E85 – how Sweden got the most biofuel in Europe

Introducing a new fuel is not easy. Nobody wants to buy a car until they can fill it up, and no one wants to install a pump until they have customers. Even so, E85 became an established fuel in Sweden in just a few decades – SEKAB was one of the major driving forces behind this process.

E85

Sweden has better accessibility to biofuels than almost any other country, primarily due to our wide-spread commitment to E85. Today, ethanol is an established alternative to petrol, while rising oil prices make flexifuel vehicles increasingly profitable.

The story of E85 in Sweden started in 1994, when the municipality of Örnsköldsvik, the Swedish Ethanol Development Foundation SSEU (later BAFF) and SEKAB imported three Ford Taurus FlexiFuel vehicles to Örnsköldsvik. The cars were initially fuelled directly at the SEKAB plant in Örnsköldsvik.

E85 was already available in the USA. In Brazil, customised cars were driven on a mixture of 95% ethanol and 5% water. E85 was introduced in Brazil in 2003, but ethanol was not used as a tool to combat climate emissions – rather, it was used to reduce the country’s dependence on imported oil.

More ethanol cars meant more filling stations with E85

Another 50 cars were imported and soon there were as many as 350. SEKAB and BAFF maintained the initiative throughout the entire process, travelling throughout the country to educate representatives from companies, organisations and the public sector. An enormous amount of work was achieved with limited resources but with considerable commitment. With more ethanol cars being driven, E85 was provided at more and more filling stations.

A challenge that produced results

A key component in efforts to increase the number of flexifuel vehicles was the challenge put to municipalities and businesses throughout Sweden: if they were able to organise a fleet of ten flexifuel cars in one place, OKQ8 and SEKAB would guarantee that the cars could be refuelled at a local filling station. Following the Taurus era there were 23 flexifuel filling stations – things took off only after the advent of the Focus. One important reason for this is that municipalities, county councils, etc. stipulated requirements for the provision of E85 in conjunction with the procurement of petrol and diesel. The initiative had a great impact and ethanol cars were seen more and more often. In 2011 there were 1,740 pumps and 222,000 ethanol cars on the streets of Sweden.

The Pump Act provided more filling stations with renewable fuels

The Pump Act that came into force in 2005 also improved opportunities to fill up with E85. The law requires all filling stations that sell more than a certain amount of petrol and diesel to also supply a renewable fuel. The law has been criticised for forcing filling stations to close down, but studies show that ‘filling station deaths’ were due to other causes.

SEKAB delivered E85 to Sweden

SEKAB – the market player with the right production and distribution connections – for many years delivered most of the E85 sold at Swedish filling stations. As the market matured, it became natural for fuel companies to gradually take over purchasing and production. SEKAB delivers no E85 today, but instead focuses on ethanol admixture – ED95 – for heavy goods vehicles and green chemical products.

In Sweden, ethanol is sustainable

The E85 delivered by SEKAB over the years always met high sustainability standards. The Swedish Energy Agency has been in compliance with EU sustainability regulations since 1 February 2012, although it nearly always meets much higher standards.