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Ford, GM Make Big Push To Promote 'Flex-Fuel' Vehicles

Ford and GM combined plan to produce 650,000 vehicles this year that can use E85, which currently costs about $2 a gallon.

Published: 11-Jan-2006

Although they've been working on vehicles that run on ethanol for more than a decade, Ford Motor Co. and General Motors Corp. are now making an aggressive push into the alternative fuel.

Last week GM ran its first national advertising campaign promoting one of its so-called flex-fuel vehicles, the Chevy Tahoe. Ford last month began selling flex-fuel versions of its popular F-150 pickup. Vehicles that are designated flex-fuel are capable of running on gasoline but can use the alternative E85, a fuel mix that is 85% ethanol and 15% gas.

Both auto makers are also helping to increase the number of ethanol fueling pumps at gas stations around the country. At least five million vehicles that can run on E85 fuel already are on U.S. roads -- but most operate on gasoline alone because of the unavailability of ethanol. Only about 600 gasoline stations out of some 170,000 in the U.S. carry E85. Most are concentrated in the Midwest -- with roughly 200 in Minnesota alone. Still, the total number more than doubled in 2005 and could increase fourfold this year, says Phillip Lampert, executive director of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, a group that promotes ethanol use. "This has been an uphill battle," he says, but in the past several months, "people have begun to take notice."

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