Iowa’s recent ethanol boom is turning out to be a plus for drivers who burn the fuel in their vehicles. Supply from the two dozen plants currently making ethanol is outpacing demand, and prices have dropped as a result. Lucy Norton of the Iowa Corn Promotion Board says “E-85” which is 85 percent ethanol is selling for way less than regular unleaded. “There is a definite price advantage to using ethanol-blended fuels,” says Norton. Fuel with 10 percent ethanol blended in is selling for up to 11 cents less per gallon than regular unleaded. E-85 is between 20- and 30-cents cheaper per gallon. There are about 45-thousand vehicles on the road in Iowa which are “flexible fuel” models that can burn E-85. Norton says three automakers — Ford, General Motors and Daimler Chrysler — are selling “flexible fuel” vehicles. G.M. has been making E-85-capable pickups like the Sierra, the Silverado, the Avalanche, the Tahoe and the Suburban. In G-M’s 2006 model year, they’re adding the Impala and the Monte Carlo automobiles to their list of flexible fuel vehicles. Ford will continue to produce a flexible-fuel model of the Taurus, and in 2006 they’ll add the Crown Victoria, the Mercury Marquis and a Lincoln model to Ford’s flexible fuel fleet. Some Daimler Chrysler minivans, the Siebring and the Stratus have been able to burn E-85. New in 2006, Dodge Ram and Durango pick-ups will be offered in flexible fuel varieties. “Various models…to fit every…individual’s needs and every family’s lifestyle,” Norton says. But Norton that cautions not every model of those she just listed is a flexible fuel vehicle. You have to check the owner’s manual or check with your dealer to make sure. Norton says a “flexible fuel” vehicle can burn fuel that’s 10-percent or 85-percent ethanol. A sensor in the vehicle reads the oxygen content of the gasoline. “Ethanol contains oxygen and so what it is doing is the sensor is reading, really, to see how much ethanol you have in that vehicle and it makes the automatic modifications that it would need to in order for that vehicle to run at optimum performance,” Norton says. That means you can switch back and forth, from tank to tank, with E-85 and 10 percent ethanol. Seventeen stations in Iowa sell E-85. Norton says you can go on-line to find out if a station near you is selling E-85. Go to www.iowacorn.org, click on the word “ethanol” and then click on “E-85.”
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