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November 14, 2007

Flex Fuel US Ethanol Conversion Kit

E85_2

Flex Fuel US, an American startup in Chicago, recently announced the release of
Flex-Box Smart Kit™, a first-of-its-kind fuel conversion system that is EPA-certified. After a year of R&D, the company was able to produce the first and only E85 conversion unit has been certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for fleet vehicles, and allows fleet operators and drivers to fill up on E85 (a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline) E20, E10 or pure gasoline.  Go American entrepreneurs!  Together we are making our vehicles greener! 

The EPA certification is important because it means you will not void your car’s warranty. Bear in mind though that this system is only useful if you live where ethanol public access fuelling stations are fairly readily available, e.g. in the Midwest.  If you live in California you are out of luck, since there is only one public access fueling station, in San Diego…  To find a pump, click here.

Flex Fuel USA is currently targeting the fleet market (e.g. taxis, livery, police departments) because most of them have their own fueling sources. According to Mitch Sremac, CEO, consumer versions should be available for 80% of today’s late model cars in the fall of 2008.  So stay tuned!  However, if you work with a fleet today, you may want to check out their website for more information.  The press release notes that the system provides:

  • An approximate 15 percent per gallon fuel cost saving over gasoline
  • Additional fleet incentives such as rebates, fuel discounts, and access to HOV lanes
  • An 85 percent reduction in fossil greenhouse gas emissions
  • Independence from foreign oil & supports domestic farming
  • Significant increase in vehicle horsepower, acceleration and performance.  Ethanol is a high octane fuel hence burns more efficiently.

In their test with a fleet-type vehicle, the Crown Victoria, fuel efficiency measured in miles-per-gallon is comparable to slightly lower than gasoline.  Regular gasoline version for the 2007 model comes in at 17/25 city/highway, while with the kit it is 16.9/26.8 city/highway.  However, since ethanol has a cost differential of about $0.60 per gallon today, there is opportunity for overall fuel savings.  According to Sremac, the payback period for a fleet is about 6 months, while for consumers with already efficient cars and low overall mileage, it could be between 12-15 months.  This does not yet factor in the tax credits or state rebates. Monetary cost, alone, however should not be the only guide in our decisions on fuel sources. Let’s not forget about the environmental and political cost of using gasoline and foreign oil.

Curious about how difficult it is to get this system into my car when it becomes available, I asked Mitch what a consumer needs to do.  AAMCO Transmission Centers “Eco-green Auto Service™” program can already install the kit, but if you want to save another $200, and you already know how to do tune-up, change your own oil and brakes, it should be easy enough to DIY, with two hours time investment.  The retail cost will be $1295, while a system purchased from and installed by AAMCO will be $1495.  Sounds to me like a fairly affordable and immediate way to reduce your carbon and eco-footprint.  I am looking forward to fall 2008 for the consumer version and future stories about whether this helps E85 take off as an alternative fuel.

Extrazoom Marn-Yee Lee
Contributing Editor
AskPatty.com

Marn-Yee Lee is pursuing an MBA in Sustainability at the Presidio School of Management in San Francisco.  After spending a decade in I.T. and on Wall Street, she is now pursuing her passion for the environment.  She sees business as a partner for creating innovative solutions to pressing environmental issues. In her spare time, she writes a blog to inspire others to consider the impact of their daily lives on the environment at busythinking.blogspot.com.

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