E85 ethanol cans: market on the rise but still too small

E85 ethanol cans: market on the rise but still too small


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More and more motorists are being seduced by superethanol (E85) after soaring fuel prices and declining purchasing power. A study by L’Argus and NGC-Data assesses the numbers for a growing market.

With soaring pump prices and declining purchasing power, manufacturers of superethanol conversion kits, also called E85, pride themselves on breaking sales records. Less taxed, and therefore cheaper, Ethanol E85 is really the solution to reduce travel costs. Argus and NGC-Data looked at data from Ethanol E85 canister installations.

Two major conversion kit manufacturers, Biomotors and Flexfuel Energy Development, are smiling. Due to the rise in prices of conventional fuels, they have never sold as many boxes as in this first quarter of 2022. Biomotors reported an increase of 186% in March alone compared to last year, when the second shows that they have recorded 10 times more orders in the first three months of 2022 compared to the same period of 2021.

The market is growing, but it is limited

The numbers are spectacular based on private vehicles whose gray card has changed since switching to Ethanol E85. In the first quarter of 2022, the increase in conversion kit installations reached 700% compared to the same period in 2021. In absolute terms, however, volumes remain relatively low in a country like France. In 2022, only 9,220 private cars were modified, a figure compared to 1.39 million used cars exchanged at the same time, L’Argus and NGC-Data point out.

Focused on opportunity

In addition, the survey shows that these changes mainly concern quite old vehicles. Almost a third of them were made on models older than eight years and only 386 on cars younger than two years. This finding is not surprising, as the installation of the E85 box is not completely safe, this fuel is more corrosive than unleaded and has a lower calorific value.

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super ethanol e85 bioflex

In addition, the authors of the survey point out “The law obliges manufacturers to cover parts that come into contact with ethanol, such as the engine, tank or fuel system. But in the event of a problem while the vehicle is still under warranty, there is a risk that the carmaker and the cabinet manufacturer will transfer responsibility for any long-term immobilization, while their respective experts provide their verdict. “ Many motorists seduced by these conversion kits prefer to play it safe and wait for the manufacturer’s warranty to expire when assembling the box.

In the French market

In the game of the manufacturers, who most often switched to the E85, the podium is monopolized by three Frenchmen: Renault in front of Peugeot and Citroën. Dacia is fourth, while the other two heavyweights in the industry, Toyota and Volkswagen, appear only in 9th and 8th position – Ford, Opel and Fiat are really ahead. In addition, premium brand buyers seem almost uninterested in these ethanol boxes: Audi is only 16th, BMW 18th and Mercedes 21. As for Porsche owners, only 10 fell in the first quarter of 2022, compared to 0 in 2020 and 2021.

Ford Superethanol E85

Ford is one of the few manufacturers to have a dedicated E85 game. © Erick Fontaine – Digital

First the inhabitants of the city

In this context, the study surprisingly shows that the models most frequently adapted to the E85 are also the best-selling on the French market. The Renault Clio is in first place with 734 conversions. He is ahead of his cousin Dacia Sandero, while the Citroën C3 finishes 3,208 (the first Peugeot) finished 5th behind Twing, but remember that the city car with the lion was born only 10 years ago and has only two generations. It is therefore penalized in a market that favors sometimes old vehicles.

In all cases, the ranking is dominated by city cars. The first SUV, the Renault Captur, is in 10th place. The surprise comes in 12th place, which is occupied by Fiat Tipo, which is ahead of Golf, while Golf is again older and present on the used market. Despite everything, volumes remain low with barely more than 100 boxes installed in three months across France for each of the two models.

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