Less global pollution and a mechanics honed, the Ford Kuga Flexifuel seems the best engine on paper. Auto Clean has tried the bioethanol SUV on the roads of Champagne and makes the ecological balance but also economic of the solution.

15 years ago, carburetion with superethanol, E85 for intimates, became popular. But the crisis has led to rationalization among manufacturers, discarding technology as many electric projects or hydrogen. But in a society increasingly sensitive to the ecological issue, what's more normal that this biofuel comes back to the taste of the day.

Ford alone in Europe, finally, in France

The American manufacturer recalls that it is already the initiator of the solution in 2001 in Europe, with the first Focus Bioflex vehicle in Sweden. In France, it was not until early 2005. First to see the compact landed illegally, the state has approved the E85 at the end of the year. C-Max, Mondeo, S-Max and Galaxy followed, as well as other brands, including Dacia Peugeot, Renault, Saab and Volvo. Later, the Volkswagen Golf Multifuel followed, stopped in 2015.

Following the homologation of the conversion boxes, Ford announced in February 2019 the return of a new vehicle to the E85: the Ford Kuga Flexifuel. In concessions since July, we could try it and visit a production site in Bazancourt, near Reims (Marne).

Significant overconsumption

Let's not dwell on the Kuga Flexifuel. This is the same SUV released in March 2013 and restyled early 2016. Its petrol engine 4-cylinder EcoBloost 150 hp was adapted for the new fuel. The main modification is the engine mapping, ensuring the right amount of power to the engine (the E85 is less energy so it takes more volume for the same power). Other items have been slightly revised, such as valve seats that avoid corrosion and injectors.

Kuga Flexifuel in ST-Line finish, with options

On the road, no difference in performance. The 1.615 kg of the whole suffer accelerations and raises despite the 150 horses, comfort being the same. The only change is consumption. From 7.6 L / 100 km on average (WLTP cycle close to reality) in essence, the Flexifuel claims 11.6 l / 100 km. During our journey of about 150 km, mixing departmental, national, highways, flat and hilly parts of the Champagne Road, it was found at 10 l / 100 km. Let's face it, it remains high, even for an SUV of this power. Stabilized at 80 km / h, the appetite does not go below 8 l / 100 km. For the rest, the American SUV is still pretty quiet.

-70% total carbon footprint

Such consumption penalizes autonomy, but is it anti-ecological? No if we take the global cycle. Indeed, the production of biofuel, local and from renewable crops, is much more virtuous than fossil lead-free. Ford estimates greenhouse gas reductions at -70% compared to the gasoline model in the global cycle, including crop absorption, processing and on-road use. In addition, NOx (nitrogen oxide) and fine particulate exhaust emissions are 50% and 90% lower, respectively, according to a Swiss study.

The bioethanol production site of Bazancourt (Marne)

At the Cristal Union bioethanol production site visited on the sidelines of the trial, the group specified that bioethanol represents two-thirds of the harvest of beet or wheat harvested. The rest is not thrown away, used for the production of sugar, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics or alcohol for spirits. The water is also purified, the production of steam is provided by wood or gas (partly biogas produced on site). Even CO2 is collected and reconditioned into carbon food (soft drinks, etc.).

Eco-friendly, but also economical

In addition to releasing less CO2, NOx and particles, the Kuga Flexifuel has the advantage of being more financially attractive. With the purchase, the additional € 100 vs petrol (from € 29,200) becomes a profit of up to € 2,500. This thanks to the absence of ecological malus (reduction of 40% on CO2) and a free registration (except Brittany half price and in the Center). And under the 116 g / km after abatement, the SUV can claim the conversion premium, amounting up to 5.000 €. On the business side, if the TVS is not concerned, the VAT is recoverable at 80%, against 40% in 2019 for gasoline.

Same gesture for refueling in E85, in the single tank

At the pump, the liter of superethanol or E85 costs about 0.69 € / liter today, against 1.50 € / L for the classic SP95. With an annual mileage of 15,000 km and despite the higher consumption of 53%, the economy is 500 € / year. Over a period of 5 years, the calculation is done quickly, the total saving is nearly 5,000 €. Following the announcement of the arrival of the Flexifuel version in February, Ford told us that the mix has gone from 90% diesel to 80% E85 within a few days.

Refueling side, no stress because the number of stations is growing strongly. From 300 in 2012, they rose to more than 1,450 in September 2019. In France, 16% of the stations, or one out of 7, now offer E85. A share that climbs even 25% in Occitania. Some distributors are also more active than others, such as Intermarché (35% of the stations), Total and Leclerc (20%). And if you can not find E85, SP95 or E10 can be easily mixed with the E85.

Here, the E85 at 0.560 € / l, far from the national average of 0.69 € / l

A close end … before a new return?

Kuga is a model at the end of life. The latter is more than close because the end of production is scheduled for November 2019 with a presentation of the new model last April. According to Ford, there would remain about 2,500 units of Kuga to manufacture.

In the future, Ford France is campaigning for the sustainability of Flexifuel, says its director Fabrice Devanlay, to the European branch based in Cologne (Germany). Only new models flood the brand agenda for 2020, and the E85 is not in the priorities. In addition, the 4-cylinder compatible engine will also be shut down. It would then be necessary to modify the 3 cylinders which equip the current Focus or the future Kuga.

The Flexifuel will disappear in November, to better return in 2021?

The French director reassures, the development would be underway, but it should not count a new model Ford Flexifuel before 2021. But good news recalls F. Devanlay, "Hybrid or rechargeable versions are fully compatible with bioethanol carburetion. " The Kuga plug-in hybrid, in addition to limiting its average fuel consumption to 1.2 l / 100 km, could further reduce its carbon footprint.

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