A couple of weeks ago we talked all about the pros and cons of diesel fuel options; regular, renewable and biodiesel. Renewable gas is an alternative fuel option that works much like regular gasoline, but is sustainable, often cleaner, and, essentially, in infinite supply. This week, we want to address the “green” options for gasoline and answer some of the questions you may have floating around in your mind. Questions such as: “What are the different options? How do I choose which is best for my fleet? Can I blend a new option in or will I have a scheduling nightmare on my hands trying to switch over?”
The gas options are a little narrower – there is already an emergence in ethanol-blended fuels. Most gas sold in the US contains some amount of ethanol, in accordance with the requirements of the 1990 Clean Air Act and the Renewable Fuel Standard. Here’s a rundown on the most common alternative option:
What is Ethanol?
Ethanol is a non-fossil fuel that’s made from a variety of plants such as corn, wheat, and sugarcane. Ethanol produces slightly less energy than gas, about 33% less, but any changes to fuel economy should be minimal. There are various concentrations of the gas/ethanol mix available. The popularity of these blended fuels could be attributed to attempts to comply with the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.
According to the US Energy Information Administration, blends with 10% ethanol (E10) account for more than 95% of the fuel consumed in motor vehicles with gasoline engines. All gas engine vehicles can use E10 and the general decrease in fuel economy while using E10 is about 3%.
Flex fuel is a term used to qualify vehicle models that can handle a mixture of traditional gas and up to E85 – a blend between 51% and 83% ethanol. As it stands, only light-duty vehicles made in 2001 or after are EPA approved to use E15; though that’s not to say that OEMs have necessarily approved the use in their vehicles. Also, flex fuel-designed vehicles can use any blend up to E85.
How Does This Affect You?
While ethanol blends are already here, there are still tests being run to determine new blends and possible improvements. Also, there are biogasoline options from suppliers like Neste, but because these options are in early stages, you really need to do your research if you’re considering switching. So, much like any decision you may make regarding supplies and inventory, if you’re thinking of swapping out your fuel choice, you should first check the current stance your fleet’s OEMs have on that particular fuel. If they haven’t already, the regulations and efforts to reduce greenhouse gases and carbon emissions will certainly push you to consider alternate fuel options, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing – just be sure you’re fully informed before you make any big decisions.