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Home > Feature Articles > Alternative Energy Solutions > Fuels & Renewable Energy

Ethanol E-85 is Illinois and Ford Motor Alternative Fuel Strategy

Green transportation includes E-85 ethanol flex vehicles and infrastructure.

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Illinois, in partnership with Ford Motor Company, is set to play a major role in advancing new clean vehicle technology with the introduction of Ford’s first of its kind E85 Hybrid Escape. Five of the 20 Ford E85 Hybrid’s in existence were delivered to the State of Illinois and the Illinois Corn Growers Association at the Farm Progress Show in Decatur, Illinois today. Two additional vehicles are going to Commonwealth Edison.

Ford Motor Company's demonstration fleet of ethanol-fueled hybrids will go to work on the streets of Illinois helping to advance Illinois' statewide 'green' strategy. Seven of the 20 Ford E85 Escape Hybrids were delivered today to the State of Illinois (4 vehicles), Illinois Corn Grower (1 vehicle) and Commonwealth Edison (2 vehicles) at the Farm Progress Show.

The Ford E85 Escape Hybrid was first introduced in January at the Washington, D.C. auto show as the world's first hybrid vehicles capable of operating on blends of fuel containing as much as 85 percent ethanol. Ethanol is a renewable fuel that can be produced from American-grown corn, so it makes sense to announce this program, at one of the world’s largest agricultural events, said Mary Culler, Ford's Regional Government Affairs Manager for the North Central states.

The 20 Ford E85 Escape Hybrids will be delivered to select fleet customers in six states, staking Ford's claim to another important industry first.

"The delivery of the E85 Ford Escape Hybrid is a great fit for both Ford and the State," said Culler said. "While Ford will gain important technical knowledge from the day-to-day use of the vehicle, our Illinois recipients have an opportunity to use environmentally-friendly vehicles to help advance their environmental initiatives."

The State's energy strategy calls for cleaner air and economic growth for Illinois in an effort to make the state more energy self-sufficient through several advancements, including the production and use of ethanol.

“Investing in ethanol is critical for our national security, our environment, and Illinois’ economy” said Steve Ruh, Illinois Corn Growers Association president of Sugar Grove. “This E85 Escape Hybrid is an exciting combination of new technology and cleaner burning ethanol. Ford is to be commended for this effort to help drive us toward energy independence.”

The E85 Escape Hybrid produces about 25 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a gasoline-fueled Escape Hybrid. It also runs on a completely renewable fuel, which can help reduce this nation's dependence on imported oil.

Over the last several years, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich has made a strong commitment to increasing the research, production and distribution of biofuels like E85. In 2003, Gov. Blagojevich created the state's first program to help build ethanol and biodiesel facilities . The Governor also signed legislation in 2003 completely eliminating the sales tax on E85 and biodiesel fuels. Illinois is still the only state in the nation to have this exemption, which is encouraging more consumption. He also started a program to help gas stations convert to selling to E85, which has helped increase the number of stations selling the biofuel from 14 in 2004 to more than 140 today. More than 17 percent or 2151 State of Illinois vehicles are flexible fuel vehicles that can run on E85. Illinois' fleet remains a catalyst for innovative solutions that may someday end up in the marketplace.

“No other state has the combination of natural resources that we have here in Illinois," said Gov. Blagojevich. "We’re the nation’s leading producer of soybeans. We’re the number two producer of corn. That means opportunity to turn more corn into ethanol and more soybeans into biodiesel fuel. We’ve been making the investments that have made Illinois a national leader in the research, production and distribution of biofuels, which are creating new jobs, helping drivers use less gas and making us more energy independent. Ford’s commitment to building clean and efficient vehicles like this hybrid SUV is going to help us further all of these important goals."

A major challenge in the promotion of renewable fuel use is availability of infrastructure. Less than 1 percent of the 170,000 retail gas stations in the country carry E85 ethanol. Expanding the availability of E85 is a critical element in moving America toward energy independence.

If all of the more than six million flexible fuel vehicles now on America's highways operated on E85, more than 3.6 billion gallons of gasoline could be displaced a year. For its part, Ford has committed to making half of its annual vehicle production capable of running on alternative fuels by 2012.

“We have a great opportunity to do more to secure our independence from foreign oil, while at the same time reduce greenhouse gases. Ford is showing its leadership in clean and efficient vehicles with a first-of-its-kind hybrid SUV that will also run on a renewable fuel,” said Lt. Governor Pat Quinn. “This fits well with Illinois’s agenda to promote vehicles that are better for the environment and our economy. The state is working hard to promote biofuels infrastructure, and the increasing selection of E85, flexible fuel vehicles is making this job easier.”

"For ethanol to be a real player in the transportation sector and lessen America's dependence on foreign oil, we need a strong, long-term focus on policies that increase U.S. ethanol production and accelerate E85 infrastructure development," said Culler. "We also need key partners like the oil industry to invest in developing and marketing renewable fuels, like E85. Without the whole-hearted involvement of the oil industry, we cannot move forward far enough or fast enough."

More to Learn

The Escape Hybrid E85 research project is a learning lab for Ford's FFV programs for 2010 and beyond. Tailpipe emissions of flexible-fuel vehicles still represent one of the biggest challenges and priorities.

Currently, no manufacturer's FFV has been certified as a partial zero-emissions vehicle (PZEV). And a full-hybrid application presents even more evaporative challenges because the vehicle operates on electric power alone without actuating the evaporative vacuum system that operates when the gas engine is in use.

"Although we currently do not have plans to produce the Escape Hybrid E85, the research from this technology could lead to breakthroughs in even more advanced technologies," said Culler.

Ford was the first to introduce a hybrid SUV with the Ford Escape Hybrid in 2004. For 2008, hybrid versions of the popular Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan midsize sedans will join the lineup. Last year, the company produced 250,000 ethanol-capable vehicles, including the Ford F-150 and the Lincoln Town Car.

In addition to hybrids and flexible fuel vehicles, Ford is also committed to the development of other advanced alternative fuel technologies. These include hybrids, hydrogen fuel cells, clean diesel, advanced powertrains, plug-in hybrids and hydrogen combustion engines.

Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles in 200 markets across six continents. With about 260,000 employees and about 100 plants worldwide, the company’s core and affiliated automotive brands include Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mercury, Volvo and Mazda. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford’s products, please visit

SOURCE: Ford Motor Corp.

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