In their zeal to force America to use ethanol, the Ethanol Lobby as a whole ignored one of the more interesting studies to be released recently.
Recent research findings show that mid-range ethanol blends - fuel mixtures most likely between E20 and E30 - can in some cases provide better fuel economy than regular unleaded gasoline, even in standard, non-flex-fuel vehicles.This study gives me reasons to reevaluate my grudging acceptance of ethanol as a rational substitute for gasoline. And I'm not the only one.
Previous assumptions held that ethanol's lower energy content directly correlates with lower fuel economy for drivers. Those assumptions were found to be incorrect. E20 and E30 ethanol blends outperformed unleaded gasoline in fuel economy tests for certain autos. The tests were conducted using four 2007 model vehicles: a Toyota Camry, a Ford Fusion, and two Chevrolet Impalas, one flex-fuel and one non-flex-fuel. Contrary to Btu-based estimates of fuel economy for ethanol blends, three of the four vehicles tested achieved their highest fuel efficiency not on gasoline, but on an ethanol blend. Mid-level blends of ethanol E20 (20% ethanol, 80% gasoline) and E30 (30% ethanol, 70% gasoline) offered the best fuel economy in these tests.
* E30 offered better fuel economy than gasoline (a 1% increase) in both the Toyota and the Ford.
* E20 offered better fuel economy than gasoline (a 15% increase) in the flex-fuel Chevrolet.
* The non-flex-fuel Chevrolet more closely followed the Btu-calculated trend for fuel economy, but did experience a significant improvement over the trend line with E40 (40% ethanol, 60% gasoline), indicating that this may be the “optimal” ethanol blend level for this vehicle.
In addition to the favorable fuel economy findings, the research provides strong evidence that standard, non-flex-fuel vehicles can operate on ethanol blends beyond 10 percent. The three non-flex-fuel vehicles tested operated on levels as high as E65 before any engine fault codes were displayed. The Ford Fusion operated without problems on E45, the Toyota on E65, and the non-flex-fuel Chevy on E55. [More]
These tests possibly eliminate one of the main critisisms of ethanol, reduced fuel economy. The results were especially promising on the flex-fueled vehicle. If these results can be replicated on other vehicles, especially flex-fueled vehicles, ethanol may be a more viable fuel than many critics believe. Ethanol, plus otherbiofuels, are not the entire answer to our liquid fuel problems, because they could only meet about 30% of our needs (if cellulosic ethanol is included and our food supplies are not to be impacted), but they could be a less expensive solution in the intermediate term until hybrids, plug-in hybrids and all electric vehicles become more affordable - mainly due to decreased costs of batteries in the future. Flex-fueled vehicles are not significantly more costly than standard vehicles. Ethanol still suffers from its capability to absorb water, which makes transportation and storage more difficult.The report does not posit how the BTU differential is somehow overcome by higher blends, but perhaps further study will uncover the mechanism.
I am fully aware that ethanol proponents may seize on this discovery with I-knew-it-all-along gloating. This is pattern set by stem-cell research opponents after the breakthrough with skin cells.
But if these guys were all about "sound science", why didn't this make their websites?
The Ethanol Lobby is about lobbying, not science. That doesn't make them wrong, just short-sighted. All the laws in the book won't have the power of real economic returns to consumers buying fuel.