM, I believe that an available hybrid (gas/diesel/electric) option of this vehicle would sell like gangbusters.


If we had E85 in many places in California, it might make some difference. HHRs are somewhat popular here and younger people put lots of miles on them, but without E85, it makes no difference.


I'm curious as to what changes they've made to these Ecotecs besides just making them resistant to the corrosive effects of ethanol. Adjusted compression ratio at all?


From what I have read, it is not that expensive for an auto maker to turn a gasoline car into an FFV. Gas tank, fuel pump, lines and other components have to be able to handle 85% ethanol. I think that the sensors determine the mixture and adjust engine timing in the simplest versions.

They made a fleet of Taurus FFV cars about 10 years ago for testing in Sacramento, California and found no problems with E85 and then made FFV models for sale to the public. Most U.S. automakers would rather make their large trucks and SUVs FFV to get the CAFE offsets.

Mike Z.

I should add that the from my understanding is that the HHR shares a great deal in terms of powertrain with the Malibu. So I think a BAS hybrid HHR soon is highly probable.


What would be awesome is a small turbo-charged engine that is flex-fuel capable and able to alter turbo boost levels according to the knock sensitivity of the fuel. Essentially limit the use of the turbo when running normal low-octane fuel (so that you can keep compression and efficiency high under low load conditions), then when running knock resistant E85 pump up the boost levels and you get a power boost too if you need it while reducing CO2 emissions.


The big problem with FFVs is getting the fuel.
Is it sold in your area?
Is it cheaper than straight gas?
If the answer to either of these is "NO" then FFVs is a red hearing.

And even if they do ramp-up production of E85 America just doesn't have the land to grow the stuff.


E85 remains at present a huge hoax.


If they can get E85 by using garbage as a carbon-containing feedstock, it might become truly viable.

Before GM bought Saab there was a program the Swedes had going on that explored using continuously variable compression ratios to get the most out of the fuel:

But it got killed, apparently. Do the Biopower engines use this technology at all?



I agree with that and have thought the same for a while now. An affordable sensor controlled variable waste gate may be a challenge, but worth doing.


We really should look closely at the Coskata ICM Alliance before dumping on E85. It looks more and more like these processes will yield ethanol from syngas at less than a $1.00 /gallon. No reason for it not to be wildly successful. So, though this vehicle is nothing to dance beneath a diamond sky about - E85 from garbage is.


For the first time, the Ecotec 2.2L is equipped with variable valve timing (VVT) to improve engine performance and efficiency
really? i'm pretty sure all of toyota's models already offer VVT and have done so for the last 5 years.


California used to be at the forefront of GREEN.
Where's the E85? No point in selling a FFV here.
No infrastructure for alternative fuels. Kullifonia
is dropping the ball.


(cont.) ...but maybe Kullifonia is thinking like
I'm thinking. E85 is going to be bypassed. Maybe
even liquid fuels will be bypassed. They have made
great strides of late in hydrogen tech. H2 can be
used in conventional ICEVs and there have been H2
storage tank breakthroughs as well. Also breakthroughs
in cheaper H2 production. Let's hope so.

Another thing I'm watching is EVs. The United States,
instead of focusing on going to Mars, should be going
back to the Moon setting up Lunar Photovoltaic
collector sites, microwaving (or lasering) energy
back to earth. Seems smarter and more practical
than an ego building trip to the Red Planet.


Lunar Solar Project:


The United States,
instead of focusing on going to Mars, should be going
back to the Moon setting up Lunar Photovoltaic
collector sites, microwaving (or lasering) energy
back to earth. Seems smarter and more practical
than an ego building trip to the Red Planet.

If you do a reasonable forecast on the price/performance of amorphous solar cells for terrestrial application, and do the math, I don't think there's any conclusion you can come to except that space solar beamed back to earth is completely insane. The US is heavily in debt. It doesn't have the money to spend on things like this. After all, if we didn't spend a trillion dollars a year on the military, the boogyman would get us.


using the Coskata/ICM process with coal will soon provide lots of ethanol, and get rid of garbage also..


I'll agree E85 isn't the best option but you cannot say building and E85 vehicle is a bad idea because of the lack of gas stations that sell it. What came first the gas station or the car. I think it was the car and the gas station came later to fill a need.


Flex-Fuel is a scam written into law back in 1994 solely for the benefit of Ford because they couldn't meet their CAFE numbers.

Bill W

HHR is based on the Cobalt/G5 platform.

Toyota does not use GM engines and has had VVT for awhile.


FFVs are good to break the "chicken and egg" bind. I think that there are more than 4 million of the 140 million personal vehicles on the road that are FFV. Since it does not cost much more to make a car FFV, this seems like a good thing to do. We could maybe say that all cars made should be FFV, but that is another topic.

How many of the cars on the road have to be FFV before E85 is widely available? This may be the wrong question. Since it is mainly CAFE offsets driving the making of these cars, it might not be that simple. It is not the fuel makers and marketers of E85 that are pushing for FFVs. We could not supply all the cars with E85 across the U.S. anyway.

I would say that most of the FFVs on the road do not run E85 most of the time. There are FFVs out west that might never have run it. But that does not mean that we should not sell FFVs in the west. It is a latent capability that we might need some day. Having that capability in many cars makes a bigger market for the E85 providers.


29,000 fuel stations in Brazil pump ethanol. A tank of E85 in Brazil (2006) $29.00 vs $36.00 for petro.


Compared with 1000 E85 stations in the U.S. where we have 10 times more personal vehicles. It is obvious that we need more E85 pumps at more stations in more places as we get more FFVs.

With the oil companies controlling most of the stations, it is difficult. They do not make ethanol and have to buy it from someone else. They do not make the kind of profits that they do with gasoline.

In other countries, the national government controls more of the oil industry and distribution of products. He we leave it up to private corporations to control something that is so vital to everyday life for so many people.

The comments to this entry are closed.