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New Study Reveals Economic Climate Benefits Of Plugin Hybrid Flex Fuel Vehicle
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New Study Reveals Economic & Climate Benefits of Plug-in Hybrid Flex Fuel Vehicle

New Study Reveals Economic & Climate Benefits of Plug-in Hybrid Flex Fuel VehicleNew Study Reveals Economic & Climate Benefits of Plug-in Hybrid Flex Fuel Vehicle
Environmental and economic benefits of flex fuel hybrid plug in vehicles.

Published on: June 12th, 2024

Key Points from the Study:

  • Lower emissions: Significant reductions in harmful pollutants like particulate matter (PM) and nitrogen oxides (NOx)
  • Greenhouse gas emissions: Big decreases compared to regular gasoline and electric cars charged from fossil fuel-heavy grids
  • Fuel efficiency: Comparable fuel economy to regular gasoline
  • Cost savings: Lower ownership and operational costs compared to electric vehicles (EVs)


Understanding the Report

Transportation is a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the United States, especially from light-duty vehicles like cars and SUVs. The Renewable Fuels Association (RFA) conducted a study to see if combining electric vehicle (EV) technology with ethanol (E85) flex-fuel capability could offer both environmental and economic benefits. Their results could significantly impact the automotive industry moving forward.

Environmental Benefits

The study found that using E85 fuel in a plug-in hybrid electric flex fuel vehicle (PHEFFV) significantly reduces harmful emissions. For example, nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions dropped by 48-79%, and particulate matter (PM) emissions decreased by 70-76% compared to regular gasoline. These reductions help improve air quality and public health.

In terms of overall GHG emissions, the PHEFFV performed better than both traditional gasoline vehicles and many electric vehicles (EVs) charged from grids that rely heavily on fossil fuels. Using E85 made from average corn ethanol, the PHEFFV cut GHG emissions by 38% compared to gasoline without ethanol. This makes the PHEFFV an effective way to reduce carbon footprints.

Economic Benefits

The study also showed that the PHEFFV is more cost-effective than EVs. The Ford Escape PHEV used in the study was cheaper to buy than similar EVs. The fuel cost for driving on E85 was also lower than the cost of electricity for charging EVs, especially when considering the variability in public charging costs.

Despite E85's lower energy content, the PHEFFV maintained an average fuel economy of 39.4 miles per gallon, close to the EPA estimate for regular gasoline. This means high-octane E85 fuel can offer similar fuel efficiency in optimized engines.

What This Means for Consumers & the Environment

For consumers, the PHEFFV offers a practical and affordable alternative to EVs, addressing common concerns like high purchase prices, limited driving range, and lack of charging infrastructure. The ability to use different fuels, including low-carbon ethanol blends, provides greater convenience and reliability.

From an environmental standpoint, the PHEFFV represents a promising solution for reducing GHG emissions and improving air quality. By combining clean electricity with low-carbon liquid fuels, this vehicle technology offers a more sustainable approach to personal transportation, especially in areas with coal-heavy electricity grids.


The Renewable Fuels Association’s study highlights the potential of combining plug-in hybrid technology with flex-fuel capability to achieve significant environmental and economic benefits. This innovative approach provides a viable pathway for reducing transportation-related emissions without sacrificing consumer convenience and affordability. As the automotive industry continues exploring sustainable solutions, the PHEFFV stands out as a versatile and practical option for consumers and the environment.

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