More opportunities for E85 drivers

By Kris Bevill | November 03, 2008
Drivers of the nearly 7 million flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs) in the United States can enjoy increased access to ethanol as recent projects have resulted in openings of E85 stations in various locations nationwide, even an entire interstate corridor east of the Mississippi River.

In late September, a Mid-Atlantic Petroleum Properties station in Germantown, Md., celebrated its grand opening by offering VeraSun Energy Corp.'s trademarked VE85 brand of E85 for $1.85 per gallon for the first 185 minutes of sales. The station is Mid-Atlantic's seventh location to begin selling VE85. Rick Eggebrecht, vice president of market development at VeraSun, said the company was pleased to be part of the partnership to expand VE85 in Maryland, and the Washington D.C., area. "Expanding the availability of ethanol, in particular higher blends of ethanol, to American drivers throughout the country is critical," he said.

San Diego-based Pearson Fuels was responsible for the opening of E85 fueling stations in Carlsbad, Concord and Hayward, Calif., in early October. The fuel supplier planned to break ground on additional E85 stations in Beaumont, Perris, San Jose, Carmichael and Sacramento, Calif., later in the month. The company has a unique plan that includes partnering with gas station owners to install E85 pumps at virtually no cost to the station owner, so long as they agree to fuel supply contracts with Pearson Fuels. In return, Pearson Fuels acquires all appropriate permits for the station and foots the bill for the pump installation, the sum of which can reach up to $200,000, according to the company.

An E85 corridor has been completed along Interstate 65. The interstate runs 884 miles from Mobile, Ala., to Gary, Ind. Major cities along the way include Nashville, Tenn.; Louisville, Ky.; and Indianapolis. The corridor was a two-year project funded in part by a $1.3 million U.S. DOE grant. Other partners in the project included the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council, General Motors Corp. and several state organizations. According to EPIC, just three years ago there were no E85 stations along the corridor. Now, motorists are never more than a quarter of a tank away from an E85 retailer. "This could not have been accomplished without the cooperation of the federal government, automakers and our industry partners," EPIC Executive Director Toni Nuernberg said. "We look forward to the continued expansion of America's flex fuel."