S.D. tests E30 in state FFVs

By Kris Bevill | August 27, 2010
Posted Sept. 10, 2010

South Dakota has begun testing E30 in some of the state fleet's flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs) as part of a yearlong study to determine the most cost-effective fuel blend for those vehicles. A test pool of 86 model year 2009 Chevrolet Impalas is being used to compare the cost per operating mile of higher blends of ethanol and E10. Half of the pool is being fueled with E10 for the entire year while the remaining 43 vehicles were fueled for six months with E85 and will use E30 for the remainder of the study.

Test results from the E85 portion of the study showed that the fuel did not improve operating costs per mile. While E85 cost 23 cents per gallon less than E10 during the six-month test period, it resulted in a 23 percent decrease in miles per gallon, equating to a nearly even operating cost per mile when compared to E10. The state began using E30 in the test group in July and has so far not compiled any preliminary results of E30 versus E10 or E85.

Mike Mueller, public information officer for South Dakota's Bureau of Administration, said test pool vehicles that are being fueled with E30 at state fueling stations will continue to use E85 if they need to be refueled at commercial fueling stations. The state is not discouraging the use of E85, he said, but is merely attempting to identify the optimum fuel blend. "All other state employees are encouraged to use the high blend that's in the tank or E85 at a commercial location regardless," he said.

Approximately half of the state's fleet, 1,290 vehicles, are FFVs, according to Mueller. In fiscal year 2010, 81 percent of all gasoline used in state vehicles was an ethanol blend. "We're testing these higher blends, but E10 is by far the most used fuel in state vehicles," he said. "We have a big commitment for ethanol. The test is just to determine the blend that optimizes both the ethanol and state tax dollars. That's what we're focused on right now. We acknowledge that the use of renewable ethanol has a benefit beyond just how it is affected in the engine, but those variables are not taken into account in the study we're doing."

Mueller added that the state would like to acquire more FFVs, but no new vehicles have been purchased since the 2009 model year due to budget constraints.