So says the U.S. Government, some environmentalists, and, mostly, domestic automakers, led by the General Motors advertising charge to “Live Green and Go Yellow.” The General is backing up this claim with an aggressive product assault of flex-capable vehicles, which can operate either with E85 fuel or gasoline. Those that are available are primarily in the large vehicle segment – you know – SUVs and trucks – though there are a handful of sedans with flex-fuel systems. Ford and Chrysler are also on the corn fuel bandwagon, of course, each promising to build and sell a growing number of flex-fuel vehicles to the general public. Proponents claim that E85 fuel and the flex-fuel vehicles that go with it will reduce our dependence on oil, is a more environmentally friendly solution, and provides a subsidy for American farmers.
Some call it the anti-hybrid plan for an oil-free and clear sky society.
Others say that’s hogwash. They point out that E85 takes more energy to refine than does regular gasoline, costs more per gallon, and is less efficient that regular gasoline – thus causing more fill ups -- of more expensive fuel. Then there's its utter lack of distribution, the availability of a wide selection of vehicles, and refining issues that hurt price and performance. Fix those fairly intimidating hurdles, however, and flexible fuel vehicles make an intriguing future solution to regular gasoline, one the nation should invest in. But there’s still a long way to go between here and there. If we ever do get to a place where E85 fuel and the flex-fuel vehicles that go along with it are affordable and convenient to operate, it may offer a way to reduce the amount of oil we use, and the pollution we create.