Alternate RouteNew technology means gasoline isn't the only option for fueling your pickup truck.

  • By Victoria Markovitz

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Some say ethanol, since it mainly comes from corn, cannot make a difference unless it depletes food and feed supplies. The DOE responds that corn is only one source of ethanol; as technology advances, more will come from waste products such as stalks, wood byproducts, and sorted municipal wastes.

And despite its benefits, says Joel Fukumoto, product marketing manager for Toyota's Tundra, the demand for flexible fuel has gone down with the economy. "Where it really shines is addressing the dependence on foreign oil," he says. "You use less gas overall. But, because you need to use more [E85], you end up paying more."

Driving on Diesel

Diesel offers more power and better fuel economy than gasoline, so it's growing more popular in the trucking segment, manufacturers say. Ford, GM, and Dodge offer heavy-duty pickup trucks with diesel engines and GM and Dodge also say they would offer light-duty diesel models in the future.

"Diesel engines are more powerful and fuel-efficient than similar-sized gasoline engines," according to www.fueleconomy.gov, a site run by the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Because new diesel vehicles must meet the same emissions standards as gasoline models, their emissions are cleaner than previous diesel offerings, the site adds. "Improved fuel injection and electronic engine control technologies" also have improved the power, acceleration, and efficiency of the vehicles, the site says.

"The diesels have been very popular," says Lorraine Babiar, project manager for the Sierra pickup line. "You get a good fuel economy; you are using a different fuel source; and it is perceived that the engine itself is more dynamic and robust from a truck standpoint."

Diesel is mainly made from petroleum. However, an alternative does exist. Called bio-diesel, it is "produced from renewable sources such as new and used vegetable oils and animal fats, and is a cleaner-burning replacement for petroleum-based diesel fuel," the DOE states. Bio-diesel is usually used in a blend with diesel. However, Ford, GM, and Dodge say their current pickup trucks do not run on bio-diesel. Dodge says bio-diesel is an option for its fleet customers.

Another Way Out

Although Ford doesn't plan to introduce a hybrid or light-duty diesel truck, the company is promoting its new engine technology, EcoBoost, which it says will deliver 10 to 15 percent better fuel economy than standard 4.6-liter V-8 engines in the same competitive class.

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