E85 fuel

Logo used in the United States for E85 fuel

E85 is an abbreviation for an ethanol fuel blend of up to 85% denatured ethanol fuel and gasoline or other hydrocarbon (HC) by volume. E85 is commonly used by flex-fuel vehicles in the US, and Europe. Some of the benefits of E85 over conventional gasoline powered vehicles include the potential for localized production of fuel in agricultural areas. Another benefit is potentially reduced pollution emissions especially Carbon dioxide in Earth's atmosphere which is an important element for adaptation to global warming.

Potential benefits of E85 are contested by some experts who point out that deriving gasoline from petroleum is a relatively inexpensive (i.e., more efficient) process, even including the transportation of oil and gasoline long distances. Large-scale production of ethanol may be cost-prohibitive; and may result in a net energy loss when taking into account all the energy required to make alcohol from starchy plants. Another drawback for E85 is that, in a liter-to-liter comparison, E85 has less energy content than conventional gasoline; 30% percent less energy for transportation by volume. On top of it extreme care should be taken before using E85 fuel in portable power generators, chain saws, lawn mower and other gas powered equipment. These tools are not generally designed to be used with a high content of ethanol and can go out of service quickly.

The U.S. became the world's largest fuel ethanol producer in 2006, Brazil remains a close second. U.S. consumers are on track to consume 138 billion US gallons (520,000,000 m³) of gasoline in 2008 (down from 142 billion US gallons (540,000,000 m³) in 2007) and approximately 9 billion US gallons (34,000,000 m³) of U.S.-produced ethanol plus perhaps another 800 million US gallons (3,000,000 m³) of imported ethanol. Fuel blenders have a strong incentive to use all this ethanol because they receive a 51¢-per1-US-gallon (3.8 L) subsidy (the blenders tax credit) from taxpayers. In addition, since February 2011, the price of ethanol has been less than the price of gasoline. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations allow blended fuel to contain up to 10 percent ethanol. California regulations allow up to 5.7 percent blends. Minnesota law requires all gasoline to have an ethanol content of 10%, separate from the E85 blended fuel which is also available. Ethanol is showing up in all grades of gasoline everywhere as E10 which is 10% ethanol / 90% gasoline, other than e85 of course. The fact that ethanol is already in widescale production seems to discount the economic cost claims against ethanol. Data in the CIA world fact book show a forthcoming end to known oil reserves, at least based on total current proved reserves and consumption rates. Ethanol is providing one window of proved alternative fuel. Since the inception of ethanol blending nationally, cars have been designed to be ethanol proofed. The E85 flexfuel vehicles have been designed to run more efficiently than vehicles running on standard E10 or E20, but many drivers report satisfaction with using E85 in their vehicles which are ethanol proofed and designed for E20 efficiency.


North AmericaEdit

E85 is becoming increasingly common in the United States, mainly in the Midwest where corn is a major crop and is the primary source material for ethanol-fuel production. Currently there are about 2335 filling stations selling E85 to the public in the US[1] and as of 2007 one in Canada.[2][3]


E85 as a fuel is widely used in Sweden; however, most of it is imported from Italy and Brazil

E85 was formerly available from the Maxol chain in Ireland, where it was made from whey, a byproduct of cheese manufacturing.[4] The availability ended in 2011, due to a severe excise-duty hike which rendered it economcially unviable.

In Finland E85 is available from fourteen St1 chain locations in Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Hämeenlinna, Kokkola, Lahti, Mäntsälä, Porvoo and Tampere.[5] The Finnish E85 is manufactured from bio-waste.

