Environmentally conscious and budget-savvy consumers who are in the market for a new car, SUV, or pickup will find both good news and bad news as they peruse auto dealer lots and showrooms this holiday season.
The good news? According to a new analysis of model-year 2022 vehicle owners’ manuals and warranty statements by the Renewable Fuels Association, nearly all new automobiles are explicitly approved by the manufacturer to use lower-carbon, lower-cost gasoline blends containing 15 percent ethanol (E15).
And now for the bad news. With each passing year, automakers are offering fewer flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) capable of running on fuel blends containing up to 85 percent ethanol (E85). Flex fuels like E85 are the lowest-carbon liquid fuels available in the marketplace today and are often sold at a discount to regular gasoline.
Based on current market share data, nearly 95 percent of new MY 2022 vehicles sold will carry the manufacturer’s unequivocal approval to use E15. For the 11th year straight, General Motors approves the use of E15 in all of its makes and models, while Ford is entering its 10th straight year of universal E15 approval. BMW, Honda, Hyundai, Nissan, Stellantis, Subaru, Tata Motors, and Volkswagen also approve or recommend the use of E15. Notably, BMW and Mini go a step further by approving the use of gasoline containing up to 25% ethanol (E25) in their 2022 models. Only Daimler (Mercedes-Benz), Mazda, Mitsubishi, and Volvo do not include E15 as a recommended fuel in their owners’ manual. However, E15 is legally approved by EPA for use in all vehicles built since 2001, covering almost 97 percent of all vehicles on the road today.
The news is not as positive for FFVs. According to a new brochure from RFA, only Ford and GM will offer FFVs for sale in MY 2022, and GM’s models are available only to fleet purchasers. The two manufacturers will offer just 11 models as FFVs in 2022. That’s down from more than 80 different models from eight manufacturers being available to consumers as recently as MY 2015. RFA continues to strongly advocate for the production of more FFVs and fairness in how alternative fuel vehicles are incentivized under fuel economy and greenhouse gas regulations.
“We’re pleased to see automakers continuing to embrace E15, but we are very disappointed to see continued backsliding in the production of FFVs,” said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. “Today’s ethanol reduces GHG emissions by roughly 50 percent compared to gasoline, and our member companies have pledged to achieve a net-zero carbon emissions footprint for ethanol by 2050 or sooner. Ethanol-based fuels can provide the same—or better—GHG performance as most battery electric vehicles, but only if given the opportunity to compete for a larger share of the fuel tank. E15 is a positive step forward on the path toward decarbonization, but the Biden administration and automakers should recommit to increased FFV production as a critical component of the strategy to reach carbon neutrality by mid-century.”
Cooper noted that as a member of the U.S. Senate, President Biden once said, “We need to make sure we’re all driving good cars by increasing fuel efficiency and requiring that every car sold in the United States is a flexible fuel vehicle, or FFV, that can run on alternative fuel like E85.” RFA called on President Biden to rekindle that support, enthusiasm, and vision for FFVs.
At present, there are more than 5,200 gas stations selling E85 and other flex fuels, and over 2,400 selling E15. Click here for locations and a price tracker, and click here for more information on ethanol blends.