|By TIM ALEXANDER
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — The nation’s first “E-85 corridor” was officially launched Thursday by Ford Motor Company and VeraSun Energy, in conjunction with the Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA). The addition of 14 new ethanol pumping stations along I-55 in Illinois, some of which began receiving their first ethanol shipments Thursday, signaled the beginning of the first phase of the E-85 Midwest Corridor. The corridor project will eventually expand ethanol availability by approximately one-third in Illinois and Missouri.
Eventually more than 50 new ethanol pumping locations will be introduced along I-55 and I-70 in the two states, allowing owners of flexible fuel vehicles (FFV’s) to drive between Kansas City and Chicago powered by E-85 fuel.
“Today’s launch represents an important step toward wider accessibility of E-85 for America’s drivers,” said Bill Ford, chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Co. “Ethanol is an energy source straight from America’s farmlands. Ford, together with VeraSun, believes the corridor can help jump-start the growth of E-85 as we work to address the nation’s energy issues.”
Ford currently offers four flexible fuel vehicles and plans to produce 250,000 such vehicles by the end of this year.
Don Endres, chairman and CEO of VeraSun Energy, said his company is committed to making Americans more aware of the number of ethanol pumps now available in the Heartland.
“While it is important to expand the availability of E-85, it is equally important to raise consumer awareness regarding FFV ownership and E-85 use,” Endres said. “We believe this corridor serves as one example of how both objectives can be achieved when the automotive and ethanol industries work together.”
With the corridor’s opening, VeraSun’s branded fuel, VE85, is now available at over 70 locations in the Midwest and nearly 40 in Illinois, according to a company press release.
VeraSun’s senior vice president of sales and marketing, Bill Honnef, said increased ethanol production would be good for the economy and the environment.
“Consumers can realize the benefits of using E-85 today,” said Honnef, whose company announced a partnership with Ford aimed at increasing ethanol pump locations and raising awareness for the alternative fuel supplement in 2005.
“E-85 is good for our economy, reduces our independence on foreign oil, and burns cleaner than regular gasoline, which is better for our environment,” Honnef added.
John Kuhfuss, president of the ICGA and a farmer from Mackinaw, praised the companies for their commitment to making the corridor a reality.
“The ICGA is proud to partner with Ford and VeraSun to make this a reality,” Kuhfuss said. “The (corridor) will boost the availability of E-85 and increase the fuel choices for drivers of flexible fuel vehicles.”
The group’s efforts will now turn towards the second phase of establishing the corridor: increasing public awareness of E-85. Ford is currently running television ads in the two states and is providing ethanol pump location information to buyers of the company’s FFV’s.
“The two greatest challenges facing greater E-85 use are access to convenient fueling locations and a lack of consumer awareness,” said Honnef.
Sue Cischke, a VeraSun vice president, said convenient and available E-85 can make a difference in the public’s perception.
“But it will take the involvement of all key stakeholders, the automotive industry, government, the fuel producers and the retail fuel providers and consumers to move toward nationwide distribution and greater energy independence.”
To access a complete listing of the nation’s ethanol fueling stations, a database has been established at www.e85fuel.com/database
This farm news was published in the July 5, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.