Automakers Disable Flex Fuel Capability

Robert Zubrin, an accomplished engineer, did an experiment on his car, a 2007 Chevy Cobalt (a non-flex-fuel vehicle) and in the process discovered some interesting things. He wanted to run his car on methanol, which is legal to burn for fuel, but illegal to sell in America (at over a 5.4% concentration). To make his regular, non-flex-fuel car capable of burning methanol, he had to replace one part — a fuel pump seal. The seal that came with the car was made of Viton, which methanol would dissolve. The new seal he installed was made out of a material called “Buna-N.” The new part cost him 41 cents.

Other than that, the only thing he had to do to his car was adjust the Engine Control Unit software. The computer onboard his car was the same computer used in flex fuel cars, although his car was not flex fuel. But the software that would allow the car to be a flex fuel car was disabled. Zubrin wrote, “Currently, all new gasoline-powered cars sold in the U.S. are flex-fuel cars, but only about 5 percent are being sold as such. The rest are being marketed with their flex-fuel capability disabled by their manufacturers.”

- Excerpted from the book, Fill Your Tank With Freedom.

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