Real-world fuel use and gaseous emission rates for flex fuel vehicles operated on E85 versus gasoline

Flex fuel vehicles (FFVs) typically operate on gasoline or E85, an 85%/15% volume blend of ethanol and gasoline. Differences in FFV fuel use and tailpipe emission rates are quantified for E85 versus gasoline based on real-world measurements of five FFVs with a portable emissions measurement system (PEMS), supplemented chassis dynamometer data, and estimates from the Motor Vehicle Emission Simulator (MOVES) model. Because of inter-vehicle variability, an individual FFV may have higher nitrogen oxide (NOx) or carbon monoxide (CO) emission rates on E85 versus gasoline, even though average rates are lower. Based on PEMS data, the comparison of tailpipe emission rates for E85 versus gasoline is sensitive to vehicle-specific power (VSP). For example, although CO emission rates are lower for all VSP modes, they are proportionally lowest at higher VSP. Driving cycles with high power demand are more advantageous with respect to CO emissions, but less advantageous for NOx. Chassis dynamometer data are available for 121 FFVs at 50,000 useful life miles. Based on the dynamometer data, the average difference in tailpipe emissions for E85 versus gasoline is −23% for NOx, −30% for CO, and no significant difference for hydrocarbons (HC). To account for both the fuel cycle and tailpipe emissions from the vehicle, a life cycle inventory was conducted. Although tailpipe NOx emissions are lower for E85 versus gasoline for FFVs and thus benefit areas where the vehicles operate, the life cycle NOx emissions are higher because the NOx emissions generated during fuel production are higher. The fuel production emissions take place typically in rural areas. Although there are not significant differences in the total HC emissions, there are differences in HC speciation. The net effect of lower tailpipe NOx emissions and differences in HC speciation on ozone formation should be further evaluated. Implications: Reported comparisons of flex fuel vehicle (FFV) tailpipe emission rates for E85 versus gasoline have been inconsistent. To date, this is the most comprehensive evaluation of available and new data. The large range of inter-vehicle variability illustrates why prior studies based on small sample sizes led to apparently contradictory findings. E85 leads to significant reductions in tailpipe nitrogen oxide (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO) emission rates compared with gasoline, indicating a potential benefit for ozone air quality management in NOx-limited areas. The comparison of FFV tailpipe emissions between E85 and gasoline is sensitive to power demand and driving cycles.


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  • Accession Number: 01670392
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 20 2018 3:00PM