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E85 vehicles dominated US share of alternative fueled and hybrid vehicles made available in 2009

On-road alternative fueled and hybrid vehicles made available 2009 (including light-, medium- and heavy-duty. Inset pie chart shows type percentage of total AFV units. Data: EIA. Click to enlarge.

A total of 1,076,350 alternative fueled and hybrid vehicles were made available in the United States in 2009, a decrease of almost 29% from 2008 that reflected market conditions during 2009, according to the recently released report “Alternatives to Traditional Transportation Fuels 2009” by the US Energy Information Administration.

Of those, E85 flexible fuel vehicles dominate the market with nearly 75% of the total AFV and hybrid vehicles. The majority of these E85 units are intended for private use as traditional gasoline-powered vehicles, the EIA notes.

The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT92) mandates the EIA to collect data annually on alternative fueled vehicles (AFVs) made available by suppliers, and to estimate the number of AFVs in use in the United States. EIA collects data specifically on:

  • The number of alternative fueled vehicles (AFVs) supplied each year; i.e., new AFVs and conventionally fueled vehicles converted to operate on an alternate fuel;

  • The number and type of advanced technology vehicles supplied each year; i.e., gasoline-electric hybrids and diesel-electric hybrids; and

  • The number of AFVs in use and the amount of alternative transportation fuel consumed for a limited set of fleet user groups.

The amounts of fuel consumed by fleet AFVs. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.

The estimated inventory of AFVs in use by fleets in the US excludes gasoline and electric hybrids. It also reflects vehicles believed to be used primarily as AFVs—for example, privately owned E85 vehicles that consume traditional fuels are not included as opposed to those that use E85 fuel.

EIA estimates the inventory of AFVs in use by fleets in the US totaled 826,318 in 2009, 6.5% more than in 2008. (This figure excludes gasoline-electric and diesel-electric hybrids because the input fuel is gasoline or diesel rather than an alternative transportation fuel. DOE, which has EPACT92 implementation authority, ruled that gasoline-electric and diesel-electric hybrids are not “alternative fuel vehicles”.) Of those AFVs, 61% are E85 vehicles; 18% are LPG vehicles; and 14% are CNG vehicles. 2009 total fuel consumption estimates are:

  • Total alternative fuel: 431,107 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons up .2% from 2008
  • Natural gas: 225,165 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons, accounted for about 52% of all alternative fuels consumed due to its predominant use in the transit bus sector.
  • Propane consumption: 129,631 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons
  • E85 consumption: 71,213 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons
  • Electricity, hydrogen, and other fuels accounted for about 1%.




There was talk of an FFV Escape hybrid, they made some and showed them to politicians, but I never saw them for sale. I would make all new cars true FFV that run on gasoline, ethanol and methanol. If they are HEV or PHEV they will get better mileage on alternative fuels. Seems like something we can do that is very cost effective.

THEN we need to get 10 times the alternate fuel pumps than we have now. We have more than 8 million FFVs that can run ethanol and 2000 E85 pumps. We need 20,000 E85 pumps and while we are at it, make them blender pumps. The people with newer cars can run E15 and even E20 if they choose. It all reduces imported oil, whether blender pumps or CNG for trucks.


Kind of a farse. How many "E85" vehicles EVER run on E85? And how many diesels actually run on B11 to B100? Those dont count?


AFVs in use by fleets in the US totaled 826,318
E85 consumption: 71,213 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons

That tells the story, it is less than 1/10th of a gallon per year per vehicle. That computes to maybe .01% of fleet FFVs running E85.


I agree, if "The majority of these E85 units are intended for private use as traditional gasoline-powered vehicles" can they really be called alternative fueled vehicles?


Lots of SUVs and large pickups here CAN run E85, but the nearest pump is 30 miles away. I contacted a distributor and told them that there were lots of vehicles that could use E85 here and would they consider offering it and they said no, there is a pump 30 miles away.

