With gas prices soaring and the environment deteriorating, environmentalists and automakers alike have been discussing alternative fuels for quite some time. Ethanol-powered hybrids are receiving some attention from Ford Motor Company, and tests have begun on an E85 Escape Hybrid.
This sport utility vehicle runs on a mixture of regular gasoline and up to 85% ethanol (hence, the E85), designed to reduce dependence on foreign oil (read: avoid conflicts in the Middle East). This particular hybrid is the first of its kind, and the Detroit company plans on making 250,000 E85-powered vehicles this year. The typically corn-derived ethanol is said to moderate greenhouse gas emissions, but is less efficient that regular gasoline. Users can expect a 25% decrease in fuel economy.
There are several obstacles along the way that will need to be overcome before ethanol-powered vehicles can go mainstream. One of the biggest hurdles is the simple fact that only 500 American gas stations provide E85 — there are 170,000 stations in the US in total. The transition will take several years, if it happens at all.