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E85-capable vehicles have different fuel delivery systems

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Flexible fuel vehicles are different from their gasoline-only counterparts. The vehicle’s fuel delivery system is replaced with stainless steel or Teflon-coated components to make sure the E85, corn based fuel, does not corrode them.

Also, there is a fuel sensor that detects the ratio of gasoline to ethanol, according to Phil Lampert, executive director of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition.

Damon Melquist, a sales representative at Holt Motors in Cokato, recommends the Ford F-150 as the best E85-capable vehicle. Garth Asplin of Cokato Motors in Cokato said the Suburban, Tahoe, Avalanche and Chevy Impalas are the best E85-capable models.

The 2007 Sebring Sedan has the best far and away fuel efficiency of the E-85-capable vehicles, said Nate Matter, a sales representative at Delano Dodge in Delano. He also said the Durango and Ram models are excellent E85 vehicles.

Early research shows that vehicles powered by E85 run so much cleaner than gasoline, some maintenance costs may actually be less than gasoline vehicles in the long term, Lampert added.

Currently vehicles cannot be modified to run on E85 without violating federal standards. However, there are 5 million E85-capable vehicles in use now, benefiting the environment and getting a boost in performance from the renewable fuel. Ethanol is already in over 15 percent of the gasoline sold in the United States.

The number of E85 vehicles will grow dramatically because of a big push by General Motors and other auto makers this year. Auto makers produced 700,000 E85 vehicles in 2006 in 20 different makes and models.

General Motors is leading the way. Its “Live Green, Go Yellow” campaign doubles the number of E85 vehicles sold in 2006 from 2005.

General Motors sees hydrogen-powered fuel cell vehicles as the ultimate solution, but believes ethanol and hybrids are viable ways to reduce oil consumption right now.

Other auto makers, such as Chrysler, Ford, Mercedes-Benz and Nissan also made commitments to the ethanol infrastructure. The Chrysler Group sold its first E85 vehicles in 1998. The company is building 500,000 flex fuel vehicles by 2008, a quarter of all the vehicles it produces.

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