Ethanol (E85) Flex Fuel
Ethanol is mostly used in flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) which are capable of operating on gasoline, E85 (85% ethanol, 15% gasoline), or a mixture of both. E85 should only be used in ethanol-capable FFVs. E85 has about 30% less energy per gallon so the fuel efficiency of a FFV running on ethanol will be 30% less than when it is running on gasoline.
How It Works
Ethanol is an alcohol made primarily from corn. Because ethanol is derived from feedstock that is grown, it is considered a renewable fuel. In addition, since the feedstock for ethanol can be domestically produced, it reduces the nation's dependence on foreign oil.
There are a wide variety of FFV's available for consumers with more coming as the number of fueling stations begins to grow. Owners of these cars sometimes aren't even aware they are driving a FFV.
The cost of a flex fuel vehicle is not much more than the cost of a pure gasoline car. The price of ethanol fuel fluctuates but is usually similar to the price of gasoline. When looking at prices, remember that FFVs are 30% less fuel efficient when running on ethanol, however E85 is usually priced lower to compensate for this.
Check out the incentives search to find incentives in your region.
The number of E85 stations continues to grow. Check out this web site to find one near you:
- U.S. Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels Data Center: A site developed by the Department of Energy that provides maps to refueling stations in the US for CNG, LPG/propane, ethanol, electric, biodiesel, hydrogen, and liquefied natural gas (LNG).
Flex fuel vehicles are similar to their conventional gasoline counterparts in power, acceleration, payload, and cruise speed. The only noticeable difference is that fuel economy is lower when FFVs run on ethanol. Many drivers aren't even aware their vehicle is a FFV.
Smog forming emissions from E85-fueled FFVs are similar to those from gasoline-powered vehicles. However, since ethanol can be produced domestically it does reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Also, depending on how the ethanol is made, it can have fewer greenhouse gas emissions when you take into account the upstream emissions - emissions associated with production and transporting the fuel.
To compare the environmental benefits between cars you are shopping for, remember to look for high Greenhouse Gas and Smog Ratings on the federal Fuel Economy and Environment Label.
- California Energy Commission Alternative Fuels
- Clean Cities
- Ethanol Renewable Fuels Association web site
- Union of Concerned Scientists
- U.S. Department of Energy Alternative Fuel Data Center
- Ethanol Factsheet: U.S. Department of Energy Energy
- ARB Alternative Fuels Program