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CALIFORNIA FLEET OPERATORS 'SATISFIED' WITH METHANOL-POWERED ALTERNATIVE FUEL VEHICLES

 SACRAMENTO, Calif., March 12 /PRNewswire/ -- A new survey indicates that California fleets that are using methanol-powered Fuel-Flexible Vehicles (FFVs) are reporting general satisfaction with the alternative fuel vehicles compared to gasoline vehicles, the California Energy Commission said today.
 The survey was recently released by the National Association for Fleet Administrators Inc. (NAFA). The Islein, N.J.-based organization polled every California fleet known to be operating methanol FFVs. The 79 responding fleet managers were responsible for about 85 percent of methanol-powered FFVs that were on the road in California at the end of 1992.
 The fleet managers responding said they were satisfied with the FFVs. Individual drivers also indicated they were satisfied with the clean, alternative fuel vehicles.
 A total of 73 percent of the fleet managers were "equally satisfied" with methanol FFVs when compared to gasoline-only vehicles, and a total of seven percent said they were "more satisfied" with FFVs. Only 20 percent were "less satisfied" with FFVs compared to gasoline vehicles.
 "The survey confirms what we at the Energy Commission have known for many years, Commission Chairman Charles Imbrecht said. "We have been very satisfied with the operation of FFVs, and now fleet managers and drivers are also expressing their satisfaction. We are sure that when other fleets and the general public get behind the wheel of an FFV, they will be convinced that methanol is indeed a 'clean fuel leader.'"
 NAFA asked fleet managers to provide a brief questionnaire to some of the individuals who actually drive FFVs on a regular basis. A total of 167 drivers responded with 60 percent saying they were "equally satisfied" with FFVs compared to gasoline-only vehicles, and nearly 23 percent were "more satisfied" with FFVs than gasoline-only vehicles. More than 10 percent of the drivers said they would purchase an FFV for personal use.
 "You do not have to sacrifice comfort and driveability in a vehicle that uses alternative fuels. FFVs operate transparently. Except for the increased performance with methanol and a small gauge on the dash board that tells you the percentage of methanol in your tank, you wouldn't even know you were driving a fuel-flexible vehicle," Imbrecht said.
 NAFA surveyed fleet general mangers that used 1992 and early generation model FFVs. All of the major operational problems that occurred with these early models, such as 82 percent of the vehicles having fuel-related repair and maintenance problems, have been solved with the current generation of vehicles available for sale today to fleets and the general public. Lower mileage range in FFVs (because of the lower energy content of methanol) has also been addressed by auto manufacturers, which are equipping FFVs with larger capacity fuel tanks.
 A fuel-flexible vehicle (FFV) is a vehicle that can operate on methanol or gasoline in any combination from a single fuel tank. Operating on M85 (85 percent methanol and 15 percent regular unleaded gasoline), the FFV is 30- to 50-percent cleaner than a comparable gasoline-only model. At the time of the survey, there were more than 2,000 FFVs on the road in California.
 Nearly 6,500 additional FFVs are available for sale to fleets and the general public in 1993. The vehicles offered for sale this year are the Ford Taurus Fuel-Flexible Vehicle, the Chevrolet Lumina Variable Fuel Vehicle, and the Dodge Spirit and Plymouth Acclaim Fuel-Flexible Vehicles. Ford is selling 2,500 Tauruses in California, Chevrolet has 1,925 available for sale, and Chrysler has 2,000 Spirit and Acclaim FFVs.
 Fleet managers said that they used methanol in their vehicles only about two-thirds of the time (62.4 percent of the fuel used was M85). They reported that the major factors that discouraged "full-time use" of methanol was not having enough fueling facilities and that their drivers traveled outside of areas where M85 fuel was available.
 The NAFA report indicated that 83 percent of the fleet managers thought that fueling facilities were inconvenient and 61 percent said that travel outside of areas where fuel was available discouraged their using M85 full time.
 Imbrecht noted that the dissatisfaction with the availability of methanol fueling locations is understandable and unavoidable with the M85 fueling network in its infancy.
 "The Energy Commission has been working since 1988 to establish a network of M85 fueling facilities in California. Currently, 43 are open with another 9 under construction. We have contracts with seven major oil companies and some independent companies to build a total of 83 locations by 1994, and more will be added as the number of FFVs increases. The advantage of an FFV, however, is that a driver can use methanol/M85 where it is available and gasoline where it is not. At the same time, the vehicle is helping our environment through lower pollution when using methanol," Imbrecht said.
 The NAFA survey indicated that 78 percent of the fleet managers said they were purchasing FFVs to help improve air quality. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of the managers also indicated that there is public relations value in being "green" by using FFVs.
 Thirty-eight percent of fleet managers said that purchasing FFVs gives them needed expertise in alternative fuels. Fleets will be required under the National Energy Policy Act of 1992 (signed into law by President Bush in October 1992) to phase-in increasingly larger percentages of alternative-fueled vehicles into their fleets through the end of the 1990s. Corporate fleet managers responding to the NAFA study said nearly 18 percent of their total new vehicles purchased in 1993 will be FFVs.
 For more information about the survey, contact the National Association of Fleet Administrators Inc. at 908-494-8100.
 -0- 3/12/93
 /CONTACT: Claudia Chandler of the California Energy Commission, 916-654-4989/


CO: California Energy Commission; National Association of Fleet
 Administrators ST: California IN: AUT TRN SU:


TM-SG -- SF009 -- 5715 03/12/93 19:09 EST
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Date:Mar 12, 1993
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