Published Date: Mar 2024


Brazil has emerged as a pioneer in developing alternative fuel vehicle technologies as a solution to high gasoline prices and reduce dependence on imported oil. The country has mandated introduction of flexible fuel or flexfuel vehicles that can operate on any blend of gasoline and ethanol ranging from pure gasoline to pure hydrous ethanol. Today, nearly all new vehicles sold in Brazil are flexfuel capable, making it a leader in alternative fuel technologies.

Ethanol Fuel Production and Infrastructure

Brazil began ethanol fuel production in the 1970s during the oil crisis to reduce dependence on imported gasoline. The country benefited from its abundant sugarcane crops which became the feedstock for ethanol production. Over the decades, Brazil has expanded ethanol fuel production massively with today's annual production exceeding 30 billion liters. This production is supported by over 3,000 ethanol fueled gas stations across the country ensuring nationwide availability of E100 (pure ethanol) and all gasoline-ethanol blends. The well established infrastructure allows Brazilians to freely choose fuels based on prices.

Adoption of Flexfuel Technology:

To harness this successful ethanol fuel production and infrastructure, Brazil mandated introduction of flexfuel vehicles from 2003 capable of running on any gasoline-ethanol blend. Vehicle manufacturers rapidly adopted flexfuel technology which allows engines to detect the fuel blend being used and optimize itself. Today over 90% of new cars, SUVs, pickup trucks and commercial vehicles sold in Brazil are flexfuel capable without any premium cost to customers. This helped Brazil become the global leader in the production and sale of flexfuel vehicles.

Higher Use of Hydrous Ethanol:

With widespread availability of flexfuel vehicles and fuel stations, Brazilian drivers can freely choose between gasoline and hydrous ethanol based on their price difference. Ethanol is usually cheaper than gasoline in Brazil prompting higher usage of the renewable fuel. On an average, ethanol accounts for over 50% of total fuel consumption in light-duty vehicles in the country. There are periods when ethanol usage rises to over 70% of total fuel when its prices drop significantly below gasoline. This substitution has considerable impact in reducing imports and emissions.

Auto Manufacturer's Support:

All major global automakers like Volkswagen, General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Renault etc. sell their flexfuel models in Brazil. Not just cars, commercial vehicles from companies like Scania, Mercedes Benz and MAN also offer flexfuel drivetrains in Brazil. Automakers worked closely with the government to develop flex-fuel technologies and helped establish worldwide leadership. Even though vehicles offered are similar globally, those sold in Brazil are equipped with innovative technologies to efficiently run on multiple fuel blends utilizing the country's strengths.

Benefits of Brazil's Flexfuel Program:

By aggressively adopting flexfuel vehicles and native renewable fuel - ethanol, Brazil reaps huge economic and environmental benefits. The country exported over $5 billion worth of anhydrous ethanol in 2020 meeting world demands. Ethanol production accounted for over 800,000 jobs. Using more hydoous ethanol instead of imported gasoline reduces annual oil imports by $15 billion. This model has made Brazil energy independent for its transport needs through domestic fuel production. Ethanol also outputs lower greenhouse emissions than gasoline contributing to the nation's climate change commitments. Brazil’s pioneering leadership in renewable fuels and advanced vehicle technologies offers a roadmap for other nations to follow.

Way Forward:

To address future needs, Brazil is expanding sugarcane cultivation to even more arid lands with advanced irrigation techniques to boost ethanol yields further. Second generation cellulosic ethanol production using agricultural residues as feedstock is also being ramped up. The government's policies support higher blending of ethanol like E25 and also encourage flexfuel flex-fuel vehicles capable of running on hydrous ethanol concentrations as high as E85. With global spotlight on carbon neutral sustainable fuels, Brazil's accomplishments set an example for a balanced approach utilizing indigenous resources for energy security, employment and reduced emissions. The country's pioneering initiatives will continue guiding many other nations in their efforts to replace petroleum with renewable alternatives.


Through its far-sighted policies and automakers' support, Brazil has emerged as the global pioneer in the development and commercialization of flexfuel vehicles and the increased utilization of sustainable renewable ethanol fuel. By leveraging its sugarcane crops, the nation has achieved decades of energy security through domestically produced ethanol along with economic and environmental benefits. Brazil's accomplishments prove flexible fuel technologies and renewable alternatives offer a practical solution to address high fuel costs and emissions. Its leading example will inspire other nations in transitioning their transport systems to carbon neutral sustainable fuels.