Gas-Saving Moment of the Day: Avoid E85

E85

Not only has E85 been oversold as a clean fuel, but if you insist on filling your vehicle with the 85% ethanol blend, you'll also be losing money at the pump. This is because while E85 costs less than regular gasoline, your engine doesn’t burn it as efficiently. As of Friday, AAA's Fuel Gauge Report puts the average price of E85 at $3.284 a gallon (well below the price of gas, which was $3.962 on Friday), but it adjusts the price based on the fuel’s lost efficiency compared to gasoline.

The actual average price when you factor in E85’s poor fuel economy? $4.321 per gallon. Hardly a deal, right?

Of course, some Midwestern states, like Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota, have taken to not only subsidizing corn production for ethanol, but also subsidizing the fuel at the pump, thus lowering the cost further. Still, according to E85Prices.com, the greatest spread between ethanol and gasoline prices right now is the 28% difference in South Dakota. This is one of just two states in the country where the adjusted average price of ethanol ($3.794) is lower than the average price of gasoline in that state ($3.890). The other is Colorado, where the difference is 26%. The next closest is New York with a 24% spread, so while gasoline's average cost is $3.87 a gallon there, ethanol's adjusted price comes to $3.98.

Related:
Tips for Saving Fuel (Cars.com)
More Gas-Saving Moments of the Day (KickingTires)

By Stephen Markley | June 2, 2008 | Comments (19)

Comments 

Cj

I totally agree. Ethanol is a joke, when compared to other alternatives. Biodiesel is much better because it gets the same Fuel Economy as regular diesel and that's already 30-40% more than the Fuel Economy of gas. I personally don't support any bio-fuel, because of what it does to food prices, but if the government wants to push a bio-fuel, why don't they push one that works? Ethanol is horrible whether produced from corn or sugarcane. Why don't we use biodiesel from used soybean oil? Another benefit with biodiesel is it works in regular diesel engines without heavy mods (ethanol). So that no one interprets my argument the wrong way, I DO NOT support bio-fuels, and I'm NOT a greeny. I just don't get why the government is backing ethanol when biodiesel (IMO) is a better bio-fuel.

You need to be MUCH more clear when you're bashing E85. You need to bash FlexFuel vehicles, NOT E85. E85 allows much higher compression and thus more power than gasoline. Running E85 in a 5.3 litre V8 with 9.5:1 compression isn't going to get you anywhere. However, running E85 in a 2.0 litre turbocharged 4-cylinder that puts out 300 horsepower like Saab's biopower engine will gain you a LOT of fuel efficiency over an equally powerful V8.

In short: It's the engine, stupid!

Juan Barnett

Well here GM staff say otherwise.

We already know pretty much everything there is to know about this car (Saab9-4X BioPower concept), but it's worth repeating that this concept gets 245 hp and 353 Nm of torque (at 2500-5250 rpm) on gasoline versus 300 horses and 400 Nm (at 2600-5100 rpm) on delicious ethanol. Put gasoline in the tank and you can go 22.4 miles to the gallon (ethanol mpg was not disclosed, but it'll be less).

My IMO on a solution to oil dependence. Teh government should create a market driven contest (1 billion grant/5 years) to produce the ultimate battery for use in an electric car.

Between the world of academia (think nerds at MIT) and the profit driven corporate giants this should be an easy task.

Next would be to convince Congress we need more power from the glowing green radioactive material our friends from Green Peace fear.

Radioactive waste could be shuttled via a space elevator to outter space, then steered into the sun for consumption.

All I need to go is get elected to get my message across to my peers

Cj

That Saab that your talking about isn't even available in the US, Drew. So looking at the US market, E85 is a joke. The US government pushes it like its great when it isn't. Biodiesel works in standard diesel engines so auto manufacturers wouldn't have to make any changes to their engines to implement biodiesel. But to clarify again, I DO NOT support bio-fuels, I'm just saying that biodiesel is better than E85.

