Flexi-fuel vehicles, short for “flexible-fuel” or “dual-fuel” vehicles are cars that can run on two sources of fuel. Common flexi-fuel vehicles run on gasoline and ethanol. Our Malaysian taxis are also flexi-fuel vehicles, as they can run on petrol and natural gas.

Ethanol-gasoline flexi-fuel vehicles are very popular in Brazil, with their popularity increasing ever since the oil crisis of the 70s. While most flexi-fuel vehicles can run on ethanol and petrol mixes from E10 (10 parts ethanol, 80 parts gasoline) to E85 (85 parts ethanol, 15 parts gasoline) most of Brazil’s flxei-fuel cars can run up to 100% ethanol, with a small gasoline tank used to start the car during cold mornings.

There was an alcohol shortage in 1989, and demand for flexi-fuel cars in Brazil died off, but they are picking up again and gaining popularity due to the sky-high gasoline prices recently. Most of the ethanol in Brazil is made from sugarcane. Natural gas is not so popular in Brazil as it takes up too much space in the trunk for the natural gas tank.

Volkswagen AG has committed to go 100% flexi-fuel cars in Brazil. 75% of current Volkswagen cars sold in Brazil are flexi-fuel, and Volkswagen holds a 35.5% share in the flexi-fuel car market in Brazil, with 10 of it’s models having flexi-fuel capable engines. This makes it the largest flexi-fuel marque in Brazil, with Fiat trailing close in second place with 30.5%.

fiat_fire_engine.jpgSo what’s the difference between a normal engine and a flexi-fuel engine? The engine and fuel delivery system has to be adapted for flexi-fuel as alcohol/ethanol is corrosive. So materials that can withstand the corrosion must be used. There also has to be a sensor in the fuel line to analyze the fuel mixture and control the fuel injection and timing for different mixes of gasoline and ethanol.

Hmm… alcohol guzzling cars. Sounds like my kind of car ;)