According to the Nikkei Business Daily (via Tradingmarkets.com), Japan’s Suzuki Motor Company will begin selling cars that run completely on 100% ethanol in the US and Brazil by 2010. The company will begin the transition by first offering an E25 sedan for sale in Brazil this coming March.
Currently the most ethanol that a flex-fuel car can run on in the US is E85 — which is an 85% ethanol/15% gasoline blend. Suzuki’s move would mark a huge development in ethanol-powered vehicles, and a huge shift for Suzuki, which hasn’t had any alternative fuel-specific offerings in its lineup to this point.
Ethanol use in the US has risen sharply recently, however, it still accounts for a small amount of the fuel sold. On the other hand, in Brazil ethanol is just as prevalent as gasoline and is available at nearly all fuel stations.
The Brazilian ethanol industry is experiencing amazing growth right now — so much so that the President of UNICA, Marcos Jank, thinks it shows that ethanol does work as a fuel source and doesn’t have to compete with food crops.
The Brazilian ethanol industry is based on the conversion of sugarcane to ethanol and, according to reports, it is a completely self-sustaining industry.
Some key facts of Brazilian ethanol production:
- All fuel sold in Brazil contains a 20-25% blend of ethanol
- The unsubsidized ethanol industry offers a fuel that is on average $1 below the price of gas
- Virtually all 33,000 gas pumps offer E100
- Just 1% of the 40% of arable land in Brazil is being used to produce sugarcane ethanol
- 45% of fuel for cars is from sugarcane
- The food industry is growing faster than the ethanol industry
- 90% of all new automobiles sold are flex-fuel automobiles
- 100% of GM vehicles produced in Brazil are flex-fuel
- 20% of all cars on the road are flex-fuel vehicles today
If those numbers aren’t proof that bio-ethanol can work, I don’t know what is. The US’ problem is that we’re focused on the wrong plant (corn) for ethanol production right now. But that’s changing and hopefully soon the naysayers won’t have any legs to stand on.
I applaud Suzuki for its bold steps in addressing the future needs of the US before there’s even a market to support it.