The chairman of the National Ethanol Coalition, Harold Smedley, has applauded the recent announcement by General Motors that it would soon be producing a full-size E85, flexible fuel pickup truck. GM recently indicated that during 2002, and for at least the next three years, its 5.3 liter Silverado and GMC trucks can be ordered with an engine that can operate on either gasoline or 85 percent ethanol.

GM anticipates charging approximately $225 for this option.

“The addition of the GM full-sized E85 pickups to the line of available E85 flexible fuel vehicles is an important step in our nation's efforts to develop a line of alternative fuel vehicles that meets the demands of drivers today.” Smedley said. “These E85 vehicles are capable of operating on either gasoline or 85 percent ethanol without additional fuel tanks, aftermarket conversions, loss of storage in the vehicles, or cumbersome switches to flip.”

E85 is a blend of 85 percent ethyl alcohol and 15 percent gasoline. E85 is produced from the starch in agricultural products, primarily corn. Corn used to produce ethanol is processed and steeped. It removes the sugars with a form of mash remaining that contains 100 percent of the vitamins, minerals, and protein found in the unprocessed corn. This product is then fed to cattle, poultry or swine.

According to Argonne National Laboratory, a USDA research facility, the use of E85 as a form of transportation fuel actually reduces the production of greenhouse gas emissions. In a January 1999 report, scientists at Argonne estimated that for every mile a vehicle is operated on E85, it achieves:

  • 73-75 percent reduction in petroleum use.
  • 14-19 percent reduction in GHG emissions.
  • 34-35 percent reduction in fossil energy use.

“With the addition of the full-size pickup to GM's already popular Yukon and Tahoe, already being produced as an E85 flexible fuel vehicle, Americans have the choice of full-size vehicles that can indeed operate on an alternative transportation fuel,” Smedley said.

“The next major step in our efforts to make E85 available across the nation is to build additional fueling sites. Approximately 200 public E85 fueling sites are in operation across the nation.”

Phil Lampert, director of the NEVC commented that “it has been a difficult process to encourage the petroleum industry to break their ‘fossil fuel paradigm’ of only desiring to sell oil based products. Approximately two-thirds of the retail gasoline stations in the U.S. are owned or operated by ‘Big Oil’. These companies have been reluctant to adopt a program of offering and marketing a renewable form of transportation fuel.”

According to recent reports by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. currently uses approximately 19 million barrels of petroleum daily with approximately 11 million barrels imported daily. Lampert added that “while there are options in the long-term to produce vehicles that operate on fuel cells powered by hydrogen and other innovate chemicals, today and for the next 20 years the use of E85 is going to be this nation's answer to renewable, domestic transportation fuels.”

In addition to the GM pickups and SUVs that are offered in E85, Ford produces the 3.0 liter Taurus and Ranger pickup, and DaimlerChrysler produces an E85 minivan in the 3.3 liter engine.

“By the end of 2002, we expect at least two million of these vehicles will be on the nation's highways,” according to Smedley. “Our principal objective will be to make certain the motoring public has this excellent form of fuel available at their corner gas station!”

The National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition is a non-profit organization headquartered in Jefferson City, Mo., that advocates and advances the use of E85 as a form of alternative transportation fuel.