Next month, India will get its first flex-fuel car, which can run on ethanol-blended petrol and a battery. The Flex Fuel Strong Hybrid Electric Vehicle (FFV-SHEV) imported from Brazil will be used in a pilot project led by the Government of India to evaluate its performance in terms of reduced carbon emissions and reducing the country’s reliance on imported fossil fuels.
What are ‘Flexible Fuel Vehicles’?
- An FFV is a modified version of vehicles that could run both on gasoline and doped petrol with different levels of ethanol blends.
- They will allow vehicles to use all the blends and also run on unblended fuel.
- Flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) have an internal combustion engine and are capable of operating on gasoline and any blend of gasoline and ethanol up to 83%.
- FFVs have one fuel system, and most components are the same as those found in a conventional gasoline-only car.
- Some special ethanol-compatible components are required to compensate for the different chemical properties and energy content in ethanol, such as modifications to the fuel pump and fuel injection system.
- The engine control module (ECM) is also calibrated to accommodate the higher oxygen content of ethanol.
- According to IHS Markit, there were over 21 million flex fuel vehicles (as of 2018) in the United States, but Brazil is the biggest market and a leader in this segment.
- Since ethanol blending is expected to reach 20% by 2025-26, the groundwork will be laid for the introduction of FFV-SHEV vehicles in India.
- Cleaner for the Environment – As Ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline, which means flex-fuel cars pump fewer toxic fumes into the environment. Flex fuel also contributes fewer greenhouse gases, making it a more environmentally friendly option than traditional gasoline.
- Burning Facility – One of the greatest advantages of a flex-fuel vehicle is that is can burn whatever proportion of fuel mixture is in the combustion chamber. The car is equipped with electronic sensors that gauge the blend, and its microprocessors adjust the fuel injection and timing.
- Advanced Technology – The modern flex-fuel vehicles are built using advanced technology such as electronic sensors. As mentioned, these technological advances allow your car to adjust the way it’s operating, including detecting the fuel blend and making any necessary adjustments. Modern flex-fuel cars can contain 10 to 85 percent ethanol. Thanks to the technology it’s equipped with, your vehicle will determine the most efficient proportions.
- Sustainably Produced – Many flex-fuel vehicles run on ethanol, which is sustainably produced from ingredients such as cane sugar and corn. This makes ethanol a good alternative to purchasing foreign oil.
- Tax Benefits – Consumers who drive flex-fuel cars receive tax credits that can significantly reduce or even eliminate their tax obligation.
- Improved Performance – While some might argue that using an alternative fuel source can negatively impact a vehicle’s performance, in reality it can have the opposite effect. Flex-fuel vehicles don’t experience a loss in performance when using E85 fuel.
- Sole Crop Use – While it’s great that flex fuel can be sustainably produced using corn and sugar, its production comes with a downside. Crops designed to be used for flex-fuel production can’t be allocated to other sources. This could potentially drive up the price of animal feed. Corn is also susceptible to disease and weather conditions such as flooding and drought. This can be problematic for corn prices during poor harvests.
- Possible Engine Damage – Obviously you want to treat your engine in the best way possible. Unfortunately, ethanol absorbs dirt easily, which can potentially corrode and damage your engine.
- Gas Mileage – One of the main concerns about driving a flex-fuel car is its gas mileage. While some experts assert that flex-fuel vehicles have similar mileage as regular fuel-powered vehicles, others claim they have lower gas mileage. While ethanol does raise a vehicle’s octane level, it contains less energy. In other words, it will take 1.5 times more to provide the same energy levels. So, yes, you will get fewer miles per gallon using ethanol. However, ethanol costs less than regular gasoline, so the savings should more than offset the mileage loss.
- Scarcity of Fuel Stations – Because flex fuel isn’t as economical as gasoline, gas stations are less likely to carry it. In fact, only a small percentage of gas stations nationwide supply ethanol, although that is likely to change as more consumers purchase flex-fuel vehicles. The benefit of a modern flex-fuel vehicle, though, is that you can use any combination of gasoline and ethanol, whether it’s 100 percent unleaded gas or 85 percent ethanol. Your vehicle’s sensors will detect the blend and make the necessary changes.