GM Forms Consortium to Promote Ethanol as Alternative, Renewable Fuel

GM Forms Consortium to Promote Ethanol as Alternative, Renewable Fuel

General Motors has announced it will lead a joint demonstration project in partnership with the state of California, Chevron Technology Ventures, and Pacific Ethanol to learn more about consumer awareness and acceptance of E85 as a motor vehicle fuel by demonstrating its use in GM's flexible-fuel vehicles. The announcement was made at the Los Angeles Auto Show.

GM plans to offer up to 100 E85-capable Chevrolet Impala passenger cars and Silverado pickup trucks for consideration in the state's annual competitive bid process. Flexible-fuel vehicles will be used by the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) at various operations in Northern California and the state’s Central Valley. Chevron Technology Ventures will work with CalTrans to provide E85 fuel and install the necessary refueling pumps in these locations. Pacific Ethanol, a California-based ethanol production and marketing company, intends to provide the ethanol to Chevron Technology Ventures for the project.

Since California currently imports more than half of its crude oil, it has become a statewide priority to develop and grow diverse energy sources. The ethanol project is designed to explore the merits of E85 to help meet that goal, and its potential to meet and exceed California’s high standards for fuel quality and environmental emissions.

Although somewhat lower in energy content, ethanol delivers similar performance as regular gasoline and is a renewable, domestically-produced fuel. E85, a blend of 85% ethyl alcohol and 15% gasoline, is produced from the starch and sugar in agricultural products, primarily domestically-produced corn.

For GM, this collaboration with the state of California is an important first step in helping create and grow an E85 refueling infrastructure for its E85-capable vehicles currently on the road and in showrooms, says Elizabeth A. Lowery, GM’s vice president of environment and energy.

Pacific Ethanol is constructing a large-scale ethanol facility in Madera, Calif., and has plans to build four ethanol plants in the state during the next two years, according to Bill Jones, Pacific Ethanol’s Chairman. Each plant will create more than 700 new jobs in California, and infuse more than $100 million in capital into the local economy, says Jones.

GM has made a major commitment to E85 flexible fuel vehicles in the United States, with 1.5 million of these vehicles on the road today. GM approved the use of 10% ethanol blended gasoline in all GM products more than 20 years ago, and produces almost five million E10 capable vehicles annually.

For the 2006 model year, GM offers nine E85 flexible fuel vehicles, including the Chevrolet Tahoe, GMC Yukon, Chevrolet Suburban, GMC Yukon XL, Chevrolet Silverado, GMC Sierra, Chevrolet Avalanche, Chevrolet Impala, and the Chevrolet Monte Carlo. In Europe, the GM-owned Saab brand is making significant headway with the E85-fueled Saab 9-5 BioPower, which is now available to consumers in Sweden and Germany. A 310 hp concept version of the 9-5 BioPower debuted at the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show to illustrate how Saab might extend this initiative to the United States.

GM’s E85 vehicles are capable of operating on either gasoline or 85% ethanol without any additional modifications, aftermarket conversions, or cumbersome switches for vehicle users. Currently, there are more than 400 public E85 fueling sites in operation across the nation.

In addition to producing E85 flexible fuel vehicles, GM has also partnered with the Governors’ Ethanol Coalition (GEC), a bipartisan group of governors devoted to the promotion and increased use of ethanol. This collaborative effort is designed to increase awareness of ethanol and flexible fuel vehicles, and to promote the increased use of E85 as a renewable, alternative transportation fuel that is able to meet the demands of today’s drivers.