Target Grade Level / Age Range:

High School: 9-12


50 Minutes


As a result of this lesson, the student will …

  1. Identify the need and desire to develop vehicles that run on ethanol.
  2. Identify which manufacturers are developing vehicles that run off of ethanol.
  3. Recognize that ethanol vehicles success will continue to grow in the future.


  • Writing surface
  • Projector
  • Screen

Suggested Companion Resources


  • Economical: using no more of something than is necessary
  • Environmental: preserving the environment
  • VOC: volatile organic compounds are hydrocarbon compounds that have low boiling points, usually less than 100ºC, and therefore evaporate readily. Some are gases at room temperature. Propane, benzene, and other components of gasoline are all volatile organic compounds

Interest Approach or Motivator

Gain student interest by asking what their favorite vehicle is. The teacher might project a picture of her/his favorite vehicle on the screen to gain attention. Have students share with the class their favorite vehicle. Then ask a few students to share with the class reasons why that vehicle is their favorite. After a few students have shared, ask them to think about whether their favorite vehicle can burn ethanol. Explain that ethanol is sold in many places in the United States including major cities. Finally, have students consider why we would want to use ethanol. This thought will lead to the first objective.

Nearly all gasoline automobiles can burn a gasoline/ethanol blend. In major cities across the United States and in rural areas we find these blends of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline called gasohol or E10. One out of every eight gallons of gasoline sold in the United States contains ethanol.

Some vehicle engines have been designed to run on E85 or a gasoline ethanol mix with 85% ethanol. These vehicles are often designed to run on E85, E10, or gasoline. These vehicles are called flex-fuel because they can flex between different mixes of fuels. There is little distinction between biodiesel and petroleum based diesel in diesel engines. Some vehicle engines are designed to run strictly on electricity. Some vehicles are designed to be powered by gasoline and electricity and these are called hybrid vehicles. Some vehicles are designed to be powered by compressed natural gas or (CNG).

Optional Interest Approach: If computer and Internet access is available: Use worksheet #2 to locate the nearest E85 stations to students’ homes or the school by following the directions for #1. Then have students follow the directions for #2. Students will access the website link, enter both the make and model of their vehicle or their parents’ vehicle, record the cost and emissions information, and record the information provided by the website for matches to the vehicle they entered. The instructor can have students share (in small groups or to the entire class) the information they gathered from the vehicle comparisons. A wall chart could be created that displays the information students collected from this activity as a reference for the current and other units on Ethanol.


OBJECTIVE 1. Identify the need and desire to develop vehicles that run on ethanol.

Present the information for objective 1 through guided notes. Provide each student with a copy of worksheet 1. While working through each item of the outline, guide students to the desired responses through questions. On the handout there is some missing information and our task is to find these missing terms. Read through this incomplete sentence and think about two words that would make sense to fill in the blanks.

Elicit student responses to complete each statement. Use the PowerPoint slide to display the correct information when students have identified the best term(s) to use.

Have students think about a specific poisonous compound that comes from engine exhaust. Have them think about a similar compound that can be harmful to the environment in large quantities. Record “carbon monoxide” and “carbon dioxide” in the blanks.

Students should read through item 2 and item 3, considering what might fit in the blank. “Emissions” fits nicely into this sentence.

Have students think about when their family buys gasoline. We want gas to be inexpensive. Ethanol helps reduce consumer cost because it allows for more fuel to be in supply. Record “cost” and “supply” in the blanks.

For item C, “Import” is the word. Record “imported” in the first and second blank.

Explain further that the need drove auto manufacturers to develop the vehicles to run off of ethanol, and the backing of U.S. Congress with bills to turn the U.S. auto fleet to be more economical and environmentally friendly. Something to remember from this content is that a need was created for ethanol because of economic and environmental reasons. Due to this need, or demand, auto makers began making fuels that can run off ethanol. In turn, the United States Congress is working to help make automobiles more economic and environmentally friendly.

