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E85 vs. Gasoline Comparison Test

Edmunds.comEdmunds.com Posts: 9,975
edited November 2014 in General
imageE85 vs. Gasoline Comparison Test

E85 vs. Gasoline Comparison Test article on Edmunds.com

Read the full story here


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Comments

  • kcburkkcburk Posts: 1
    If you think ethanol is the answer, maybe this will change your mind...
  • Cornell ecologist's study finds that producing ethanol and biodiesel from corn and other crops is not worth the energy! In terms of energy output compared with energy input for ethanol production, a Cornell University and University of California-Berkeley study found that:
    -corn requires 29 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced;
    -switch grass requires 45 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced; and
    -wood biomass requires 57 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.
    In terms of energy output compared with the energy input for biodiesel production, the study found that:
    -soybean plants requires 27 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced, and
    -sunflower plants require 118 percent more fossil energy than the fuel produced.
    http://www.news.cornell.edu/stories/July05/ethanol.toocostly.ssl.html
    Also, it takes lots of water to make ethanol, about 3 gallons of water per gallon of ethanol. And finally, the US Government uses our tax money to subsidize ethanol fuel. I think it is around $.51 per gallon. This money comes out of our paychecks and bank accounts or is borrowed from the Chinese and our kids get to pay it and with interest. So where is the win?? BTW, I hear luxury cars sales in Iowa are brisk.
  • Upon retiring in 1984, my wife and I decided to travel for an extended period of time. We bought a new 1984 Ford Van to tow a 32 foot travel trailer. Our milage at the time averaged about 12 mpg on regular gasoline. Once in the western US, we encountered our first gas station that advertised ethenol added fuel and the price was lower than the straight gas. So I decided to try it. We were in that part of the country where there are steep grades. No sooner had we encountered one of these grades then I became aware that the truck was downshifting, not one gear but two gears. The loss of power was alarming to me and I thought that we were having mechanical problems. At the next fuel stop we filled the tanks again and I found that our mpg had dropped significantly. I became suspicious of the "bad gas" that we must have received at that stop with the ethenol. Since that time I realized that it wasn't a mechanical problem, nor was it watered down "bad gas" but rather the ethenol add fuel. One thing that your experimental test drive from San Diego to Vegas didn't show was that had you used 10% ethenol added, you would actually use as much or more fossil fuel on any given test drive. So actually we are simply burning up corn and getting little or nothing of benefit in return.
  • Thank you so much for this article. I have been using e85 for a couple months now and i have noticed a decrease in mpg...and we are taking a very long road trip in a couple of days and my husband wanted to map all the e85 stations...but after reading this article you have confirmed my fears that i am losing money not saving it. So again thank you for the tiome you took to do this test!
  • Corn farmers ought to be ashamed. There is a enough world demand for corn that they do not have to mess up our car engines.
  • Like any fuel the better the compression the better the power and MPG. Unfortunately Gas Pinks and ethanol doesn't. If the Tahoe's engine was rebuilt and optimized the Tahoe would have easily done the mileage and probably much more
  • The only way an engine can truly be Flex-fuel is if the engine has a turbo and the boost is increased to burn the ethanol efficiently, without one the power and mileage will be poor. An optimized ethanol engine needs double the compression of a Gas engine, but then flex-fuel would be imposable, one fuel or the other.
  • Ethanol has a bright future in comparison to gasoline. In case you guys forgot. it is a renewable fuel. Currently, corn-stock ethanol is responsible for about 85 percent of the ethanol in the U.S. while the remaining 15 percent is derived from wheat, potatoes, sorghum, & cellulosic sources (wood, grasses, the inedible parts of plants). There are also promising new methods that will soon join the market, notably the ethanol from trash and algae farms.

