US needs 10,000 more E85 pumps to support ethanol FFVs – GM

16 February 2010 05:01  [Source: ICIS news]

ORLANDO, Florida (ICIS news)--The US needs its service stations to add another 10,000 pumps capable of delivering the 85% ethanol blend known as E85 to gain public support for the biofuel, officials at car maker General Motors (GM) said on Monday.

GM has recently directly helped get 350 additional E85 pumps installed, said Tom Stephens, GM's vice chairman for global product operations.

"But it's not enough, not nearly enough," Stephens told a press conference ahead of the National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, Florida.

GM officials estimated there are just 2,200 E85 pumps in the nation's 160,000 service stations.

Two-thirds of the those pumps are concentrated in 10 states around the midwest corn belt, but only 19% of the flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs) capable of using E85 are located in those states.

Some 90% of FFV owners do not have an E85 retail outlet in their postal code, and nearly half do not have one even in their county meaning a long drive would be necessary just to refuel.

The US ethanol industry has struggled for years with the chicken-and-egg problem of persuading motorists and service-station owners to simultaneously create and supply a market for E85.

The challenge is particularly hard away from the ethanol-producing states in the corn belt.

The GM officials said the company worked to create a "biofuels corridor" on interstate highway 65, which runs 866 miles (1,397 km) south from Illinois to Alabama.

Motorists travelling that route are now never more than 75 miles – or around one-quarter of a tank of fuel from an E85 pump.

But the officials acknowledged that such distances would still be problematic for potential FFV buyers, saying that ideally an FFV owner should live within 2 miles of a service station with an E85 pump.

The National Ethanol Conference is sponsored by the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) and formally begins on Tuesday.

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By: Stephen Burns
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