Written by Prognog Staff The Grey Clouds Blurring Flex Cars Goal | Ethanol | Driving The Grey Clouds Blurring Flex Cars Goal
by Ryan Thomas

Business Week reported that even though President Bush enjoyed a high-profile photo-op on Monday with the heads of the Big Three automakers who showed him an impressive lineup of their latest clean-car models. Flex cars include General Motors Corporation’s model that can run on ethanol, a plug-in vehicle powered by hydrogen from the Ford Motor Co., and a DaimlerChrysler AG Jeep fueled by a biodiesel blend. According to the magazine all was not quite what it seemed.

Business Week said there is a dirty secret about US made clean cars. That secret could send grey clouds to make flex cars goal a blurry deal. The present government policies for flex-fuel vehicles give automakers leeway in meeting fuel-economy standards if they produce flex-fuel cars and trucks.

Hence, Detroit's automakers have been manufacturing out hundreds of thousands of the vehicles, even though most consumers have no access to alternative fuels because they are available at only a fraction of gas stations in the United States.

Just one percent of the nation's flexible-fuel vehicles actually use E85. The remaining 99 percent are using the traditional gasoline fuel. The aftermath is anything but green. E85 is an alcohol fuel mixture that contains a mixture of up to 85 percent denatured fuel ethanol and gasoline or other hydrocarbons. The ethanol component ranges from 70 or 83 percent. The said fuel is widely used in Sweden and is now getting more and more popular in the United States.

GM serves as a modern leader in flexible fuel engines, as its Swedish subsidiary Saab has developed a turbocharged flexible-fuel engine called the BioPower. The sophisticated engine takes special advantage of the high-octane fuel. The engine allows the vehicle to accelerate faster and achieve dramatic speeds when running on E85 compared to running on pure gasoline. Tests conducted using older Saabs fitted with the APC system revealed that they can run fine on up to 50 percent E85 mixed with ordinary gasoline. Nevertheless, the fuel is expected to have long term effects as ethanol is more aggressive on tubes and that gasoline also acts as a lubricant.

Additionally, GM’s Brazilian subsidiary adopted the automaker’s Family II and Family 1 straight-4 engines with FlexPower technology that enables the use of ethanol, gasoline, or mix fuel. The vehicles with FlexPower include the Chevrolet Corsa and the Chevrolet Astra.

Nowadays, automakers are aiming at manufacturing more flex fuel vehicles to cope with the demands of the standards. This is the reason why automakers are asking considerable support from the administration. The pecuniary support is expected to finance research, testing and studies regarding the use of alternative fuels. If ever Nissan Motors Corp. Ltd. decides to build flex fuel vehicles, the automaker would consider a number of things. One of which is Nissan engines, which would require a meticulous study.

Environmental advocates are not shy about voicing their outrage. "It's a total scam," said Dan Becker, director of the Sierra Club's global warming program. He added, "The automakers are trying to shield themselves from having to make more efficient vehicles. They're avoiding the path to cutting oil dependence, curbing global warming, saving consumers’ money, and ultimately saving Detroit from competitors like Toyota."

Ryan Thomas is a native of Denver, Colorado. He grew up in a family of car afficionados. He now resides in Detroit where he owns a service shop and works part time as a consultant for a local automotive magazine. You can visit Nissan engines for more information.

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