    Gasoline, on the other hand, is approaching the end of peak production (ACS). As a result, oil prices will continue to rise as the total cost per oil barrel produced increases. Even if oil prices were to remain the same, to consumers, there are still the indirect costs to society; such as climate change, oil industry subsidies, oil spills, etc. These are known as external costs in economics, and when added together, roughly total $12 per gallon. These are real costs and if we don’t pay them, our children will (Brown).

    Also, many emission comparison tests seem to forget that all biofuels come from biomass, which must remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the first place, to grow. Of course, it releases it back into the atmosphere when consumed, but compare that to crude oil. Oil brings 150 million year old hydrocarbon from the depths of the ocean and we burn it off into our air like it’s no big deal. We are screwing with the planet’s equilibrium and, yet, people continue to ignore it.

    Lastly, it is always important to note in a comparison test, who has the handicap. E85 does, in this case. If an engine was optimized for E85 usage only, it would get comparable or better mileage. It allows for more ignition timing, which manufacturers implement when the ECU detects E85. The higher octane rating of ethanol also allows a higher compression ratio, which lets the engine produce more work energy out of the heat energy, but it must also be able to handle gasoline. Therefore a low CR is favored to increase the demand of their vehicles. People who purchase a flex-fuel vehicle and still use gasoline.

    Brown, Lester R. World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse. New York: W.W. Norton, 2011. Print.

    Inderscience. "How Much Oil Have We Used?" ScienceDaily. N.p., 07 May 2009. Web. 12 July 2012. .

    American Chemical Society. "World Crude Oil Production May Peak a Decade Earlier Than Some Predict." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 Mar. 2010. Web. 15 July 2012. .
  • butch62butch62 Posts: 1
    Great article. Couple of things I would like to point out.
    One, using the same nozzle, will not assure the same fill factor. The shutoff is a safety device not accurate measure. The shutoff happens when a back-pressure happens. Look at the end of a nozzle and you will see a small round or square tube - in the end of the tube is a very small hole (a flake of snow can cover it) and it changes by temp, barometric pressure, position of the nozzle and other factors. A better test is to use a test bucket found at most service companies and measure your product in and out.
    The price of ethanol most likely doesn't include taxes. So the gas and diesel you buy will have about a 40 to 60cents advantage per gallon. I know in Minnesota and South Dakota they deduct the State taxes and get a rebate from Federal Government. Those taxes are what is used to build and maintain roads.
    Also ethanol has the ability to bond a molecule of gas to the ethanol (and a molecule of water), so once you added E85 to a gas tank, you immediately mixed the product. So driving around to clear the tank of gas was unnecessary. Any gas left in the tank would be mixed with the E85. That is why 'gasoline antifreeze' works.
    Very good article, lots of truth to this. One other point is the increased maintenance to the engine. Also if you are pulling a load you may be greatly increasing the wear due to the reduced power. Power can be measured by heat or temperature and alcohol burns much lower than gas.
    But there are new products on the horizon, but we need the government to get out of the alcohol business. They are forcing use by laws based on greedy information and not on common sense nor real facts. Once they did that they increased the cost of all energy. That's why government needs to have a controlled input on use and quit forcing issues.
  • ocraocra Posts: 1
    I have a Flex Fuel Dodge Grand Caravan. You didn't have to do the test, just call me. I have found that E-85 has to be 23% less for me to break even with Regular Gas. I have 147,000 miles on my car and I have driven about 5000 miles using E-85.