Fuel economyEdit

Because ethanol contains less energy than gasoline, fuel economy is reduced for most 2002 and earlier American FFVs (flexible-fuel vehicles) by about 30% (most after 2003 lose only 15-17%, or less) when operated on E85 (summer blend). Some of the newest American vehicles can achieve only a 5-15% loss, but as recently as 2007 the Environmental Protection Agency stated on its website that several of the most current American FFVs were still losing 25% fuel efficiency when running on E85. Some Swedish-engineered cars with engine-management systems provide much better fuel economy on E85 than on gasoline; for example, the Saab Aero-X turbocharged concept car produces higher fuel economy and higher power on 100% ethanol (E100) than gasoline through using a higher-compression-ratio engine with advanced SAAB engine-control computers. Another car that has higher power on ethanol is the Koenigsegg CCXR, which on ethanol is the third-most powerful production car, with 1020 hp. According to the manufacturer, this is due to the cooling properties of ethanol. Still, for almost all American-made FFVs, more E85 is typically needed to do the same work as can be achieved with a lesser volume of gasoline. This difference is sometimes offset by the lower cost of the E85 fuel, depending on E85's current price discount relative to the current price of gasoline. As described earlier, the best thing for drivers to do is to record fuel usage with both fuels and calculate cost/distance for them. Only by doing that can the end-user economy of the two fuels be compared.

For example, an existing pre-2003-model-year American-made FFV vehicle that normally achieves, say, 30 MPG on pure gasoline will typically achieve about 22 MPG, or slightly better, on E85 (summer blend.) When operated on E85 winter blend, which is actually E70 (70% ethanol, 30% gasoline), fuel economy will be higher than when operating on the summer blend. To achieve any short-term operational fuel-cost savings, the price of E85 should therefore be 20% or more below the price of gasoline to equalize short term fuel costs for most older pre-2003 FFVs for both winter and summer blends of E85, which fortunately it typically is. Life-cycle costs over the life of the FFV engine are theoretically lower for E85, as ethanol is a cooler- and-cleaner burning fuel than gasoline. Provided that one takes a long-term life-cycle-operating-cost view, a continuous price discount of 20% to 25% below the cost of gasoline is probably about the break-even point in terms of vehicle life-cycle operating costs for operating most FFVs on E85 exclusively (for summer, spring/fall, and winter blends).

Fuel economy in fuel-injected non-FFVs operating on a mix of E85 and gasoline varies greatly depending on the engine and fuel mix. For a 60:40 blend of gasoline to E85 (summer blend), a typical fuel-economy reduction of around 23.7% resulted in one person's[who?] carefully executed experiment with a 1998 Chevrolet S10 pickup with a 2.2L 4-cylinder engine, relative to the fuel economy achieved on pure gasoline. Similarly, for a 50:50 blend of gasoline to E85 (summer blend), a typical fuel-economy reduction of around 25% resulted for the same vehicle. (Fuel-economy performance numbers were measured on a fixed commute of approximately 110 miles (180 km) roundtrip per day, on a predominantly freeway commute, running at a fixed speed (62 mph), with cruise control activated, air conditioning ON, at sea level, with flat terrain, traveling to/from Kennedy Space Center, FL.). It is important to note, however, that if the engine had been specifically tuned for consumption of ethanol (higher compression, different fuel-air mixture, etc.) the mileage would have been much better than the results above. The aforementioned fact leads some to believe that the "FFV" engine is more of an infant technology rather than fully mature.

The amount of reduction in mileage, therefore, is highly dependent upon the particulars of the vehicle design, exact composition of the ethanol-gasoline blend, and state of engine tune (primarily fuel-air mixture and compression ratio).

Use in flexible-fuel vehiclesEdit

E-85 ethanol is used in engines modified to accept higher concentrations of ethanol. Such flexible-fuel vehicles (FFV) are designed to run on any mixture of gasoline or ethanol with up to 85% ethanol by volume. There are a few major differences between FFVs and non-FFVs. One is the elimination of bare magnesium, aluminum, and rubber parts in the fuel system. Another is that fuel pumps must be capable of operating with electrically conductive ethanol instead of non-conducting dielectric gasoline fuel. Fuel-injection control systems have a wider range of pulse widths to inject approximately 34% more fuel. Stainless steel fuel lines, sometimes lined with plastic, and stainless-steel fuel tanks in place of terne fuel tanks are used. In some cases, FFVs use acid-neutralizing motor oil. For vehicles with fuel-tank-mounted fuel pumps, additional differences to prevent arcing, as well as flame arrestors positioned in the tank's fill pipe, are also sometimes used.