The whole FFV large vehicle idea is a CAFE loophole. It says that they COULD run E85, so it is assumed that the DO, even though there are virtually no filling stations that offer it. It is an odd sort of deception that everyone keeps going along with which just increases the cynicism. The politicians and auto makers must think it is great fun because they keep doing it.


How wise is it to run a large heavy gas guzzler on 85% corn ethanol?

Could anybody imagine what would happen if the majority does it?

E-85 would be $10+/gal.

Food prices would go up 300+ %.

A high percent of low income workers would go hungry (even in rich USA)

Many would starve worldwide.

We would drive ourselves into a major economic depression.

Viva E-85....


It idea is cellulose not corn grain ethanol. Now they want to go to E15 when less than .1% of the vehicles that can run E85 actually do. Make sure more of the vehicles that can run E85 DO run it by providing more pumps and leave the nation at E10 for all other vehicles.

It all substitutes for imported oil, so if half of the 8 million FFVs actually run E85 instead of .1% we will not have to go above E10 for the rest of the vehicles. This makes sense. Agencies can set blend percentages but they can not mandate E85 pumps nor availability. Just go from 2000 E85 pumps to 10,000 across the country and there would be cleaner air and less imported oil.


It is not only about pumps; the fuel price difference is at least as important. In Sweden, we have a mandate that requires refueling stations over a certain size to provide a biofuel as an alternative to gasoline and diesel fuel. Distribution of E85 is the least costly of current alternative fuels. The experience from E85 FFVs in Sweden is that when E85 is cheaper than gasoline (taking the energy content into consideration, of course), the cars are fuelled by E85. When the price difference is the opposite; E85 consumption decreases rapidly. I guess that this mentality can be attributed to human nature… I have not looked at the statistics lately, but some two years ago, Sweden had approximately as many E85 pumps as the whole USA but, by far, not as many E85 cars. Somehow, refueling with E85 in Sweden is more frequent than in the USA, although probably not satisfactory. Some consumers probably never refuel with E85 but prefer gasoline. Sweden has had economic incentives (tax break) for E85 for company cars but this will be removed shortly. Sales of E85 cars will most likely decrease as a consequence. If this is a signal given by the government to consumers, what will the consumer response be when our government introduce incentives for a “new” fuel candidate the next time?

We have had a similar debate (as in the USA) about the origin of ethanol in Sweden. Much is imported and the rest is produced from grain. The origin of ethanol is constantly on debate. R&D on cellulosic ethanol, which has been going on for more than 2 decades, has not yet been fruitful. In addition, the average E85 car is – when fueled with gasoline – less efficient than the average gasoline car and much less efficient than a corresponding diesel car. Do the incentives for E85 promote the use of less efficient vehicles? Who knows…? I would like to conclude that ethanol is definitely not the most popular alternative fuel in Sweden today. It will take a lot to reverse this trend.


Ethanol can be synthesized from biomass. Forest waste can be gasified and synthesized into many different fuels.


Synthesis of ethanol from gasified biomass is possible but it is not a viable method. "Simpler" molecules, such as methanol and DME show much higher selectivity and thus, are much better suited for synthesis. Synthesis to Fischer-Tropsch fuels is also possible but is also plagued with lower selectivity and lower yield than the both mentioned options. Methanol (and DME) can be “transformed” to gasoline (MTG) but associated with some losses. Biochemical methods (saccarification and fermentation) to produce ethanol from lignocellulosic matter are theoretically possible but are difficult on a commercial scale. Furthermore, the selectivity is far lower (a factor of ~2) than for methanol and DME, i.e. byproducts (lignin, heat) are produced. In summary, there is a mismatch in that we have vehicles that can run on E85 but cannot use the most efficient future fuel candidates. If we look at lignocellulose as a resource, MTG in gasoline cars seems to be more efficient than ethanol in E85 cars. The most efficient option would be DME in a diesel car. However, no such cars are produced today and one significant drawback is that these cars could not be made fuel-flexible (diesel fuel and DME) in a reasonable simple way. Thus, this solution is not attractive during a transition period.

