As usual for a Sunday, I was reading my car magazines (the few I still bother with) and watching my car shows, including Autoline Detroit on Speed channel. And this morning John McElroy had an interesting discusion with two execs from GM about their new marketing push on E85. The thrust of it, was that GM is pushing awareness of it's vehicles' ability to run on the E85 bio fuel blend, and discussed Brazil's success with their shift to the bio fuel blends. The commentators acknowledged that all of the domestic auto makers have been making Flex Fuel vehicles for years, with little fan fair. I've commented on it before, that many Fords over the years including some trucks have been flex fuel capable. And I've read over the last few months how Ford and now GM are working with suppliers to slowly create the infrastructure for the Ethanol blends. I know it's only a drop in the bucket now, but it's a start. So that got me thinking about Ford's partners and overseas operations.
In Europe Diesels are the biggest thrust by companies looking to improve the fuel efficiency of their vehicles and Ford and their partners have a very good range of engines and share technologies fairly well. So are Ford and partner vehicles in Europe also Flex Fuel capable? The Petrol V6 engines in many Ford and partner vehicles share DNA, so it shouldn't be overly expensive to make the switch if they aren't. What about the smaller engines? The already fuel efficient petrol I4 engines? And finally how about the big V8 and V12 engines from Jaguar and Aston Martin? Well they also share DNA with the lowly corporate 3.0 DOHC V6, so it theoretically should be easy to make the adjustments. Which from everything I've read on Ethanol, consist mainly of a sensor in the fuel system to read the fuel mixture and adjust programming for efficient combustion and probably a new fuel tank and lines. Ethanoll actually burns cleaner and has an octane advantage over Petrol, so it shouldn't affect performance even on these high priced models.
Now Australia may be a different story, but not really a problem. The Australian Ford powerplants are variations of the 4.0 I6 that is not shared with Europe or North America, and home grown versions of the Modular V8 seen in North America and select other markets globally. But again, if it's just a matter of a few hundred dollars per car to modify, and consisting of partial upgrade to fuel system and programming, it doesn't sound too dificult. I know Diesels are sold in Australia, but wonder what the market mix is between Petrol and Diesel? Also what is the Hybrid situation? Can someone from down under enlighten me? Ben ??
What about Mazda? The V6s Mazda use are also developments of the Ford 3.0, so the same modifications should be an easy move for them. And in the US market at least, E85 doesn't seem to be in the game plan for most Japanese marques. It could be a good marketing move for Mazda to make the switch and beat the other Japanese companies to the punch. Mazda doesn't seem to be whole heartedly onboard with Hybrid Electrics either, other than the Tribute which is going to be shut down soon. I've read that in Japan they are working on Hydrogen technologies, as everyone world wide seems to be, but what will their "Eco" card be? Could it be further development of the Turbo Direct Injection technology that we see in the MazdaSpeed6, and upcoming CX7 and MazdaSpeed3? Applying that technology to smaller displacement engines would allow a 1 liter engine to make the power a 2 liter engine traditionally makes, while still achieving greater gas milage, or so I've been told/read. Will Mazda blaze it's own path or jump on the E85 bandwagon, even just for the short term. I don't see how it could hurt.
And for all those that fear the loss of performance, DON'T, it should be right on par with what you have experienced from Gasoline only, maybe even slightly better. The Mustang's 4.0 SOHC V6, that it shares with the Ranger, also shares DNA with the 3.0 V6 (from the Ranger), and since the modifications are confined to fuel system and programming, should easily transfer.
Don't get me wrong, it's not as if I own stock in an Ethanol company, and I don't think E85 or Bio Diesel blends will be the magic cure. But they should be easy transitions, with major payoffs for the environement, economy and national security. It seems like such a win win situation.
(updates in red, to clarify which 3.0 V6) Both the Taurus and Ranger were offered as Flex Fuel vehicles, both with 3.0L V6 engines, but no means the same. The Ranger was the Cologne family V6.