    I am from Iowa and wanted to help the Ag Ecomony. The 30+ years experiment with Ethanol has failed. The Feds need to quick all subsidies and let it stand the test of the free market.
  • The government mandate is killing our older cars and small engines, and driving up the cost of food. I try to buy ethanol free when I can but thats getting harder and more expensive. Europe went for diesel and have cars getting way more than 50 mpg. we need to reset and stop the government mandate that making ethanol free harder to get. I believe in protecting the enviroment, but not at a cost to middle america who has to replace cars that tear up and fix lawn mowers. I believe in hybrids and electric, but also deisel and Gas. competition will help
  • The article doesn't state whether the gasoline tested is 10% ethanol which is standard at most pumps by Government mandate. I can purchase gasoline locally that does not contain ethanol. I use the ethanol free gasoline in my lawn equipment, boat and most recently my 2011 Hyundai Accent. I check my MPG in the Accent with every tank and have a 15% increase in fuel economy using the ethanol free gasoline compared to the gasoline with 10% ethanol. Also not considered in the comparison is that ethanol producers are subsidized by your tax dollars. The price payed at the pump is not the true cost of the fuel.
  • Of course the fuel economy is going to be less, E85 has fewer Btu per gallon. Approximately 124,000 Btu for pure gasoline vs a bit over 83,000 Btu for E85. That's approximately 33% few Btu, hence you can expect fuel economy to be about that much less as well.

    I've ran quite a bit of E85 in my Dodge Caravan and yes, the fuel economy was less. But here in north central Missouri, E85 was priced so that after I figured MPG vs fuel cost, it was almost exactly the same cost per mile. Like within a few hundreths of a cent per mile.

    This is nothing newsbreaking for anyone who is smart enough to research what they're doing. But then again, when I ask some people what kind of fuel economy they get with their new car, their answer is something like, "With my old car, I had to fill up every week while this car I can go a week and a half between fill ups." Of course when I ask them how big the fuel tank is, they have no idea whatsoever, meaning their new car may have a tank half again as big. Or twice as big.

    My old car had an 11 gallon tank and the Dodge pickup at work has a 37 gallon tank. My old car got about 3 times the gas mileage as the truck, but with the bigger tank the truck could go much farther on a tank full. Wee what I mean?
  • Ethanol E85 is another one of those wasteful Federal Subsidized support programs that we cannot no longer afford.
    Global warming destoying the environment is a hoax played on ignornant people with the goal of transferring wealth. Energy independence is best achieved by increasing oil production in the USA. Ethanol maybe renewable but it economically unsustainable without Government subsidies, handouts, and bailouts. Do Americans want more money going into a bottomless pit?? We will never achieve energy independence by making Ethanol. It would destroy the USA economy. Elimnate all the subsidies and let Ethanol production stand on its own.
  • E85 tends to resist pre-detonation better than gasoline. Also since in uses more fuel, the mixture stays cooler. This makes e85 more suited for turbocharged applications. I wonder if e85 vs Gas on some of Fords EcoBoost vehicles would yeild different results. Tuners swear by e85 because it allows them to run higher boost and get more power. Naturally aspirated applications typically wouldn't see much if any peformance boost versus forced induction.
  • I've used E85 for sometime and certainly understood all data that you've presented. No argument. However, having been raised in the midwest and being aware of what the farmers have had to deal with, it's time they've had a break! Next, if all internal combustion engines coming out were flex fuel there probably be more E85 available at stations. At least the car owner would have a choice to use it or not. There really is no extra cost to the vehicle. Last but not least, your data did not reveal the gas mpg while using E85. I believe it was 88.93 mpg while ethanol was 15.69 mpg. (15% gas, 85% ethanol)
  • sbooksbook Posts: 1
    I have been saying this for YEARS. Unlike in California where this article was written..... In Indiana, E-85 is readily available. However the findings in the article mirror what My experience is. 26% lower mileage on e-85. My 2000 s-10 seems to run better on it, my 2008 Impala has no significant performance difference, but in Both cases, the Mileage STINKS!
  • It would have been interesting to run the same test with non-ethanol gas. I've noticed a dramatic rise in mileage when I filled up w/o ethanol. One thing to consider is that not all gasoline has the same percentage of ethanol. Talking to a tanker driver he explained that he fills the tanker with pure gasoline at the distribution yard, the pulls up to another point and pumps in ethanol. Drive on down the road and it all mixes. Maybe. He said there is no real accurate control over the gas/ethanol ratios. I burned-up all four cylinders on my Nissan Sentra shortly after fueling up, and I believe this was ethanol induced. I have a friend who rebuilt a VW bus engine, got 200 miles before all the cylinder fried, tested the gas and it was 40% ethanol. All-in-all ethanol sucks!
  • Could you please help me understand how approximately 280 pounds of fuel can generate 700 pounds of carbon dioxide? I'm skptcl.
  • This test doesn't make a lot of sense. While I could definitely buy the lower economy of E85, I don't buy the lower performance.

