GM Adding to Flex Fuel Fleet

By: John Tramontana Email
By: John Tramontana Email

They're calling it the future of fuel production. E-85, or predominantly ethanol based fuel, output is expected to more than double over the next 10 years.

"We've got to get off of oil and this is a means of doing that," said MSU Professor of Chemical Engineering Bruce Dale.

The US BioEnergy plant in Lake Odessa is taking the first step to making that goal a reality.

"The plant can produce up to 50 million gallons of ethanol a year," said plant manager Jim Zook.

It's that ethanol that has General Motors looking to expand it's flex fuel fleet. Right now about 10% of its vehilces are flex fuel or e-85 compatible.

"By 2012, we're committed to making that 50% of the vehicles we produce in the U.S.," said GM Executive Director of Powertrain Intergration Mark Maher.

Customers won't have to spend any more money for flex fuel cars. GM is picking up the tab of an extra few hundred dollars for one reason...

"We're going to have to provide our customers with choices relative to fuels. It's absolutely the right thing to be able to diversify the energy supply that we use for transportation," Maher added.

But if you already own one, there is one problem.

"The issue we have with e-85 is actually getting more fueling stations available," said Zook.

In fact only about 1,000 pumps in Michigan offer the alternative fuel which costs about 50 cents less per gallon than gasoline. You'll only get about three quarters of the fuel efficiency but as more plants and stations become available in the next decade, prices will drop.

"I think we'll be able to deliver it to people for well under $2 a gallon. It's going to take a while but it will grow quickly," Dale added.

Drivers may have to wait a bit longer, but relief at the pump may be on the way.


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