  1. There is a growing need to find more economical and environmental friendly ways to power the world’s fleet of automobiles, buses, and planes.
    1. E85 ethanol contains far fewer potential contaminants than found in gasoline.
      1. The U.S. Department of Energy says vehicles fueled with E85 ethanol have lower carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions than conventional gasoline or diesel vehicles.
      2. Ethanol reduces exhaust VOC emissions by 12%.
      3. Ethanol reduces toxic emissions by 30%.
    2. Reduces the consumer cost of gasoline by extending the supply
    3. Provides an alternative to costly imported oil. Today, ethanol reduces the need to import 128,000 barrels a day of oil and the fuel additive.
    4. Gives leverage to independent gasoline marketers competing against larger, more powerful integrated oil companies
OBJECTIVE 2. Identify which manufacturers are developing vehicles that run off of ethanol.

Prior to class, the instructor should prepare trivia fact cards. One set of fact cards is needed for every 3-5 students. Copy and cut cards and prepare for groups. Present information to students. Allow students time to review the material before engaging in the activity, check to see if there are questions. Provide students with directions for the activity, then direct students to engage in the activity.

  1. E10 Unleaded is approved under the warranties of all domestic and foreign automobile manufacturers marketing vehicles in the United States.
    1. Henry Ford built an ethanol-burning Model T before World War I, and over the years, thousands of fleet vehicles were modified to run on ethanol-based blends.
    2. U.S. automakers began making E85 ethanol-compatible components standard on certain models in 1998.
      1. America’s top automakers recommend the use of oxygenated fuels such as ethanol blends because of their clean air benefits and performance qualities.
      2. At least 38 different models for sale in the U.S. are E85 ethanol flex-fuel capable.
      3. Most manufacturers identify E85 ethanol flex-fuel vehicles with yellow gas caps and "Flex Fuel E85" badges.

Students will play $10,000 Pyramid to review the material. Each student will take on one of three roles: player, clue giver and teleprompter. The clue giver and player sit facing each other with the teleprompter standing behind the player, displaying fact cards one at a time to the clue giver. The clue giver silently reads the fact card, and then gives the player clues until he or she guesses the information. The clue giver can review the information presented, if necessary to give clues from. If there are more than three players in a group, have them decide how they will rotate roles. The game is played in rounds of sixty seconds each. When the player correctly guesses information on a card, the teleprompter sets that card aside. Players or clue givers can pass on a card, in which case the card goes to the back of the deck. After each round, the groups count the player’s correct answers and each group’s score is recorded on the writing surface. With each new round, everyone in the group switches roles and the entire deck is shuffled for the new player. Play as many rounds as needed to allow each student to play each role once. Don’t use any key words on the card! The player’s job is to listen to the clue giver and quickly guess what is on the fact card without looking at the handout. The clue giver and player will sit across from one another, while the teleprompter will stand behind the player holding up the fact cards for the clue giver to read. Each player will have 60 seconds to guess as many fact cards as possible. Keep track of how many fact cards each person guesses; we’ll need a group total at the end.

After groups have rotated so that each student has the opportunity to play each role, have groups add up all their points. If groups do not have an equal number of students, compute group averages by having each group divide by the number of students in the group and reporting the group average. If all groups are equal, report total group scores. Record these scores on the writing surface. The instructor may wish to provide a nominal award for the group with the highest average or total score. Conclude the activity by asking each group to communicate one important point from the content to the class.

Objective 3. Recognize that ethanol vehicles success will continue to grow in the future.

This objective will present students with information on reasons why ethanol vehicle use will continue to grow in the future.

  1. Millions of cars powered by ethanol-blended gasoline are on America’s roads, and the number continues to grow.
    1. Ethanol’s original use was as a gas extender when foreign oil prices skyrocketed in the 1970s.
    2. Ethanol became popular as a high-quality octane booster.
    3. Ethanol-blended gasoline sales represent over 15 percent of all automotive fuels sold in the United States.
    4. Many Midwestern states and federal government vehicles operate on variable fuel vehicles in their fleets.
      1. These vehicles are capable of operating on E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent unleaded gasoline.
      2. The small percentage of unleaded gasoline in E85 fuels enhances starting in extremely cold weather.
      3. Brazil is the largest transportation fuels market in the world for ethanol.
      4. Brazil has used ethanol blends since 1939.
      5. High oil prices in the 1970s prompted a government mandate in Brazil to produce vehicles fueled by pure ethanol to reduce dependence on foreign oil and provide value-added markets for its sugar cane producers.
      6. Brazil consumes more than 330 thousand barrels of ethanol per day.
    5. Two of the oxygenates used in reformulated gasoline that is required in certain ozone nonattainment areas in the U.S. are Ethanol and ETBE.

