With hybrids all the rage, and Ford needing good news, the company has now mixed two favorites of the alternative fuels folks and announced an experimental production run of E85 ethanol fueled hybrids.
It’s an idea whose time has already passed.
Twenty Escape ethanol hybrids will be delivered to select customers in six states. The move was praised by the Governor of Nebraska, speaking for the Governors Ethanol Coalition.
However, people who are not governors in corn-producing states are increasingly critical of ethanol in automobile fuels. Congress set mandates for ethanol use in automobile fuels, but there is now substantial political demand for caps on the amount of ethanol that can be devoted to fuel purposes. The artificial demand for corn which the government mandates created raised corn prices world-wide.
Apart from increasing domestic food costs, some critics have claimed that the effect has been most severe on the poor in impoverished foreign countries. Meantime, ethanol shortages earlier this year contributed to a significant increase in ethanol’s price. That, in turn contributed about ten cents a gallon toward increased gasoline prices in the United States. Ironically, though the ethanol mandates had been promoted as a way of reducing reliance on foreign energy, the domestic ethanol shortages resulting from the increased ethanol demand created by the mandates forced oil companies to import ethanol to meet the requirements.
E85, in particular, has been challenged because burning ethanol does not create the same level of energy as burning the same amount of gasoline. That means a vehicle must burn significantly more E85 than gasoline to travel the same distance. Because a car gets worse mileage on E85 than gasoline, the ostensible value of E85 is offset by higher consumption.
Ford knows this. The experimental Escapes have larger fuel pumps, larger fuel injectors, and bigger fuel lines to compensate for the larger fuel flow keep an E85 vehicle’s performance at a level comparable to one which is gasoline powered.
Chances are, however, that you won’t be seeing the Escape E85 ethanol hybrid in showrooms anytime soon. Though ethanol is being blended with gasoline, only those vehicles specifically designed to run on E85 can use it a fuel without engine damage.
So far, less than one percent of service stations sell E85.
Three of these Escapes have been delivered to the federal Department of Energy, perhaps on the theory that they know how to find a gas station that sells the stuff.
Wonder if one of those Escape E85 Hybrids will end up in the Governor’s garage in Lincoln, Nebraska?