Two years after the public unveiling of the American Coalition for Ethanol (ACE) Hybrid Electric Flex Fuel vehicle at its 2021 annual conference in Minneapolis, ACE demonstrated the project’s value to conference attendees at this year’s conference, once again held in the Twin Cities. ACE’s Chief Marketing Officer Ron Lamberty shared updated stats over the first two years of driving the 2019 Ford Fusion standard hybrid, made flex fuel capable courtesy of California E85 wholesaler Pearson Fuels and an conversion kit. The vehicle, nicknamed “HEFF,” was on display at the host hotel, and Juha Honkasalo, head of industry relations for eFlexFuels Technology was also onsite to answer questions of interested conference attendees.

Two years ago, with the push for net zero vehicles intensifying, and “net-zero” being widely understood as meaning battery electric vehicles (BEVs) only, ACE announced the first-of-its-kind, three-year vehicle demonstration project to disrupt the “EV-only” narrative by showing a standard hybrid vehicle powered by higher ethanol blends can have lifecycle greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as low or lower than plug-in electrics, and is likely to reach net-zero long before BEVs.

Even after several years of huge federal rebates for BEVs, hybrids still make up 80 percent of registered electric vehicles, and 90 percent of hybrids are standard hybrids while 10 percent are plug-in hybrids. “Range anxiety” continues to be a top reason drivers hesitate to buy EVs, and hybrids address those fears. Lamberty said hybrids make sense from a total GHG reduction standpoint, too, especially when teamed with ethanol. He said ACE’s project “reminds everyone a battery isn’t a fuel source, it’s a fuel tank, and to reduce carbon pollution, you fill a vehicle’s ‘tank’ with the cleanest fuel available, which is currently E85. While BEVs don’t have tailpipe emissions, electricity doesn’t come out of the wall, it comes from power plants that have plenty of emissions. Sixty percent of U.S. electricity still comes from burning fossil fuels, while E85 continues to lower its carbon intensity (CI), with some ethanol CIs in the 20’s.”

ACE devised the hybrid flex-fuel project after calculating a hybrid electric vehicle running on the lowest CI E85 available at the time (85 percent corn-fiber ethanol, 15 percent renewable naphtha) could obtain a total GHG score as low as 40 to 50 grams of CO2 per mile – far lower than current EPA total GHG emissions calculations for PHEVs or full EVs. “And those CI numbers don’t give ethanol credit for sustainable ag practices farmers already use or will be adopting, or the massive reductions ethanol will see as carbon capture and sequestration technologies are put in place,” Lamberty added.

Yet, while hybrid vehicle sales increase, no carmaker has ever offered a flex fuel hybrid in the U.S. So, ACE partnered with eFlexFuel to make their own. The conversion kit manufacturer is happy with the results so far. “This project with ACE has been a success,” said Juha Honkasalo, head of industry relations at eFlexFuel Technology. “The results point out great potential for decarbonization in the current vehicle fleet with technology and fuel that are already widely available. With ethanol, we can achieve similar or even a lower carbon footprint than a plug-in electric vehicle. Best of all, flex fuel and ethanol are affordable and don’t force consumers to compromise on their driving. We were excited to demonstrate this technology at the ACE Conference.”

Lamberty records miles driven, gallons, price and ethanol content of every fuel purchase, and calculating E10 use and cost, based on a benchmark set driving 4,500 miles on E10. After two years of running HEFF just under 25,000 miles on fuel averaging 71 percent ethanol, using EPA’s highest ethanol lifecycle GHG estimates and real-world mileage performance, the vehicle emitted approximately 202 grams of CO2 per mile – comparable to 2019 Tesla numbers when adjusted for actual range as opposed to showroom sticker values, and less than half the emissions from the gas version of the Fusion. The eflexfuel converter limited BTU mileage loss to 19.7 percent, and when using that figure versus the EPA original window sticker estimates for the car, and the lowest CI E85 currently available, ACE’s hybrid electric flex fuel vehicle would emit 108 grams of CO2 per mile. While fuel cost was not a primary concern of the HEFF project, the total fuel cost of the E71 used to date has been $2,500 compared to $2,719 for E10 regular gas, a savings of about 9/10ths of a cent per mile driven.

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