E85. Ethanol tries to ensure its survival in Europe after 2035

While some advocate a complete ban on thermal power by 2035, the bioethanol sector wants to keep a place for E85. It is based on a study to try to show that this fuel can be as clean as 100% electric if combined with the rechargeable hybrid.

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The Bioethanol Collective hopes to convince the European Union to authorize the sale of plug-in hybrid vehicles powered by E85 from 2035.

Thomas Antoine/Team Ace

The future of the internal combustion engine in Europe has been the subject of heated debate for several months. But soon we should look at the fate that will be reserved for it by 2035. In fact, it is on September 5 when the discussions between the three main bodies of the Union begin to finalize the regulation on CO emissions.two light vehicles While the Parliament and the Commission had expressed their desire to maintain only 100% electric and the fuel cell, the European Council, made up of the environment ministers of all the Member States, was a little more flexible. It opened a small door to “carbon neutral” fuels and plug-in hybrid vehicles. At the same time, it introduces the idea of ​​a “review clause” in 2026 to check if a total cessation of sales of new thermal vehicles in 2035 is really realistic. An opportunity for the Bioethanol Collective, which is based on a study by IFPEN (French Institute for Petroleum and New Energies) to try to defend the merits of E85.

An analysis of the entire life cycle

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PHEV vs electric bioethanol study

According to a study, during the entire life cycle of a vehicle, the E85-ethanol combination would not emit more CO2 than an electric car, or even less on a European scale. An observation that would still be valid in 2040.

Bioethanol Collective

According to the results of this analysis, during its entire life cycle in 2022, a plug-in hybrid compact sedan (PHEV) powered by ethanol would not emit more COtwo than its 100% electric equivalent. In France, the two would be at 13 tons of CO equivalenttwo during its useful life, which is half that of combustion with 100% fossil fuel. Figure obtained taking into account both production and use over 150,000 km. The E85 flexfuel hybrid, which would operate approximately 60% of the time with the gasoline engine running in this study, would thus offset its exhaust emissions by producing much less pollutant, thanks to a much smaller battery. The way in which electricity is obtained was also taken into account. In the rest of Europe, where coal and other fossil fuels are still frequently used, the trend would therefore be even more favorable to the association between bioethanol and PHEV: it would surely amount to 16.5 t of COtwo in this case and the fully electric would increase to 22 tons!

Improvements still expected by 2040

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porsche synthetic gasoline

Petroleum-free synthetic gasoline, developed in particular by Porsche, could further improve the environmental balance of E85.


Taking into account the technological advance foreseen by both parties, a projection for 2040 has also been imagined, without distorting the conclusion. The two solutions would reduce up to 9 tons of COtwo in France at the moment, thanks in particular to the use of non-petroleum synthetic gasoline to replace part of the unleaded present today in E85. If we look at the European scale, we would see a net adjustment. But the ethanol/PHEV marriage would maintain a slight advantage of 1 ton of COtwo Nonetheless. Enough to support the request of the Bioethanol Collective, which wishes “authorize the sale of plug-in hybrid vehicles that use a low-carbon fuel when their performance is equal to that of 100% electric vehicles in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in the life cycle analysis”. The group also asks the Commission to provide a life cycle analysis methodology in 2023 to apply to vehicles and energies. Finally, he would like to see clarification on the notion of a carbon-neutral fuel, which is currently quite vague.

A fight far from winning

To back up its proposals, the Bioethanol Collective also argues that there would be no need to increase agricultural land to run 5 million plug-in hybrids on E85 by 2040. Ethanol/PHEV would also make it possible to offer vehicles that are less reliant on charging stations than 100% models. electrical. These cars would also be endowed with greater autonomy, potentially more affordable and would consume less certain natural resources such as nickel or cobalt. The most difficult thing remains to be done: to convince all of Europe that these arguments are admissible. At the moment, in fact, superethanol is having a hard time finding its way out of France. Even in France, it’s still pretty marginal, with only Ford, Land Rover and Jaguar today offering new compatible models without an extra box. This fuel is also heavily criticized by some very influential environmental organizations, starting with Transport & Environment. As for the study on which the sector wants to rely, it suffers from relating it to a single type of vehicle, that does not even exist on the market today, and have been sponsored by unions and agricultural associations involved in the production of bioethanol. His detractors can therefore easily accuse him of being incomplete and lacking in neutrality.

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E85.  Ethanol tries to ensure its survival in Europe after 2035

Based on an assumption of 5.3 million EB5-PHEV vehicles in 2040 in France, the Collective estimates that it would be enough to use 1% of the agricultural area to produce the necessary fuel.

Bioethanol Collective


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