GM will debut flex-fuel feature in 2002 SUVs

Thursday, June 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

All of General Motors' full-size sport-utility vehicles - some of its biggest gas guzzlers - will be capable of burning alternative fuels beginning in 2002, company officials said Wednesday.

All Chevrolet Suburbans and Tahoes and GMC Yukons and Yukon XLs equipped with the standard 5.3-liter V8 engine will be modified so that they can burn varying blends of ethanol and gasoline, the officials said.

Although engines often don't get better mileage with the alternative fuels, the fuels tend to be cleaner and cause fewer emissions.

GM made the announcement in Mesa, Ariz., at the finals of Future Truck 2000. The event, sponsored by GM, the U.S. Department of Energy and Yahoo Inc., is a competition in which hundreds of university students re-engineer Suburbans to make them cleaner and more efficient without compromising performance.

"GM recognizes that the sustainability of our business is dependent on the sustainability of our environment, and we act on that belief," said Thomas G. Stephens, GM vice president and group director of engineering.

Most manufacturers have added alternative fuel capabilities to vehicles in recent years.

Ford, for example, has an F-150 pickup that can burn natural gas or regular fuel, a Taurus model and a Ranger midsize pickup that burn ethanol. All of Chrysler's popular minivans have models that burn ethanol.

Tom Beaman, a spokesman for the GM Truck Group, said the 5.3-liter engines can run on anything from 100 percent gasoline to 85 percent ethanol.

The engines are modified slightly so they can run on a wide range of fuels. The fuel systems get tougher material so they can tolerate ethanol. In addition, a fuel composition sensor is added so the computer can determine what sort of fuel is being burned.

"The key to the success of GM's flexible fuel system was to make sure it is transparent to the user," Mr. Stephens said.

The flex-fuel trucks have the same warranty as the standard models.

They will be offered at no additional cost.

Mr. Beaman said GM will get a "certain amount of credits" for the flex-fuel trucks toward meeting federal corporate average, fuel-economy standards.

GM also has given flex-fuel capability to the standard 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine used in the Chevy S-10 and GMC Sonoma midsize pickups.