B20-approved models considered "flex-fuel" under EPA proposed rule

By Nicholas Zeman | August 19, 2009
Posted September 16, 2009

The U.S. EPA issued a 1,200 page document yesterday in conjunction with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration outlining an "historic national program" that would dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve fuel economy for new cars and trucks sold in the United States.

Notably, the proposed rule includes flexible fuel vehicle (FFV) credits for auto manufacturers. The proposed rule would treat B20-capable vehicles the same as ethanol/gas FFVs. It would apply to passenger cars, light-duty trucks and medium-duty passenger vehicles, covering model years 2012 through 2016.

"If manufacturers' warranties cover B20, then I think many people will be comfortable with using it," says Robert Dascal of New Energy Fuels in Waller, Texas. "We're already seeing certain demand for B20 start to increase. With B20, you get the best of both worlds-the petrol base combined with added lubricity and lower emissions."

Emissions caps and fuel economy standards outlined by EPA include a limit of 250 grams of carbon dioxide (CO2) per mile, equivalent to 35.5 miles per gallon, if the automobile industry were to meet this CO2 level solely through fuel economy improvements.

EPA is proposing for model year 2016 and later that manufacturers would not receive FFV credits unless they can calculate how much alternative fuel is actually being bought by the end user. A B20-approved vehicle might use much less biodiesel, or none at all, once it hits the market, which would defeat the purpose of a program meant to promote the use of biofuels.

EPA understands "that by using the CAFE approach-including the 0.15 factor-the CO2 emissions value for the vehicle is calculated to be significantly lower than it actually would be otherwise," even if the vehicle were assumed to operate on the alternative fuel at all times. This represents a "credit" being provided to FFVs and essentially provides original engine manufacturers with room to work to accommodate their requirements.

If B20-approved models were branded with a logo or label that endorsed biodiesel, it could be an excellent marketing boon for the industry. "The more eyes that see that logo or label endorsing B20, the more people are going to know about biodiesel-and that is tremendous," Dascal said.
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