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The Case for “Future-Proof” Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs)

Over the next few year you’ll see a change at your local gas stations as more alcohol-blended fuel pumps are installed across the nation. Alcohol-blended fuels like E85 are already available in some areas, and more are coming to market as more FFVs are sold in the United States.


US based manufacturers have committed to making 50% of their new autos FFVs by 2010 and and 85% by 2012. In addition, there is proposed legislation called the Open Fuel Standard Act which will mandate all cars sold in America meet the same goals, so this will mean that all imports sold in the US will meet the same FFV standard. (You can help support this legislation here.)

Since FFV is an widely available and mature technology (there are already millions of FFVs on the road in the US – you may be driving one), adding the capability to all new vehicles sold in the US doesn’t add notably to the cost of making new cars (usually about $100) – and provides a way for auto manufactures to “green-up” their product lines.

Drivers of FFVs will be able to choose what fuel to buy, based on price at the pump, performance needs, personal preference, etc. – just like shopping for any other commodity. You’ll be able to mix E85 with E10 (the current flavor of gasoline almost everywhere in the US) and newer alternative blends like E25 or M50. Using FFV technology, your car will automatically adjust your engines settings to run properly on any combination of gasoline and alcohol fuels.

Unlike more exotic alternative fuels like compressed hydrogen or natural gas, drivers of FFVs are not stuck on a virtual “energy island” of specialized refueling stations. You will be able to travel freely, just like today, as far and wide as you like – choosing your favorite blend of alcohol fuels as you go – or using straight gasoline where no other choice exists.

So if your next car has an engine that burns liquid fuel, makes sure it is “future proof” and check that it’s a Flex-Fuel Vehicle before you buy it, or else you’ll be left without options at the pump when the alcohol-blended fuels hit the wider market.


13 Responses to “The Case for “Future-Proof” Flex Fuel Vehicles (FFVs)”

  1. Samantha on October 31st, 2008 8:22 PM

    Are you telling me that I may have a flex fuel vehicle and not even know it?? That is crazy, I would think that it would be a big selling point! Maybe even a way to get me to pay more!!

  2. Chris on October 31st, 2008 8:29 PM

    I think it’s great that you can choose any flex fuel you want, I guess it basically keeps us where we are currently, with different grades…but this generation of fuel will become less dependent on other coutries for our supply (HOPEFULLY!!)

  3. Doc Miles on October 31st, 2008 9:48 PM

    Samantha – It’s true – some manufacturers were not marking FFVs with the “FLEXFUEL” badge until recently (a new law made them add badges where appropriate).

    You can check if you are driving a flex fuel car online at this website:


  4. Doc Miles on October 31st, 2008 9:48 PM

    BTW – There are over 6 million FFVs on the road in the US right now.

  5. gr33n4lif3 on November 3rd, 2008 10:00 AM

    Why didn’t I know about this before?

  6. Obama orders push to cleaner, more efficient cars | Fuelishness! Fuel Economy Blog on January 27th, 2009 9:12 AM

    […] the same time, Obama should hold American automakers to their promise of building-in the Flex-Fuel components needed to “future-proof” these new vehicles, to allow consumers to have a choice to […]

  7. Ethanol production a boom or bust? | Fuelishness! Fuel Economy Blog on January 28th, 2009 3:41 PM

    […] There is a technology called “Flex Fuel” that has been around for over 10 years, and is already built-in to some cars sold in the US (about 3% on the road). “Flex Fuel” involves improvements to some of the fuel system components to resist alcohol-corrosion, adding a sensor that can determine how much alcohol is in the fuel going to the fuel injectors, and programming the computer that runs the engine in the car. It costs between $100 to $200 to add these components during production of a new car. All “Flex Fuel” cars can run on regular gas, or any combination of alcohol-and-gas.  […]

  8. Charles on February 8th, 2009 8:45 PM

    Flex sounds good if it only costs about $100 more as you say. However it seems that space would have to be taken from somewhere for the extra tank.

    A much better idea than hybrids which cost so much more only the rich can afford them. How that helps the average consumer I don’t know.

    The problem with ethanol fuels of course is that they are less efficient and actually from what I have read take MORE input energy to get the same output energy. And also there are areas of the world that depend on corn as a staple for food and if corn prices rise as they have, I understand then their food prices are more thereby creating more starving people.

    As far as I know I have not heard of a gasoline car depriving anyone of food.

    I think it is time to build new oil refineries and use what we have rather than give money to foreign countries.

    A long time ago I saw a movie called “Bate’s Car: Sweet as a Nut”. This gentleman in England invented a conversion device so that he could use gasoline or methane from rotting manure. It was a fairly simple process to digest and store the gas in a propane-style tank. However I wonder if his device was ever put on the market?

    All animals produce manure as do humans. It seems like if we could create gas from what often is waste product now that that would be a good idea. Although farmers do use it for fertilizer so there is a flaw in that idea.

  9. Charles on February 8th, 2009 8:47 PM

    On the fuelclinic site, what do you mean by mean and arithmetic mean and all that stuff. I don’t understand why there needs to be a difference in measuring. Why not just the normal average?

  10. UL Approves 15% Ethanol Blends for “Legacy” Gas Pumps | Fuelishness! Fuel Economy Blog on February 25th, 2009 7:36 AM

    […] challenge is, and he told me that the industry was about to have excess capacity, without any real FFV progress, the blend-wall for non-FFV vehcile fuel needed to be raised to 12% or 15% in order to create room […]

  11. 87 mpg while driving a Ford Focus – But you still can’t buy one in the U.S. « Fuelishness! Fuel Economy Blog on January 3rd, 2010 8:29 PM

    […] modern diesel engine technology also avoids the chicken-and-egg problem that other alternative fuels have… US-based drivers can currently fuel their zippy and […]

  12. Gas Prices Steadily Climb Again – What Have We Done To Stop It? « Fuelishness! Fuel Economy Blog on January 25th, 2010 9:48 PM

    […] I’ve long been a proponent of Flex-Fuel vehicles, since they offer the simple option to use purely petroleum based gasoline or […]

  13. Ken Brown Sr on June 9th, 2011 7:05 AM

    I believe that any new car or truck with electronic brain will operate on E85 especially the ones that require premium fuel as E85 has 105 Octane and the best gas premium has only 93 Octane.But like it says in your new vehical warrenty it will be voided if you use it. so wait till it expires and then start using E85.

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