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First Chevy Volt cars will not be E85 ready

More stations with E85, a blend of gas and ethanol, are needed to serve the public, General Motors executives note.

GM's first batch of the 2011 Chevy Volt may not have E85 capability, though the company promises later versions will.
Martin LaMonica/CNET

Updated to add comments from General Motors.

The first batch of General Motors' Chevy Volt 2011 plug-in hybrid cars will not be compatible to run E85, a blend of gas and ethanol.

Tom Stephens, GM's vice chair for global product development, called for more government support of ethanol and a need for more E85 stations during his Tuesday speech at the Renewable Fuels Association conference in Florida. Stephens mentioned that early editions of the 2011 Chevy Volt may not be E85 compatible, several news outlets have reported.

Tony Posawatz, vehicle line director for the Chevy Volt, confirmed the same notion on the leading Chevy Volt blog on Wednesday.

"We are finalizing some of our options and the associated timing that goes with them. The E85-capable emission package will have its timing finalized soon. It will not be available for November 2010," Posawatz told

On Thursday evening GM officially confirmed that all the off-the-cuff comments were indeed true.

"Flex-fuel availability for Volt at launch has been delayed. The decision is based in part on the Volt rollout plan to California, Washington D.C., and Michigan. Of the three launch markets, only Michigan, with more than 60 E85 ethanol pumps, has any significant availability. California has a handful of stations and the D.C. has only one or two," Alan Alder, GM's news relations manager, said in an e-mail to CNET.

"Also, the price of E85 is presently uncompetitive vs. gasoline," said Adler.

The news is a little shocking to those who've followed the Volt and GM closely. The company has been very publicly supportive of E85 and has been investing in flex-fuel technology for its cars for some time. GM has also long maintained that the Chevy Volt would be a flex-fuel vehicle as well as a plug-in hybrid.

Posawatz told CNET specifically in April 2009 that the 2011 Volt, in addition to being a plug-in hybrid, would also be a flex-fuel vehicle capable of running on either gasoline or E85.

Adler also said that GM has not yet decided when the Volt may be "flex-fuel capable."