Ethanol Blog

RFA Study: Distinct Advantages to EV Vehicle With Flex Fuel Technology

Todd Neeley
By  Todd Neeley , DTN Environmental Editor
Connect with Todd:
The Renewable Fuels Association's 2022 Ford Escape combines flex fuel technology with plug-in electric hybrid technology. (Photo courtesy Renewable Fuels Association)

LINCOLN, Neb. (DTN) -- With an ongoing push toward a future with all electric vehicles still on the move a new study released by the Renewable Fuels Association on the world's only plug-in electric hybrid flex fuel vehicle, found what the group said are "distinct advantages" over fully electric vehicles.

In 2023, the RFA bought a 2022 Ford Escape plug-in hybrid electric vehicle it converted to a flex fuel vehicle capable of using any blend of gasoline up to 85% ethanol.

In a study released this week, the RFA pushes federal regulators and lawmakers to take steps to make FFV conversion kits more accessible.

RFA put on about 34,000 miles on the Escape and conducted emissions testing and greenhouse gas emissions analysis, finding what it said in the study were both economic and environmental benefits.

After a 15-month study of the vehicle, RFA found:

-Reductions in lifecycle GHG emissions that rival, or outperform, the GHG reductions achievable with many battery electric vehicles;

-Substantial reductions (when compared to gasoline-powered vehicles) in emissions of harmful tailpipe pollutants like nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM) and carbon monoxide (CO);

-Lower cost of ownership and operation (purchase price, fuel cost per mile) than a similar BEV; and

-No meaningful loss in fuel economy, with the Escape experiencing just a 1.5% reduction in miles-per-gallon compared to the EPA estimated rate using E10.

"While some have suggested a massive and immediate shift to BEVs is the best solution for decarbonizing personal transportation, other solutions -- like low-carbon ethanol blends -- offer enormous potential to achieve meaningful GHG reductions in both the near term and the long term," the RFA report said.

"Combining plug-in technology and flex fuel capability makes this vehicle the most adaptable and flexible in the world. It can be refueled with any fuel at any time, offering optimal convenience and affordability to the consumer. The PHEFFV overcomes many of the barriers to BEV adoption commonly cited by consumers, including limited driving range, high purchase price, reliability, and lack of refueling (recharging) infrastructure."

When using E85 in the Escape, RFA said the vehicle reduced nitrogen oxides by 48% to 79% and particulate matter from 70% to 76%, compared to operating with E10.

RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper said in a news release the RFA study shows the potential of using biofuels such as ethanol alongside electric-vehicle technology to reduce GHG emissions.

"With this project, we sought to demonstrate that pairing plug-in hybrid electric technology with ethanol flex fuels offers an invaluable opportunity to reduce transportation related GHG emissions without sacrificing consumer convenience, affordability and optionality," Cooper said.

"Our 15-month study of the Escape shows that rather than pitting electric vehicles and internal combustion engines against each other, policymakers should be embracing market-based approaches that combine the best of both worlds. There are incredible synergies between low-carbon liquid fuels like ethanol and plug-in hybrid technology, yet today's federal and state vehicle emissions standards actively discourage these sorts of creative solutions that put the consumer in the driver's seat.

"Our hope is that policymakers look closely at the lessons learned from this study as they consider future action on tailpipe emissions standards and other regulations."

The RFA report also made several recommendations for automakers, as well as federal and state lawmakers and regulators.

The RFA said federal and state agencies should adopt "well-to-wheels" lifecycle analysis to assess the effectiveness of various fuel and vehicle combinations.

The group said regulations, incentives, tax credits and subsidies "should be applied equitably" and based on the full lifecycle of fuels.

RFA also recommends the streamlining and simplification of regulations on flex fuel conversion kits.

For automakers, RFA said they should offer ethanol flex fuel capability on a broad range of electric vehicles, should conduct more research on the benefits of using the technologies side by side, as well as more research on using higher-octane fuels such as E30 and E85.

Todd Neeley can be reached at

Follow him on social platform X @DTNeeley


To comment, please Log In or Join our Community .