Let us make ethanol at home from our compost piles and brush and excess heat from our homes heating system and stoves. Let the states subsidise with the brush and grass clippings along the highways. Then we'll embrase it and live with the less efficency as long as it doesn't cut into our food supply and doesn't cost the consumer a dime.

Eric

Hmmm lots of incomplete facts in this blog. Ethanol is not a joke if it can be produced cheaply and efficiently, like cellulose based. Also read these articles about cellulosic ethanol (http://www.ethanolrfa.org/resource/cellulosic/ and http://www.seco.cpa.state.tx.us/re_ethanol_cellulosic.htm). As for how it really affects corn consumption, read this ( http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/chi-oped0506fuelmay06,0,481881.story ) . True, ethanol does not produce the same amount of energy as gas. But if ethanol can be produced from waste (like cellulosic ethanol), it not only reduces our dependency on oil, but also will help to reduce landfills, wood waste, and other waste materials. Do your research on ethanol people, and don't believe all the myths your hear about ethanol.

Cj

What myths or incomplete facts do you see in this blog, Eric? Cars.com said that, because of ethanol's fuel efficiency (or lack thereof), it's not really cheaper than gas for the consumer. It doesn't matter what the source of the ethanol is, the same principles apply. Drew did bring up the point that if an engine is designed to run on E85 it can be as efficient and more (possibly) more powerful than a gas engine, but why change to a fuel that just matches the efficiency of a gas engine. That's why I contend that no bio-fuel matches biodiesel for efficiency and ease. Biodiesel works in standard diesel engines that already get 30-40% better fuel economy than gas engines. We all know that diesel engines have TONS of torque so power isn't a problem. Biodiesel can be cheap if made from used cooking oils and the auto manufactures wouldn't have to make any expensive changes, just switch everyone to diesel. Because some people tend to jump to conclusions, I'll say once again. I DO NOT SUPPORT BIOFUELS, because of what it does to food prices. I'm just expressing my opinion on the issue.

Brandon

And where exactly are they citing this information from? Did the EPA release this information? Maybe I missed the Cars.com double-blind study of E-85 engines?

Here, let me try one. E-85 engines burn ethanol based fuel 110% more efficiently than regular gasoline. There, now I can write it on my blog and pretend it's a fact.

Cj

Brandon stop being so sarcastic. Car.com listed links that you could follow for more information. I don't even know why you are acting like the information they listed isn't believable. We all know that E85 is less efficient than gas in flex-fuel vehicles. GM even list both EPA numbers (E85 and gas) on there website for their flex-fuel vehicles. All you have to do some simple math with all the numbers provided and you find that ethanol is no bargain.

Mark

I have never seen so many uneducated posts regarding ethanol. Look, I wasn't a fan at first until I got through the smokescreen that Big Oil has thrown out there...none of what you're seeing in the media is reality, it's smoke. Ethanol and the research on celluse as biofuel is going to change dependence on foreign oil, the auto industry will make adaptaption to make ethanol more efficient, they have already committed to it. READ a little bit people...not the soundbites...READ

Cj

No one has yet to prove to me what the benefits of ethanol are over biodiesel. Ethanol needs to cost $2 a gallon before I embrace it as a viable (cheaper) option. Biodiesel already gets better mileage than gas so to me it seems like more of a no-brainer than ethanol.

Cj

^NOTE: Because some of you jump to conclusions, I will say once again. I DO NOT SUPPORT BIOFUELS, because of what it does to food prices.

Kirby Peawauket

I live in Illinois where supposedly they are "subsidizing" E85 to drive it lower. That's not how it is at all. E85 is always 10 cents cheaper than regular gas. It moves right with Gas. If gas is 4.25 then E85 is 4.15 and when Gas gets to 6.50 a gallon then they will sell us E85 at 6.40. It used to be that the City would get gouged the worst on gas prices especially with Cook County taxes but now it's the suburbs. How can gas in Will County (lacking the extra Cook County gas tax) be 15 cents higher than in the city? This is a market gone mad...