We could also produce hydrogen from biomass but with all the problems related to distribution, storage and use; this is not likely in the near future. I will leave this and electricity from biomass for another discussion…


Why use so many complex, inefficient, polluting steps to get energy...sun to plants, plants to sugar, sugar to liquid fuels etc.

Converting solar energy directly to electricity and use it in e-vehicles, homes, industries etc is not complex, more efficient and certainly much cleaner and it can be done many distributed ways.

Many will rightfully maintain that plants are good low cost energy storage units but won't we eventually need the space to produce food, building products, paper and future products such as nano-crystalline cellulose?

Shall we let small interested farming and industrial energy groups dictate how energy will be produced regardless of the negative effects on the environment and people?

We the people should stand up and utter our preference loud and clear.


You have people's preference and the you have science and business, they are not always the same. Science and business will advise governments on which methods make the most sense based on the merits. Public opinion is often influenced by impressions and perceptions.


Both Coskata and Danisco Cellulosic are on track producing low cost $1.00 ethanol downstream. The oil lobbies want desperately to paint ethanol as the reason for food price rise, malnutrition and starvation in third world economies.

Fact is the US corn crop which supplies 50% of the world's corn use - converts only 12% to food. The rest is used for by product and animal feed. That's 88% of the US corn crop is NOT food for human consumption.

With giant DuPont behind cellulosic we can expect to see greater strides at a faster pace. PHEVs with FFV engines can make an enormous impact on import oil demand. If DuPont helps expand the biofuel distribution channel to major markets - the US could be using 20% less imported oil by decade end.


Let's hope so, if we are going to make it through this coming decade without major disruptions, we need to make some decisions and take actions to insure a better outcome.

My analogy is like a tornado, we know it is coming and some will prepare and some will not. You could roll the dice or be responsible and do what is required. We need to take steps that are responsible now rather than hope for a good outcome.


"only 12% to food. The rest is used for by product and animal feed."

If the animals being fed are later eaten by humans then that portion of the corn production should also be considered "food for human consumption."


No one is saying use more corn grain for fuel, use 100 million acres of corn grain for food/feed and the stalks and cobs for fuel. I have said this before, it is NOT misleading and it IS accurate. What part of this are you not getting?


ai_vin is correct only if applied equally. So, we should consider all grazing grass food for human consumption as well. Corn diverted from animal feed might increase meat costs - but the food examples shouted about today are "corn meal, tacos, tortillas, etc." Not meat.

Anyway, human consumption of meat is increasing healthcare costs more than food cost. Diabetes, heart disease, obesity - all are the result of high fat diets. So if we convert a little more corn to fuel - people may eat less Big Macs! And get healthier.


I guess you don't get it because you choose not to get it. You would rather argue about a food/fuel debate that is nonsense.


Actually Reel there is another factor to consider. For every 10kg of feed that goes into a cow you only get 1kg of meat so if you feed corn (which humans can also eat) to cows you're losing 9kg of food. OTOH people don't eat grazing grass so letting the cows eat it gains you food.

As far as high fat diets - howabout if we just convert a little more corn directly into people meat instead of cow meat?


Corn is already in almost every processed food that you buy in a U.S. supermarket. The U.S. Agriculture Department decided that all farmers should grow as much corn as they could, they said that they would find a use for it and they did.


IF food makers could sell more corn products than they already do - they would. There're only so many corn chips you can eat. And while it's true that we may lose 9kg corn fed to cows - 8.5kg goes to... fertilizer to grow more food!


We could crow less corn and eat less meat, but that probably will not happen, so there is no sense harping about it, it misses the point.

Coal, natural gas and biomass like corn stalks and cobs can make enough synthetic gasoline, diesel and jet fuel to eliminate OPEC oil imported oil into the U.S. completely, once and for all. That is good enough for me.

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