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Home > Feature Articles > Logistics and Vehicle Fleet Management > Autos & Small Consumer Vehicles

Alternative Fuel Cars from GM

GM shifts to ethanol to cope with 35mpg mileage compliance regulations

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GM has been increasingly fuzzy about when the Volt -- GM's plug-in electric car -- might appear in dealer showrooms. After initially aiming for a 2009 release date, the company now is using a late-2010 figure.

"The Volt has created more excitement than anything I've seen," Wagoner said. "But it's also clear that we must simultaneously work on" plant-based ethanol powered cars.

Producing a marketable Volt will require a quantum leap in battery technology whereas ethanol is a proven and available power source.

So GM is turning their focus to ethanol models: the Hummer HX and the Saab 9-4X which run on ethanol, an old-fashioned alternative with which GM has long experience.

One reason GM may be pushing ethanol, analysts said, is that the recently passed federal mileage standard of 35 miles per gallon has a loophole -- giving increased credit to vehicles that run on ethanol. GM and other automakers whose fleets are crammed with large trucks and sport utility vehicles have increasingly looked to those ethanol credits to keep their average fuel economy on track with regulation.

One downside of ethanol is that it is less energy-rich than gasoline, and thus provides fewer mpg. GM said it would put larger fuel tanks on future generations of ethanol vehicles.

GM has said the Volt will be able to go 40 miles on a single charge from a regular electrical outlet, far beyond the capabilities of currently available batteries. It would carry a large battery and a small gasoline engine that would charge the battery when it ran low; all power to the wheels would come from an electric motor.


Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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