Driving Through the Blend Wall

nec14-autos-panelWe’ve heard a lot about how higher ethanol blends might affect the producers of the green fuel and the impacts to consumers on the other end. But what about the viewpoint of those who have to build the vehicles on which these higher blends would run? Representatives from General Motors and Mercedes-Benz were among the experts on a panel at the National Ethanol Conference discussing “Driving Through the Blend Wall” from the automotive perspective.

Renewable Fuels Association vice president for technical services Kristy Moore moderated the panel which included Bill Woebkenberg, U.S. Fuels Technical and Regulatory Affairs, Mercedes-Benz Research & Development North America; Coleman Jones, Biofuels Manager, General Motors; and Robert McCormick, Fuels Performance Platform Leader, National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Woebkenberg pointed out that flex fuels are already here and should be attractive to consumers, considering the high-performance, high-octane features.

“It’s not a filler fuel; it’s a race fuel,” and he believes overcoming consumers’ misperceptions of poor performance is key. But he and his colleague from GM, said carmakers are worried less about the rhetoric that might be swirling around flex fuels and more about what the final rules coming out of Washington might say.

“Automakers are a regulated industry, and we pay a lot more attention to the regulations than we pay attention to the words, because these regulations are the deeds by which we have to live with our business and have to be distinguished from the words we hear,” said Jones.

McCormick offered some insight to their review of 43 studies about ethanol, which should give the rulemakers more information by which those automakers have to live. He said overall they found no failures of E15 in performance.

“The use of E15, in our opinion, is likely to have little impact on 2001 and newer model year vehicles,” he told the audience gathered.

McCormick concluded the panel saying there are paths forward with the higher ethanol blends in the market, for carmakers and consumers alike.

Check out the entire session here: NEC Auto Perspective Panel

2014 National Ethanol Conference Photo Album

NEC Coverage sponsored by Patriot Renewable Fuels LLC

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