Provide students with a map outline of the United States and Brazil. If you were an artist painting a picture, how you would represent this information? What would be included in the picture? How would you portray the relationships that exist in this information? Elicit responses for each question.

Create two “modified” drawings, one for the United States and one for Brazil. Using the content from objective 3 you see projected, we will create two paintings that will help us understand why ethanol use will continue to be successful. Don’t feel constrained by the outlines of the countries. The outlines are just a starting point for our creations. When we are finished, we will display our creations around the room for others to see. We’ll use (markers, colored pencils or crayons) as our paint today while the activity sheets are like our canvas. Let’s take about 10 minutes to “paint”.

The instructor should circulate through the room to assist students and provide guidance and suggestions for students who need assistance with the activity. The instructor should gauge time allowed as more time may be necessary. When students are finished, have students affix their “paintings” to the wall. Then, have students perform a gallery walk so they are able to view other students’ work.

Have students silently walk around the room and look at their classmate’s art. As they look at the different “paintings” imagine what each component represents in relation to the material that has been covered. Think about what each person was thinking when they made their masterpiece and how it relates to the future success of ethanol. Just as if we were in an art gallery, think about each piece silently. If time allows, have students pair up and explain to one another how their artistic creation represents the content.


Use the student learning objectives to summarize the lesson. Have students explain the content associated with each objective. Student’s responses can then be used to determine which objectives need to be clarified and which objectives are fully understood.

Review the clue facts from the $10,000 Pyramid activity. Lead them to think back to what each fact means in relation to the content for objective 2 by holding up the card and asking them to think about the clues they were given for that fact and how it relates to the automobile industry and ethanol.

Finally, we considered why the use of ethanol vehicles will continue to be successful. Take another look at the pictures posted around the room. Pick out one major point from the drawings and record it on a piece of paper. Take a moment to share what you recorded with a neighbor.

Answers to Assessment:

  1. C
  2. A
  3. A
  4. E
  5. B

Essential Files (maps, charts, pictures, or documents)

Did you know? (Ag facts)

  • Nearly all gasoline automobiles can burn a gasoline/ethanol blend. In major cities across the United States and in rural areas we find these blends of 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline called gasohol or E10. One out of every eight gallons of gasoline sold in the United States contains ethanol.

Extension Activities

  • Students are to price hybrid automobiles online. Using the information found for pricing and efficiency (as reported by the manufacturers), students will pick three manufacturers and three vehicle types (economy, family sedan, SUV) and gather information for all nine automobiles.
  • Using data gathered on hybrid automobiles, students will discuss and create opinion statements for or against the purchase of hybrid automobiles.
  • Students with an interest in agriculture mechanics can examine the differences between standard gasoline engines and flex fuel engines and the use, availability, and benefits of flex-fuel engines. The student could prepare an article for the local newspaper educating the public on the findings.


  • Adapted from Renewable Fuels Instructional Materials: Copyright © 2009 by National FFA Organization. Used by permission.
  • E-Moments® is a registered trademark of the National FFA Organization. Copyright © 2004 by National FFA Organization. Used by permission.
  • New materials, updates and revisions were funded in part by a grant from the Iowa Energy Center as a special project of the Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation.


Will Fett

Organization Affiliation

Iowa Agriculture Literacy Foundation

Agriculture Literacy Outcomes

  • Theme 1: Agriculture and the Environment
    • Evaluate the potential impacts of climate change on agriculture
    • Evaluate the various definitions of “sustainable agriculture,” considering population growth, carbon footprint, environmental systems, land and water resources, and economics

Education Content Standards

  • HS-ESS3-3. Create a computational simulation to illustrate the relationships among management of natural resources, the sustainability of human populations, and biodiversity.
  • SS.9–12.E.2 Essential Concept and/or Skill: Understand the role of scarcity and economic trade–offs and how economic conditions impact people’s lives.
  • SS.9–12.E.4 Essential Concept and/or Skill: Understand how governments throughout the world influence economic behavior.

Common Core Connections

  • NL-ENG.K-12.6. Applying Knowledge.
  • SL.9–10.1 Initiate and participate effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one–on–one, in groups, and teacher–led) with diverse partners on grades 9–10 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.

Creative Commons License

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