Comparisons to regular gasolineEdit

E85 fuel pump 7563 DCA 09 2009

E85 fuel dispenser at a regular gasoline station.

E85 has an octane rating higher than that of regular gasoline's typical rating of 87, or premium gasoline's 91-93. This allows it to be used in higher-compression engines, which tend to produce more power per unit of displacement than their gasoline counterparts. The Renewable Fuels Foundation states in its Changes in Gasoline IV manual, "There is no requirement to post octane on an E85 dispenser. If a retailer chooses to post octane, they should be aware that the often cited 105 octane is incorrect. This number was derived by using ethanol’s blending octane value in gasoline. This is not the proper way to calculate the octane of E85. Ethanol’s true octane value should be used to calculate E85’s octane value. This results in an octane range of 94-96 (R+M)/2. These calculations have been confirmed by actual-octane engine tests." [6]

Examples of this mis-citation can be found at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association titled "E85 Facts"[7] which cites a range of 100-105, and a document at the Texas State Energy Conservation Office titled "Ethanol"[8], which cites a 113 rating.

One complication is that use of gasoline in an engine with a high enough compression ratio to use E85 efficiently would likely result in catastrophic failure due to engine detonation, as the octane rating of gasoline is not high enough to withstand the greater compression ratios in use in an engine specifically designed to run on E85. Use of E85 in an engine designed specifically for gasoline would result in a loss of the potential efficiency that it is possible to gain with this fuel. Using E85 in a gasoline engine has the drawback of achieving lower fuel economy, as more fuel is needed per unit air (stoichiometric ratio) to run the engine in comparison with gasoline. This corresponds to a lower heating value (units of energy per unit mass) for E85 than for gasoline. Some vehicles can actually be converted to use E85 despite not being specifically built for it. Because of the lower heating value E85 has a cooler intake charge—which, coupled with its high stability level from its high octane rating—has also been used as a "power adder" in turbocharged performance vehicles. These modifications have not only resulted in lower GHG emissions, but also resulted in 10-12% power and torque increase at the wheels. Because of its low price (less than $2.00/gal in some places) and high availability in certain areas people have started to turn to using it in place of high-end racing fuels, which typically cost over $10.00/gal.

E85 consumes more fuel in flex-fuel type vehicles when the vehicle uses the same compression ratio for both E85 and gasoline, because of its lower stoichiometric fuel ratio and lower heating value. European car maker Saab currently produces a flex-fuel version of their 9-5 sedan, which consumes the same amount of fuel whether running e85 or gasoline.[9] So in order to save money at the pump with current flex-fuel vehicles available in the United States, the price of E85 must be much lower than gasoline. Currently E85 is at least 20% less expensive in most areas.[10] [11] E85 also gets less MPG, at least in flex-fuel vehicles. In one test, a Chevy Tahoe flex-fuel vehicle averaged 18 MPG [U.S. gallons] for gasoline and 13 MPG for E85, or 28% fewer MPG than gasoline. In that test, the cost of gas averaged $3.42, while the cost for E85 averaged $3.09, or 90% of the cost of gasoline.[12][13] In another test, however, a fleet of Ford Tauruses averaged only about 6% fewer miles per gallon in the ethanol-based vehicles as compared to traditional, gas-powered Tauruses.[14]

In the United StatesEdit

Main article: E85 in the United States
See also: Corn ethanol

As of December 31, 2008, there were about 1,921 public E85 fueling stations available in the United States.[15] Prices vary by location: some prices were over 30% less than regular gasoline; in other places it has been more expensive.

