What in the world is a Flexible Fuel Vehicle? It’s a car or truck that is capable of burning certain alternative fuels. Now we’re not talking gasoline vs. diesel engines here, we’re talking about gasoline engines that can also burn ethanol, natural gas, propane, hydrogen, methanol, and p-series fuels. According to some chemist at the U.S. Department of Energy, p-series fuels are “a unique blend of natural gas liquids (pentanes plus), ethanol, and the biomass-derived co-solvent methyltetrahydrofuran” just in case you were wondering.
Anyway, if you own one of these flexible fuel vehicles, and you could own one without realizing it, then you might be able to save yourself a whopping amount of money now that gas is nearing the price of gold.
Although some of the more exotic alternative fuels may not be flowing out of the pumps at your neighborhood service station, there is a good chance that ethanol is.
Ethanol is alcohol-based and it’s made by fermenting and distilling corn, barley, or wheat. It can also be made from "cellulosic biomass", which is just a fancy phrase for “chunks of trees and grass”, except that this version is called “Bioethanol” instead of plain “Ethanol”.
E85 is an Ethanol/Gasoline product that’s being sold at a lot of gas stations. It’s a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. E95 is a 95/5 blend of ethanol and gasoline. Both blends are capable of being burned by most Flexible Fuel Vehicles.
Some service stations are selling an E10 (10/90 ethanol/gasoline blend), that doesn’t really qualify as an alternative fuel. Its primary purpose is to reduce carbon monoxide levels, and it can be burned by most any engine that burns gasoline.
Unlike Hybrid Vehicles, flexible fuel vehicles are not necessarily more expensive because of the alternative fuel option, and they aren’t anywhere near as rare. In fact, there’s a chance that you’re driving one right now. If the salesperson didn’t tell you, and you’re not the kind that reads owner’s manuals, and you’re ignoring the sticker that’s probably on the inside of your gas tank cover, you could be in for a cash-saving surprise.
If you’re not sure if you own an FFV, or you’re planning on buying a new car soon, then visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s Flexible Fuel Vehicle ( http://www.eere.energy.gov/afdc/afv/models.html ) list.
If there isn’t a FFV in your life, there’s still hope. You can have an aftermarket conversion done. When you do a conversion, your gasoline-only engine ends up being able to burn some particular alternative fuel such as compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG, or propane), or Ethanol. You have three conversion choices; “dedicated”, “dual-fuel”, and “bi-fuel”. Dedicated means that your engine only burns one fuel after the conversion. Dual-fuel engines can burn two different fuels, and with a bi-fuel conversion, your engine burns two different fuels at the same time.
So, if you think that you have no choice but to continue paying through the nose when you’re paying at the pump, look into getting a Flexible Fuel Vehicle or an aftermarket conversion.