    Either the test is BS (or there's some variable that's botched), or the engine wasn't far from being correctly tuned for E85. In all other tests I've seen, E85 increased the performance of the car. Not decreased it.

    Also, running into and against the wind to "average" your results isn't very accurate at all. It's assuming that the tail wind was identical to the frontal wind. That's highly unlikely.

    One more thing, a car tuned specifically for E85 (and not as a flex-fuel car) will generally get closer to within 2-3% of the economy of E10 because it can take advantage of the much higher compression, duration and timing available to a higher octane fuel. I would venture a guess that this flex-fuel Tahoe simply added fuel without increasing timing and since we don't know what year this Tahoe is, we don't know if it's capable of increasing duration. Simply throwing more fuel at the engine doesn't take advantage of the benefits of a fuel that has a more violent combustion and burns cooler and longer.
  • I find it hilarious that anyone, other than ethanol producers, are still promoting flex-fuel vehicles. Our experience indicates E-85 ethanol gas is at best a wash. If we can find E-85 (no small problem in itself), the price differential, even tho it's subsidized heavily, is negligible.

    Our small limousine fleet has Lincoln Flex-fuel sedans, our crucial issue is those vehicles typically get 15-25% poorer mpg versus regular unleaded gas. Since E-85 is only 15-20% cleaner, we seem to be treading water. If you factor in the additional costs involved in getting it to market, tanker truck or rail car, vs using pipelines, any reduction in carbon footprint is wiped out.

    Include the impact to consumers at the grocery check-out line and flex fuel has been a disaster for the American public.

    If I could dictate, I'd insist on more clean diesel & CNG vehicles from car manufacturers. With diesel you sacrifice no performance issues but double or triple fuel mileage. CNG of course is cleaner.
  • orvrorvr Posts: 1
    If ethanol is 103 octane plus shouldn't you have been using premium gasoline instead of regular when truly compairing cost per gallon/mile. And why pick a gas hog Tahoe over say a lighter Flex-Fuel vehicle. Yes if the vehicle had been optimized for E85 usage you bet the mileage would have been a whole lot better. Without being optimized the correct mix of ethanol and gasoline for this vehicle would have been 50/50 or E-50.