A recent development in the expansion of E85 filling stations is Walmart's announcement that it will possibly sell E85 at its 385 gas stations countrywide. Walmart—along with its popular division, Sam's Club—has a partnership with Murphy Oil Corp., which operates more than 9,000 gas stations in Walmart parking lots. Should they decide to follow through with plans, Walmart has the potential to be the largest single retailer of E85 in the nation.[16] Grocery retailers in Texas are also beginning to sell E85 at some fuel stations.[17][18][dated info]

EPA's stringent tier-II vehicle emission standards require that FFVs achieve the same low emissions level regardless of whether E85 or gasoline is used. However, E85 can further reduce emissions of certain pollutants as compared to conventional gasoline or lower-volume ethanol blends. For example, E85 is less volatile than gasoline or low-volume ethanol blends, which results in fewer evaporative emissions. Using E85 also reduces carbon-monoxide emissions and provides significant reductions in emissions of many harmful toxics, including benzene, a known human carcinogen. However, E85 also increases emissions of acetaldehyde. EPA is conducting additional analysis to expand our understanding of the emissions impacts of E85.[19]


In July 2006 Goldman Sachs invested $27 million into a Canadian company called Iogen, which wants to produce ethanol from switchgrass, a perennial grass that is inexpensive to grow. Iogen, a non-publicly-traded company, is building the world's first full-scale commercial cellulose-to-ethanol plant by 2010. On August 29, 2011, CBS-KCNC-Denver reported a story about the exciting discovery that researchers had found an enzyme in Panda Bear excrement that might help production from even more renewable sources. Another reason for ethanol's popularity is its contribution toward providing economic revitalization in rural communities across the country.[20] The U.S. Congress passed The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which mandates an increase in the use of biofuels in a new Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), including ethanol, through the year 2022.[21]

See also Edit


  1. "Virginia E85 Station Pushes National Locations Over 1,900", Domestic Fuel Alternative Fuel News (2009-01-07). 
  2. "Canada Advancing E85", National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition Newsletter (2003-01-15). Archived from the original on 2003-02-21. 
  3. Brent, Paul (2007-02-14). "Canada helps GM clean its fleet", National Post. 
  4. "Maxol Bioethanol E85 leaflet" (PDF). Retrieved on 2010-12-05.
  6. Changes in Gasoline IV, sponsored by Renewable Fuels Foundation
  7. Iowa Renewable Fuels Association "E85 Facts"
  8. Texas State Energy Conservation Office "Ethanol"
  9. Liquor Does It Quicker, Matthew Phenix, Popular Science. Retrieved April 29, 2008.
  10. Wiesenfelder, Joe. "Fuel Economy | Gas Alternatives". Retrieved on 2010-12-05.
  11. "E85 Prices". E85 Prices. Retrieved on 2010-12-05.
  12. "E85 vs Gasoline Comparison test". Retrieved on 2010-12-05.
  13. "Ethanol: The facts, the questions |". The Des Moines Register. Retrieved on 2010-04-04.
  14. "Ohio’s First Ethanol-Fueled Light-Duty Fleet". Archived from the original on October 30, 2004.
  15. "E85 Prices". E85 Prices. Retrieved on 2010-04-04.
  16. E85 at Club Rate. Retrieved September 17, 2007.
  17. Kroger stores are selling E85 at fuel stations nationwide, expanding outward from Houston and Dallas, Texas. Retrieved September 17, 2007.
  18. HEB stores are also offering E85 at some fuel stations in the Texas Hill Country. Retrieved September 17, 2007.
  19. [1][dead link]
  20. "Iogen gets boost from Goldman Sachs". (2006-05-01). Retrieved on 2010-12-05.
  21. "Biomass Program: Federal Biomass Policy". Retrieved on 2010-04-04.

Further readingEdit

External links Edit

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