Major new fuels could make hybrids 'just as climate-friendly as electric vehicles' in huge breakthrough

Major new fuels could make hybrids 'just as climate-friendly as electric vehicles' in huge breakthrough

WATCH: Major new fuel could be used to replace diesel engines

Felix Reeves

By Felix Reeves

Published: 12/02/2024

- 13:37

The fuel could mean drivers can skip the long waiting times for electric vehicles

Major new fuels could play an “important role” in the future of reducing car emissions across its entire life cycle by using renewable ethanol.

According to a new study, “compact” plug-in hybrid vehicles running on E85 fuel – which contains up to 85 per cent renewable ethanol – are “just as climate friendly as battery electric vehicles”.

The research, from French organisation IFPEN, compared the greenhouse gas emissions of vehicles powered solely by petrol, plug-in “flex-fuel” hybrids running on E85 and battery electric cars.

It took into account all emissions in connection with the vehicle and its battery as well as the energy used across production, distribution and combustion.

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Fuel pump

Around five million cars in France could run on the new fuel by 2040


Based on the data, as well as projections to 2040, shows that plug-in flex-fuel hybrids running on E85 operating 40 per cent of distance travelled as an electric vehicle are at least as climate-friendly as all-electric vehicles.

The report outlined how hybrids running on E85 have similar carbon neutrality to electric vehicles in terms of achieving carbon neutrality across their lifecycle.

Some petrol station forecourts across France continue to stock E85 fuel, in addition to Finland, Sweden and the United States.

E85 was previously available in the UK at forecourts owned by supermarket giant Morrisons, as well as B30 – which is a mix of 30 per cent biodiesel and 70 per cent standard diesel.

The data stated: “A report published by IFPEN has shown that as of today and in 2040, “compact” plug-in hybrid vehicles running on E85 are just as climate-friendly as all-electric vehicles with a long range.

“This applies even with the French-power mix that’s already low-carbon, provided we measure emissions over the entire life cycle.

“It is even more applicable with the EU-wide power mix with its higher CO2 footprint.”

The research paper, which was published in September 2022, suggested that five million plug-in hybrid vehicles could be running on Superethanol-E85 from local ethanol by 2040.

This type of ethanol already makes up seven per cent of fuel in France, up from four per cent in 2021, while more than a third of service stations have it available, as of 2022.

IFPEN suggests that it would be possible to have over five million flex-E85 hybrids by 2040 – making up between 15 and 20 per cent of vehicles on French roads.

It would also mean that only one per cent of French usable agricultural area would be used to cope with the number of vehicles using ethanol.

Plug-in hybrids could make use of further benefits when using E85 petrol, namely that it will be more readily available at filling stations, removing the need to wait at recharging stations to charge an EV.


E85 pump

E85 is already used across Europe and the United States


According to the report, the compatible batteries in hybrid vehicles are smaller than those used in electric cars.

The report added: “[The batteries] use fewer mineral resources produced outside the EU and less power during manufacturing.”

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