    All and all being said if one was compairing an apple to an apple instead of to an orange the outcome would be as thay say in Nevada a "push".
  • ldmffldmff Posts: 1
    I live in Nebraska and they have shut down 6 ethanol plants due to high corn prices and many in surrounding states also. It costs more to produce a gallon of ethanol than what you get out of it so therefore Big Gov has to subsidize the industry. It's incredible the amount of water it takes to produce this corrosive fuel thinner, it has to be trucked or railed because pipelines won't go near this stuff therefore making it more expensive to ship. Decades ago Europe embraced the diesel and found it to be more easy to modify to clean up the emissions. The CNG or CLNG is the next best bet but to modify the engines for it is quite expensive I've been told plus its going to take some time and money to setup a fueling network. I've read a few articles where they're trying to convert algae to fuel, algae can be produced in lakes or bogs at a very rapid rate but the conversion to fuel must be cost prohibitive still. Bottom line, ethanol is clearly a bad investment, and the use of corn only drives up livestock feed. I don't know why they can't use other vegetation such as switch grass or some menacing weed like Kudzoo. These are the facts that I've collected over the years, and my own personal experience I've tried ethanol and my pickup ran terrible and my lawnmower was hard to start, so I only use 87 Octane in my pickup and lawnmower now.
  • I'm surprised that Edmunds made a critical mistake in comparing E85 with gasoline. I thought it was common knowledge that ethanol is heavily subsidized by the federal government. That means you, the taxpayer, are paying much more than the price you pay at the pump. The Government's subsidy to the ethanol producers should be factored into the cost as well. I'm sure you would be shocked at the price one actually pays for a gallon of E85. It is not, so long as oil or natural gas is available, a truly viable source for renewable energy. It is sad that Edmunds did not choose to reveal the actual cost to the taxpayer for each gallon of E85. And taking corn away from the food industry hikes your food cost as well.
  • patjdellpatjdell Posts: 1
    Best part about this is the simple multiplication of 85% and 50 gallons of E85 means the E85 run used 42.5 gallons of gasoline, so using the E85 actually used MORE GASOLINE than using the regular gasoline did, 6 gallons or over 16% more gasoline used by using the diluted E85!!! Which also makes me seriously question the CO2 results that were published here unless the ethanol blend is simply producing a different by product to the combustion process that isn't being measured.
  • jharry3jharry3 Posts: 1
    Using Ethanol for fuel is a massive fraud on Americans. First off its enriching Cargill and ADM because the laws are tilted in favor of using corn as the base material. Secondly, as this article shows, the fuel milage is horrible compared to gasoline. Then, to top it all of, the entire reason for the switch is to reduce pollution - and it does not do that either. Burning more fuel puts more by-products of combustion into the air. Even if ethanol did really help air quality its production also adds more than subtracts because of the extra fuel needed to cultivate the corn. On top of all this sugar cane makes a much better feed stock for ethanol but the laws set up in favor of ADM/Cargill block this. Next up will be plentiful natural gas as a fuel - I can't wait to see the fiction dreamed up by the rainbow juice crowd against that as a fuel compared to subsidized, dirty, ethanol.
  • 69malibu69malibu Posts: 3
    These types of comparrisons are useless, except for propaganda or agenda purposes.
    Why? Because ethanol is most efficient when the engine has a 13.1;1 compression ratio. No Tahoe or any other vehicle has that. Most range from 8.2:1 to 10.0:1, depending on vehicle.
    The "yellow cap" program was a sham. The vehicles could have been tweeked to run E85 from the day they were bought, but GM, in all of its infinite wisdom, chose to wait 2 or 3 years, then send letters out prclaiming "dual fuel" capabilities.
    Also not apples-to-apples is the range. A tank of gasoline will take you farther than a tank of E85 because gasoline has more energy per drop than E85, meaning it takes a little more E85 to produce the same results.
    The government is in love with corn as a source of ethanol for purely political reasons. Corn is the WORST source, as it requires almost as much energy put in as comes out of a gallon of ethanol...because corn is a "wet" source. It has been demonstarted elsewhere in the world that other sources are far more efficient (sugar cane provides 80% of the E85 used in Brazil for the last 10+ years).
    Producing efficient E85 engines would take re-tooling the factories and re-training a "we-hate-change union labor force.
  • Do the test again, this time with Higher Mixed Alcohol instead of just ethanol. See www.biorootenergy.com to get a better look at what can not only replace ethanol, but gasoline as a whole in the transportaion sector.
  • bytor5bytor5 Posts: 1
    Would it be possible to give a nod to scientific fact when writing an article like this? In fact, it is to be expected that the fuel economy for alcohol is worse than for gasoline. That is because ethanol (a form of alcohol) has about 30% less energy content per gallon than gasoline. Therefore, it takes more ethanol to produce the same amount of work (miles driven) as compared to gasoline.

    The other points may be valid, but this sort of glaring omission really diminishes the credibility of the "test."
  • How can you get 706.5 lbs of CO2 out of 221.7 lbs of gasoline?
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