What Is E85 Fuel?

February 22, 2012

Information on flex fuel conversion kits, how E10 ethanol compares to E85 ethanol, and the benefits and drawbacks of E85 fuel.

E85 Ethanol Plant

E85 fuel is a mixture of ethanol and gasoline to make up an alternative fuel source. This is becoming the most talked about flex fuel on the market. It also happens to be the most available flex fuel at gas stations, which leads to its higher usage.

What Is E85?
The name E85 explains the composition of the fuel. It's comprised of 85 percent ethanol, and 15 percent gasoline. E85 can have ethanol from any source, but it is common in the United States to use corn. The advantage of using something like corn is that it is renewable. Compare this to oil and petroleum, and you can see the possibilities for conservation.

Flex fuel vehicles are needed in order to use E85. Currently, a non-flex fuel vehicle can run on an ethanol content of up to 10 percent. This is because ethanol is more corrosive to engine parts, and can result in the loss of magnesium, rubber, and aluminum in the fuel system.

E85 Benefits
E85 is a much cleaner fuel when it is burned. It will lower the amount of greenhouse gases we add into the environment by up to 15 percent. Another benefit is the price (most of the time). Usually, the price of E85 is about 50 cents cheaper per gallon than gasoline. Of course, since this is based on corn, it can fluctuate, and at times, on the coastal regions, the E85 price can be much greater than gasoline.

E85 Disadvantages
When it comes to fuel economy, E85 is not that great. It does not have as much energy stored compared to gasoline. You cannot get as many miles to the gallon resulting in about a 25 percent difference in fuel economy. The price difference may not be worth the fuel economy downside. However, the whole point of using this fuel may not be to save on your gas, but to use less oil, and reduce our foreign dependency. Another downside is that it is not available all over the country. It is most available in the Midwest, since that is where corn is grown. On the coastal areas, there are fewer stations, and typically the price is greater.

Ethanol in Fuel: E10 vs. E85 Ethanol

Ethanol is a form of fuel produced by the synthesis of vegetable oils and methanol. Over the last two decades, this form of fuel has increasingly become one of the most popular forms of alternative fuels, powering automobiles and other gas engines. However, in order to create this alternative fuel, there must be a large production of crops such as corn. Ethanol in fuel has changed the way that the world looks at energy production, but there are many obstacles still standing in the way.

E10 Ethanol
E10 ethanol in fuel is a mixture of 90 percent petroleum gasoline and 10 percent ethanol fuel. This mixture has become the most popular form used at many gas stations across the United States. Many are trying make it required in all forms of gasoline. However, there is a growing concern that this small mixture of ethanol to gasoline does not go far enough. It should be noted that all gasoline engines normally have no problems running the 10 percent mixture, although the E85 mixture has some modifications that must be made.

E85 Ethanol
E85 ethanol in fuel is a relatively new mixture of gasoline to petroleum that has started to make its way to a few gas stations across the country. Many new cars are being manufactured with the ability to run E85 ethanol in their engines, although cars that are not new can have to have their engines modified in order to burn the mixture.

What to Use
If you are looking to purchase a new car, it may be good idea to find one that is already equipped to run E85 without any modifications. However, you shouldn't worry if you don't have a car that can run that particular mixture, due to the fact that gas stations will probably not start regularly supplying this mixture for many years down the road.

Can Non-Flexed Fueled Engines Be Converted to Run E85?

Flex fuel conversion kits are available for many cars enabling them to run on E85. However, it is a somewhat complex process that varies depending on the make and model of the car. These kits replace certain engine and fuel related parts as well as include updates or changes to the software in the onboard computer. The fuel lines, fuel injectors, and fuel tank are just some of the parts that must be replaced in a flex fuel conversion. E85 ethanol fuel conversion kits that only consist of engine computer software may result in damage to the original fuel related components.

E85 ethanol fuel prices tend to average at or slightly less than regular fuel prices depending on the region. Additionally, because of the high octane of ethanol fuels there is sometimes a substantial drop in fuel economy, which may increase cost overall fuel costs. It is best, if interested in using E85 ethanol fuel, to purchase one of the many new or used flex fuel vehicles currently available from most automakers.

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