Written by: Steve Frazer
While ETC has operations in 19 US states and 37 foreign nations, we are based out of southern Nevada. The definition of “hot” in our local area has come to mean any temperature over 120F. Historically, we experience 100+F highs everyday for 6 months of the year and during the summer months, it is common for the temperature to remain above 100F day and night. In such heat, the simple task of refueling a vehicle can be quite uncomfortable.
So you have your Sweetie in your car beside you headed out shopping or going to dinner and a movie. Maybe you have your client in the car and you have to stop for fuel. If you have a “Baby on Board”, everyone at the filling station anticipates 2-3 minutes after you turn off your engine that cute happy baby becomes an unhappy screaming bundle of discontent due to the discomfort of the extreme heat.
If your vehicle runs E85/Flex-Fuel or E10/Regular/Premium Gasohol (10% Ethanol/90% gasoline), then you are legislatively required to turn off your engine while refueling. This law typically includes a $2,500 fine for non-compliance and is active in all 50 states for good reason. The vapors of Ethanol and gasoline are easily ignited from static electricity, any random spark, your own engine combustion/electronics or the 1,500F catalytic convertor, cell phone static and a long list of other sources. If you do not turn off your engine, you may indeed experience a fiery death from a “refueling fire” (over 1,000 incidents per year in the U.S. alone).
Since Flex-Fuel vehicles are on the rise and E85 has the lowest vapor flash point (most likely to catch fire of all the common vehicle liquid fuels), the number of insurance claims for vehicle fires increased from the past 10 year average of 157K to over 320K last year. It should be noted that the potential for vehicle fires is of course not limited to pumping fuel. Actually most vehicle fires are the result of accidents. Puncture the fuel tank or fuel line with some random piece of metal on the open road or a collision with another vehicle and your car explodes – not unlike the horrific scenes in a Hollywood movie. It happens more often than any of us care to ponder.
In our desert summers, just 2-3 minutes after the engine is turned off, the inside temp of the vehicle is already over 100F and your passengers are suffering. The winters are mild in southern Nevada – where the daily peak temperatures always rise above freezing and rarely drop below 25F, but your passengers suffer the opposite extreme – exposure to very cold temperatures while you are refueling. If you are driving a vehicle that runs Flex-Fuel or E10/Regular/Premium the engine must be shutoff while pumping the gas.
There is a great deal of consumer confusion about vehicle fuels. For example, fuel vapor ignition is not an issue with diesel powered vehicles as diesel fuel has radically less vapor (thus a radically higher flash point and so is the least likely of the common vehicle fuels to catch fire). Actually, in most states there is no law that requires a vehicle operator to turn off a diesel vehicle while refueling as there is virtually no danger of fire or an explosion. The ratio of those 320K vehicle fires last year shows diesel vehicles not only at the lowest count by fuel type, but numbered in the single digits. So, speaking only about vehicle fires, a diesel powered vehicle is 63,000x less likely statistically to catch fire for all reasons than a Flex-Fuel vehicle.
Some might suggest the best solution for our filling station refueling issue is to buy an EV. We have researched the customer satisfaction of EV owners for the past 10 years and the over-all average reports we receive are dismal. Just last week we interviewed yet another Tesla Model S owner. She is an attorney from Chicago transplanted to Las Vegas. She bought the car in Chicago while she lived in a high-rise condo that refused to allow her to add a high-amp charger (she literally had to drive somewhere else to charge her car). She has another gas powered vehicle for traveling outside of the city, as she complained about the low range (about half of the miles per charge promised by Tesla). She complained about the amount of time to plug-in and unplug her EV – over $1,000 billable hours per month in her world. She complained about the high cost of operation – well over $1/mile. When asked why she still owned the car, she replied, “My clients are impressed with the ‘Coolness Factor’ and the Green commitment I make to drive it”. However, she had already shared that she does not have solar panels on her home and since about 40% of the NV Energy grid power (the local public electric utility) is still served by coal plants, this car on-average, is about 200x more polluting than a comparable gasoline fueled car and 1,000x more polluting than a comparable clean diesel running B100. For the die-hard EV owners who in fact recharge only with solar, we salute your efforts.
The attorney was obviously a smart lady and realized she was talking with energy and transportation wizards so she explained, “My clients are like most people … they are uninformed … frankly they are ignorant of the reality of transportation variables, so I drive the car that the media hypes as Green because it is in the best interest of my business … not the environment”. This has become almost a norm – the American consumer so often today is not aware of the facts of major issues that affect him/her life. Media hype and an ever more unethical marketing industry to sell, sell, sell has motivated consumer confusion. What ever happened to “Truth in Advertising”? BTW, speaking only about vehicle fires, a diesel powered vehicle is 41,000x less likely statistically to catch fire for all reasons than an EV vehicle.
While we actively lobby against petroleum sourced diesel fuels, don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Diesel engines running on biodiesel present 87% lower emissions without emissions additives and 98% lower emissions with emissions additives (we hired a Nobel Laureate to develop our emissions additive). The biodiesel we produce is CO2 negative … so we are literally reducing the CO2 in our atmosphere via our complete process from field to use of the fuel. The now common 2nd generation feedstock source biodiesel is the only scalable, environmentally friendly, economically viable and truly sustainable replacement for petroleum fuels on the table today. To make use of these cutting edge fuels, however, we all must migrate to diesel powered vehicles.
In climates similar to southern Nevada, the decision is so very simple … drive a diesel if you want to keep your family, friends and clients safer and happy when the temperature is outside of human comfort norms. Besides, idling a diesel powered vehicle requires roughly 1/3rd the fuel volume of comparable gasoline vehicle.
One other related issue where consumer confusion is concerning … the price of diesel energy is virtually never higher than the price of gasohol or Flex-Fuel anywhere in the US. A gallon of diesel contains roughly 137K BTU’s while E10/Regular/Gasohol (10% Ethanol/90% gasoline) presents only 119K BTU’s and E85/Flex-Fuel only about 93K BTU’s. This means the contained energy difference between diesel and E10 Regular is 12%. The current price of diesel in our area is $3.30/gallon vs. $3.10 for E10. However, 12% of $3.30 = $.39, so the price of E10 gasohol would have to cost $2.91/gallon to be equal. The price of Flex-Fuel/E85 energy is just ridiculously more expensive and not worth even calculating for this discussion.
Join the Migration – drive a diesel. It is the safest, most cost efficient and environmentally friendly solution to your transportation needs.