Consumer alert: Ethanol economy

(National) September 27, 2006 - General Motor's ad campaign for ethanol says the answer to our energy independence may lie in America's yellow cornfields.

Consumer Reports just tested one of GM's flexible-fuel vehicles that can run either on e85 ethanol or gasoline. It's the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe FFV.

Consumer Reports' director of auto testing, David Champion, compared how the vehicle performed with the two fuels, "To actually drive the car, the difference between gasoline and ethanol was not noticeable. They drove much the same."

Acceleration was also about the same.

With e85, the Tahoe did have lower emissions of smog-forming nitrogen oxides, although hydrocarbon emissions were comparable.

Next came fuel-efficiency tests to see how many miles you get per gallon in both highway and stop-and-go driving. The tests showed the overall fuel economy actually dropped when the Tahoe ran on e85 - from an already low 14 miles per gallon with gasoline down to 10 miles per gallon with e85. That's lower than any vehicle tested in recent years.

So what does that say about flex vehicles being a green alternative? Champion says, "The vehicles that are made as flex-fuel vehicles are not really the most fuel-efficient cars in the first place. Then you add to that, if you run them on e85 ethanol you are getting 27 percent less fuel economy."

To top it off, you may have to pay more at the pump. E85 is often priced higher than gasoline.

Finding e85 to run a flex vehicle can be tough. There are a limited number of stations in the Midlands offering ethanol.

Then there is the price. At one station downtown, ethanol is selling for $2.86 per gallon, more than 70 cents over the current average for regular unleaded.

Posted 8:22pm by Chantelle Janelle

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