Robins Boosts Use of Alternative Fuel, Flex Vehicles

About a third of the 900 vehicles in the base's fleet now use either E-85 or biodiesel

Feb. 03--ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE -- A steady stream of vehicles came to the base's lone E-85 pump for a fill-up Friday afternoon.

To comply with federal requirements to reduce reliance on fossil fuels, the base has been gradually adding more flexible-fuel vehicles. About a third of the 900 vehicles in the base's fleet now use either E-85 or biodiesel, said Mitch Moody, a transportation specialist in the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

The goal is to increase the use of alternative fuels on base by about 10 percent annually.

E-85 is fuel that is 85 percent ethanol, a fuel derived from plants. The fuel can only be used in flex-fuel vehicles, which have modifications needed to use fuel with a high ethanol content. The vehicles can also run on regular fuel.

The biodiesel that the base uses is 80 percent regular diesel and 20 percent diesel derived from plants or animal fat. The fuel can be used in any diesel vehicle, but not all diesel vehicles on base use it.

That's because biodiesel has a short effectiveness life, so some vehicles that aren't used regularly -- such as tactical vehicles -- don't use it.

Moody said alternative fuels do not create more maintenance issues.

"We don't see any failures or faults because of alternative fuels," he said.

The base got its first flex-fuel vehicles in 2006, but until last year it still took trips to a service station about five miles from the base to fill up on E-85. In a $650,000 project, the base got its own E-85 tank and dispenser last April, said Millard Harrington, the fuels management flight chief in the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron.

"It saves an enormous amount of time," Harrington said.

The base has about 140 flex-fuel vehicles, and 55,000 gallons of E-85 have been used since the base got its own pump.

Very soon the base will get its first charging station for electric vehicles. It is due to get two Chevy Volts in late spring. The Volt runs mostly on electricity, but it also has a fuel tank, which gives it a 900-mile radius.

The price of E-85, like regular fuel, can vary, but currently it costs about 30 cents more per gallon than regular fuel. The price of a flex-fuel vehicle is just a little more than a regular vehicle of the same model, Moody said.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, 256-9725.

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