There are two articles that indicate that General Motors (GM) is getting serious about marketing Flex-Fuel Vehicles (FFV) in the U.S.
FFVs are cars that have been modified to run on both gasoline or ethanol. They feature stronger fuel lines (ethanol is more corrosive than gasoline) and a device that can differentiate the particular blend of ethanol/gasoline in the tank to adjust carburetion. The upgrade cost to GM to produce a FFV from a normal model is surprisingly cheap (a few hundred dollars), particularly when compared to the upgrade cost of hybrids or EVs. They have been manufacturing and marketing FFVs in Brazil for years (where all new cars will be FFVs beginning in 2007).
The first article from Treehugger Blog details a joint initiative made by GM, the State of California, Chevron, and an alternative fuel company called Pacific Ethanol (which Bill Gates has invested in through his personal investment company).
The second article comes from a press release (1/4/2006) by the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition concerning GM's "First E85 National Ad Campaign". It is reprinted here in its entirety.
GM Serious About Ethanol And Flex-Fuel Vehicles?
January 5, 2006 06:07 PM - Michael G. Richard, near Ottawa
Excerpts from the GM press release...
General Motors will help lead a joint demonstration project along with the state of California, Chevron Technology Ventures, and Pacific Ethanol to learn more about consumer awareness and acceptance of E85 as a motor vehicle fuel by demonstrating its use in GM’s flexible-fuel vehicles. The announcement was made as a result of a non-binding understanding made public today at the Los Angeles Auto Show.
GM intends to offer between 50 to 100 of its E85-capable Chevrolet Impala passenger cars and Silverado pickup trucks for consideration in the state’s annual competitive bid process. Flexible-fuel vehicles will be used by the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) at various operations in Northern California and the state’s Central Valley. Chevron Technology Ventures intends to work with CalTrans to provide E85 fuel and install the necessary refueling pumps in these locations. Pacific Ethanol, a California-based ethanol production and marketing company, intends to provide the ethanol to Chevron Technology Ventures for the project.
GM’s environmental consultant has assured us that GM is aware of the problems facing corn ethanol production and that, while the fuel may initially be made from corn, that cellulosic ethanol is a potential choice for the future. Apparently, GM does have a relationship with Iogen, a leading Canadian cellulosic technology manufacturer (see this press release). We'll have to wait and see where that goes, but the quicker the public stops to think that ethanol equals corn, the better.
First E85 National Ad Campaign
Jefferson City, MO – The first flexible fuel vehicle/E85 national advertising campaign has been kicked off by General Motors. Advertisements in the January 4, 2006 editions of the USA Today and Wall Street Journal describes the new GM 2007 E85 Chevy Tahoe.
The full page ads includes statements regarding the ability of the Tahoe to operate on the clean, renewable product. It also directs individuals to the NEVC website, www.E85Fuel.com, to locate availability of E85.
“To my knowledge, this is the first time that any automaker has included a reference to the FFV capability of a vehicle in a national advertisement,” stated Phil Lampert, Executive Director of the NEVC. “While I obviously only have access to regional versions of these two very large circulation papers, we are very pleased that GM has included information in these ads acknowledging the E85 capability of the new Tahoe!”
The 2007 Tahoe will be available January 10. Different from the 2006 Tahoe, the new model will offer a feature called Active Fuel Management™ where the engine will provide power to all eight cylinders when needed and only four when not needed.
General Motors has been a long time supporter of E85 and a member of the NEVC.