Assessment of the Consumer Reasons for Selection of Ethanol Fuel

Project Details







Federal Highway Administration
Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship
Iowa Department of Transportation

Principal Investigator
Shauna Hallmark

Director, InTrans

Co-Principal Investigator
Jing Dong-O'Brien

Transportation Engineer, CTRE

About the research

This report summarizes the findings from a study that evaluated consumer acceptance of different blends of ethanol at fueling stations in Iowa. This project expanded on an earlier evaluation of two stations that participated in the Fueling Our Future pilot program, which was administered by the Iowa Renewable Fuel Infrastructure Program (RFIP) of the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and the Iowa Department of Transportation (Iowa DOT).

Because the two stations initially surveyed were typical of rural cooperatives, offered significantly different fuel options than Iowa’s conventional gas stations, and yielded a small sample size, a second phase of the research was initiated that conducted additional surveys at 16 stations. In addition, the air quality impacts of several different implementation scenarios for Fueling Our Future and similar programs were evaluated. Because most stations where surveys were conducted did not offer a range of biodiesels, biodiesel was not included in this study.

Findings are presented for all respondents together and for drivers of flexible fuel and non-flexible fuel vehicles separately. Among other key findings, the survey showed that cost was the primary factor in fuel selection for purchasers of E-0, E-10, and E-85 ethanol blends, and compatibility of the fuel with the respondent’s vehicle was a major factor for all respondents. Concerns about compatibility, followed by cost, were the top reasons why respondents did not select a higher ethanol blend. More than 80% of respondents selected the particular station due to location.

The results of the air quality analysis showed that statewide adoption of ethanol options and subsequent changes in purchasing behavior (based on the percentage difference between the statewide sales information and the customer survey information) could result in a 20% reduction in nitrogen oxides (NOx), a reduction in particulate matter (PM) emissions much greater than 100%, a 3% reduction in carbon monoxide (CO), and a 20% reduction in hydrocarbon (HC) emissions.