Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corp. (GM) announced at the Chicago Auto Show that each will team with VeraSun Energy Corp. on projects intended to mainstream the use of E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. The two automakers lead the industry in developing and marketing the flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) that can operate on E85, and they hope to increase the number of E85 pumps at gas stations.
Ford’s plans with VeraSun, the country’s second largest ethanol producer, entail creating a Midwest “ethanol corridor” by increasing the number of E85 pumps by 30 percent this year in Illinois and Missouri and in adjoining states at a later date. “With its commitment to ethanol and E85, Ford is showing the kind of renewable energy vision that Illinois and America need,” said Illinois Governor Rod R. Blagojevich.
Missouri Governor Matt Blunt also had high praise for the effort. “I commend Ford Motor Company for exceptional foresight on this innovative ethanol project, and I am delighted that the State of Missouri will be playing an integral role. This corridor project will complement the success we’ve had in making ethanol growth and research a priority, and it will create job opportunities for Missouri families,” he said.
Ford and VeraSun are exploring ways to educate current and future FFV owners about the benefits of ethanol. “The two greatest challenges facing greater E85 use are access to convenient fueling locations and a lack of consumer awareness,” said Bill Honnef, VeraSun’s vice president of sales and marketing. “Our partnership with Ford is to address these two issues.”
In another E85 project, GM will team with VeraSun and will also be joined by Shell Oil Company in plans to add twenty-six E85 outlets in Chicago. Shell will participate in a test pilot with GM, monitoring consumer behavior at the pump in order to gauge interest in alternative fuels. The oil company will supply E85 refueling pumps to approximately six stations in Chicago, and GM will market the availability of those stations to its customers and dealers.
VeraSun, which produces 230 million gallons of ethanol a year at its facilities in South Dakota and Iowa, has its own brand of E85 called VE85. The fuel can be found in the Chicago area at twenty gas stations, and as part of the project, GM will promote the availability of VE85 with consumer and dealer outreach. VE85 currently is available at more than thirty locations in four states.
“These initiatives are important to the nation on various levels and are clearly in line with the President’s path toward energy independence,” said Honnef. “We commend General Motors for not only producing flexible fuel vehicles, but for taking a leadership role in educating consumers to the benefits of FFV ownership and E85 use. Together we are committed to expanding both awareness and availability of E85.”
The Chicago project is part of GM’s national campaign, “Live Green Go Yellow.” As part of this movement, some owners of GM FlexFuel vehicles will receive yellow fuel caps to signify that those vehicles are E85-capable, and all new GM FlexFuel vehicles will be equipped with yellow fuel caps at the factory later this year. GM’s “Live Green Go Yellow” Web site, www.livegreengoyellow.com, features items such as information on E85, an ethanol fuel station locator, a listing of GM vehicles that can operate on the fuel, an E85 game and video, and a device called the “Cornulator,” where a driver types in the make and current mileage of their vehicle to estimate its reduction in gas usage if it were to run on E85.
Ford and GM estimate they will produce a combined total of 600,000 FFVs this year, adding to the already 5 million currently on the road.