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EIA: US consumption of alt fuels up 13% in 2011; E85 second behind natural gas; medium-duty vans had greater impact than LDVs

Consumption of alternative fuels by vehicle type, 2011. Replacement fuels—i.e., E10 and biodiesel—are categorized separately. Source: EIA. Click to enlarge.

Overall consumption of alternative transportation fuels in the US increased almost 13% in 2011 to a total of 515,920 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons, compared to 457,755 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons in 2010, according to the latest Alternative Fuel Vehicle Data from the US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

In alternative-fueled vehicles, consumption of ethanol (E85) increased 52% from the prior year’s consumption, an increase from 90,323 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons in 2010 to 137,165 thousand gasoline-equivalent gallons in 2011. EIA attributed this to the increase in overall inventory of E85-capable vehicles. In 2011, E85 became the second-most consumed alternative fuel, behind natural gas (220,247 thousand-gasoline-equivalent gallons), and outpacing LPG (124,457 thousand-gasoline-equivalent gallons).

While inventory and fuel use in automobiles continues to increase, the rise in the use of medium-duty vans had a larger impact on fuel consumption due to their higher rate of consumption and, in contrast to light duty vehicles, they are more likely to be utilized as an alternative-fueled vehicle than a traditional gasoline-fueled vehicle, EIA noted.

Replacement fuels. Consumption of replacement fuels—i.e., biodiesel and gasohol (E10)—increased 7.7% from 2010 to 2011, climbing up to 9,474,809 thousand-gasoline-equivalent gallons.

With the reinstatement of the biodiesel tax credit and the requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard, consumption of biodiesel grew almost 240% between 2010 and 2011. Consumption of ethanol in gasohol (E10) remained flat between 2010 and 2011 since almost all gasoline in the United States is now blended with 10% ethanol.

This “blend wall” (the maximum amount that can be blended into standard gasoline without requiring different equipment, warranties or infrastructure) has shifted more ethanol into the E85 sector.


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