Roger

Drew is absolutely correct it is not the gas (E85 or even 10% Ethanol mix) it's the engines and systems.

With only a few exceptions most cars are not designed for this fuel. This fuel is not suited for use in piston powered engines. AND, the issues gets worse with altitude.

You begin with a horsepower reduction simply by using the ethanol blended fuel which has a lower BTU when burned, but when you attempt to use that fuel at an altitude where less air is available due to lower pressure the problem compounds.

Automotive applications at 5000 feet or more can expect to see ~70% efficiency compared to normal gasoline. This effect is so dangerous that the FAA banned the use of any ethanol mix in piston powered aircraft.

Also, ethanol is hygroscopic meaning it readily absorbs water. This is fatal for many systems where gasoline sits for more than a day.

Ethanol is also an oil dispersant, meaning it displaces oil - not mixes with it. We all well know that you cannot use it in 2-stroke engines, but that property also removes the lubricants from seals and rubber in fuel pumps, fuel bladders, system seals and other major components.

You should bank every dime you save at the pump when buying ethanol-mixed fuel... you'll need it later for repairs.

I have a 2009 HHR and I ONLY use E85. The ONLY Time it makes sense? This guy hasn't really done his home work.

I get between 21 and 22 miles per gallon with E85. I only get 1-2 miles per gallon better with gasoline. I typically pay as much as.50 per gallon less than gasoline. Right now I am paying less that $3.00/gallon. I save tons of money and time because I use E85.

I save time because I have an alternative fuel license plate from the state that allows me to use ALL of our HOV lanes. I live downtown and have to go through downtown traffic at least twice per day. On average, I save about 3 hours in traffic each week and my time is valuable to me as well as my sanity.

What's more is my HHR is totally peppy. It ZOOM ZOOM ZOOMs when I use E85. When I use regular gasoline it no longer runs like a sports car :( E85 typically has 105 Octane (that's the measurement we use to judge fuels burned by vehicles, calories are atypical).

Another reason is because I care about the environment. E85 burns cleaner that gasoline. Period.

It took our planet hundreds of millions of years to make oi, coal and natural gas. We will have gone through ALL that in another 100 years. We can make ethanol from almost ANY organic material. My favorite is grass. They use grass in Europe to make their ethanol.

The reason we use corn here is because we have so much corn that the government pays farmers to either destroy or plow under their fields to "protect" the cost of corn. All that unused corn gets turned into Ethanol... the only time this sucks is when farmers can make more money from selling corn to ethanol manufacturers... we would rather use it as food. High oil costs raise the costs of ethanol and thus the price of ethanol rises and farmers could actually make more money making fuel. Its all about dollars.

If people continue to listen to politicians and corporations (big oil, etc.) and cannot think for themselves... we are doomed as a species.

E85 is by far the best available solution today. It is a fuel we could use for 5k years, not just 100. If humans are going to survive we must think farther ahead than the next election. You wouldn't start planning for your retirement at age 55, right?

In North Carolina the unleaded gas price per gallon is about $3.75 but it is increasing day by day, crazy expensive days coming.

Volume Van

Well said Matt

Chevy HHR has lot of interior space and if E85 gives only 5% lesser than Gas, then its really great.

I have Prius and thinking about adding the Flex fuel kit which will make it run on E85.

Volume Van

Ethanol has become much cheaper now and will be used as long as crude oil is more than $70/barrel.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/24/us-ethanol-mandate-waiver-idUSBRE87N05820120824

Peppy

Who in their right mind though would think; "fuel prices are sky rocketing and we're running out of fuel, what to do? OH! I got it, lets use our food supply to fuel our cars."

Alternative fuels will/are coming but they shouldn't be at the cost of food. We have plenty of fossil fuels and such to last until and probably past the point where more alternative fuels are affordable and efficient.

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