Faced with soaring fuel prices, bioethanol E85 appears to be an ideal solution for more and more drivers
Half the price: when unleaded petrol reaches € 1.60 per liter, bioethanol E85 is sold at less than 70 cents, a cocktail made from alcohol and gasoline which is increasingly attracting the French in the face of soaring fuel prices.
“Over the past week, I have received four times more calls than usual for installations of bioethanol conversion units, to the point of running out of units! », Testifies David Soublin, foreman in a garage in Cachan, south of Paris. The box allows motorists to alternate between gasoline and bioethanol, as desired.
“I connect the box between the injectors and the engine ECU, so that it can determine whether the driver has filled up with gasoline or bioethanol”, explains David Soublin, his head tilted over the open hood of a Peugeot 208. Its driver has paid 1,200 euros for the case, but hopes to make it profitable after three months, even if the ethanol causes a slight overconsumption: “I drive 30 km per day for my work, so with the price soaring. gasoline, it was time to switch to bioethanol, ”he says.
In the TotalEnergies depot in Gennevilliers, near Paris, five trucks now deliver ethanol every day. It is mixed with 15 to 35% gasoline before being delivered to local pumps. According to the oil company, E85 reduces CO2 emissions by 40% compared to conventional fuel. It thus allows individuals to avoid the ecological penalty and professionals also benefit from a reduction in their taxes. Overall, the reduced price of E85 costs the State 193 million euros per year, according to the 2022 Finance Bill.
A first wave of bioethanol had been launched in France from 2008, notably with the construction of five production plants for one billion euros and a network of stations in mass distribution. For this new wave, TotalEnergies went from 200 stations equipped in 2018 to 800 in 2021, on 2,500 stations equipped in France, all brands combined.
Lever for energy independence
While Europe is converting to electric and hybrid, the promoters of E85, that is to say farmers, oil companies and manufacturers, present it as a “means of supporting the French in the transition” and a lever of “Energy independence” for France. Produced from beetroot, wheat, corn, and sugar and starch residues, especially in eastern and northern France, bioethanol occupies 0.6% of the useful agricultural surface in France.
But the environmental record remains disputed. “In terms of greenhouse gas balance, it is a little better than fossil fuels, but it is not sufficient if we consider the indirect impacts”, explains Sylvain Angerand, of the environmental association Canopée. He notably cites the use of neonicotinoids in crops and their effects on biodiversity, as well as “pressure on land and ecosystems”.