Hardware changes for flex-fuel operation are limited to the injectors. Because ethanol has fewer BTUs (less energy) than the same volume of gasoline, more fuel is required to produce the same horsepower at wide-open throttle. Flex fuel engines use unique stainless injectors with a greater cone angle and higher maximum fuel-flow rate. The fuel rail matches the injectors, but it’s manufactured of the same stainless steel used for all 2.2L I-4 fuel rails.
The flex-fuel 2.2L doesn’t require a special fuel sensor. The first flex-fuel engines used a light-reactive sensor to measure fuel composition from 100 percent gasoline to 85 percent ethanol. The 2.2L has a virtual sensor—software programmed in the E37 ECM with no separate physical sensor whatsoever. Based on readings from the oxygen (O2) sensors, fuel level sensor and vehicle speed sensors, the ECM adjusts the length of time the fuel injectors open for the type of fuel used. Within a few miles after filling up, the E37 controller determines what fuel is powering the 2.2L I-4 and manages the engine accordingly.
I'm really beginning to thing that flex fuel vehicles are just regular cars with higher flow rate injectors!