CHICAGO -– Through a partnership with VeraSun Energy, Ford Motor Co. this year is helping further efforts to expand E85 ethanol fuel use in the Midwest. Ford announced plans to launch the beginnings of a "Midwest Ethanol Corridor." The goal is to expand E85 ethanol fuel availability by about one-third throughout the states of Illinois and Missouri this year through the partnership with VeraSun Energy. Efforts to increase the availability of ethanol in neighboring states are also getting underway. Ford also announced it is working with the city of Chicago to put hybrid vehicles into service as taxi cabs beginning in 2007, as part of a plan under consideration by the Chicago City Council. Ford is loaning the city an Escape Hybrid to serve as a training and educational tool. The Ford Escape Hybrid will help taxi companies reduce fuel expenses while helping to improve the air quality in the city. "Ford is advancing innovative solutions to customer concerns over high gas prices and America's overdependence on foreign oil," said Bill Ford, Ford’s chairman and CEO. "Ethanol is an innovative energy source straight from the heartland of America." E85 ethanol is a fuel blend that contains 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Gasoline sold in the U.S. frequently contains up to 10 percent ethanol, but an increasing number of vehicles on the road today can operate on blends containing up to 85 percent ethanol. Today about 500 of the more than 180,000 fuel stations in the United States offer E85 ethanol. The first phase in the creation of the Midwest ethanol corridor is to convert approximately 40 existing gasoline fuel pumps in Illinois and Missouri to E85, Ford said. The move will increase availability by approximately one-third this year. Ford estimated there are 50,000 owners of Ford flexible-fuel vehicles (FFV) in Illinois and 28,000 in Missouri. Ford said it will work with fuel providers and officials in other states to further develop the Midwest ethanol corridor.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials