“Bioethanol is a quick response to improve purchasing power”

A miracle solution for a full tank of fuel at half the price? While the liter of gasoline flirt with 2 eurosMore and more drivers are turning to fuel E85 and its liter at 70 cents. Composed of 85% bioethanol, it is a blessing for those who commute to work every day. In France, more than 70,000 vehicles have been equipped with these ethanol kits that allow a classic gasoline car to use this fuel, according to the AD workshop network. Philippe Mametz, manager of a garage in Meaux, in Seine-et-Marne, explains to 20 minutes the growing interest in these kits in the last three months.

What is the interest of bioethanol?

It is a cheaper fuel thanessence because it is taxed less. It is a quick response to improve purchasing power. The results are visible from the first filling. Last week, we went to the pump with a customer who had just switched to E85 fuel. Before it was filled for 85 euros, with bioethanol it cost 35 euros. What puts people off a bit is the price of the conversion. Depending on the vehicle and its age, it can range between 800 and 1,200 euros. For a car that does 10,000 kilometers a year, with a consumption of around 8 liters, an average of 10 months is needed to make this investment profitable.

An engine equipped with an ethanol kit to use E85 fuel.
An engine equipped with an ethanol kit to use E85 fuel. – © Philippe Mametz

How is bioethanol made?

It is a product from agriculture, made from beet alcohol. It is called E85 because it still contains 85% bioethanol and 15% gasoline. To allow conventional gasoline vehicles to use this fuel, which has lower energy output, they install electronic boxes under the hood. These devices adapt the vehicle configuration to the lack of bioethanol performance. This leads to a slight excess consumption.

Are you seeing an increase in conversion demand?

Demand has skyrocketed with rising fuel prices. Since February, there has been a huge increase in ethanol kit sales. There I am already turning 36 in the first three months of 2022, compared to 31 in 2021. On the other hand, the deadlines for obtaining electronic boxes are getting longer. Like all sectors, we are facing a shortage of electronic components after the pandemic. It now takes about three weeks to receive a box, from the time it is ordered.

Is bioethanol more ecological?

Bioethanol does not necessarily produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions at the exhaust level. On the other hand, the development of this product requires less CO2 than that of gasoline. It comes from short circuits as it comes from French production and we use local resources. It is a more ecological production, which makes us less dependent on oil. But neither should we seek to convert the entire car market to bioethanol, the France does not yet have the ability to respond to such a request.

What advice for those interested?

Beware of pirate or reprogramming boxes, which can be found mainly on the Internet. Whenever there is a fashion, people seek to take advantage of it to make money. Some sell boxes that are not approved or tested at UTAC [Union technique de l’automobile, du motocycle et du cycle], at the risk of damaging the motors. This can be a problem with insurance in the event of an accident or technical reviews because these boxes do not meet regulatory standards.

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