A friend of mine came over one day with his new E85 car and he wasn’t very happy. Oh he likes the car, says it rides nice and is very comfortable. It’s his fuel economy he wasn’t happy with. He said his sister bought the same car but with a regular gas engine and her mileage was much better then what he was getting. He was under the impression that the ethanol E85 fuel would give him better mileage than gasoline and doesn’t understand why it was so much less.

I then had to explain to him that ethanol E85 fuel is not a better fuel, it’s an alternative fuel. Ethanol E85 is a blend of 85 ethanol and 15%gasoline. The best fuel for internal combustion is gasoline, putting diesel fueled engines aside for now. After over 100 years of development gasoline has been, no pun intended, refined to be as nearly perfect a fuel as it is possible to make. With additives to clean engine deposits, burn cleanly and extend mileage; gasoline is the best thing for engines around. The only problem is that we get about 90% of the crude oil to make our gasoline from foreign sources.

Enter Ethanol E85…

In an effort to reduce our dependency on foreign sources for our gasoline ethanol was developed. Ethanol is distilled from corn, something we have tons of and we get more every year so it’s a renewable resource. Basically ethanol is grain alcohol. Mix it with some orange juice and you got yourself a Screwdriver. It also makes a great mixer for gasoline and it burns cleanly so it doesn’t add much pollution to the air.

Mixing With Gasoline…

Most states, mine included, require a 10% ethanol/gasoline blend. 10% is the safe maximum that can be used by a gasoline engine without modifications. Anything above 10% requires some engine modifications be made and engines which use E85 must be designed from the ground up to use it. Now Minnesota, where I live, is considering requiring a 20% ethanol/gasoline blend that, in my humble opinion, is pushing the limit. Ethanol will eat standard fuel lines and fuel injectors but 10% is too weak a blend to do any harm. In fact the 10% blend does an excellent job of cleaning the fuel system. It also makes the need for gas line antifreeze a thing of the past. A 20% ethanol/gasoline blend would eat at the fuel lines and injectors gradually and in time these components will fail.

If every vehicle in the United States used E85 fuel we would cut our dependence on foreign oil be 85% and we would be able to tell OPEC where they can stick all their oil.

Ethanol does not have any octane and octane is what gives gasoline its punch. So E85 is not going to give you the power and fuel economy of gasoline. In a nutshell… E85 is an alternative fuel, not a better fuel.