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Frequently Asked Questions

What is fuel ethanol

Ethanol is currently blended into half of the nation's gasoline in nearly every state in the country. Ethanol, otherwise known as ethyl alcohol, alcohol, grain-spirit, or neutral spirit, is a clear, colorless and flammable oxygenated fuel. Ethanol is used to increase octane and improve the emissions quality of gasoline as required by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 for carbon monoxide and ozone nonattainment areas. Thus, in areas of the country where clean air standards are not met, which include many metropolitan areas around the country, ethanol is mixed into conventional gasoline. You may see a sign on your gas pump- This fuel contains ethanol, or a percentage ethanol may be noted. It is blended with gasoline to extend fuel supplies at volume levels of 5.7 volume percent, 7.7 volume percent or 10 volume percent, in reformulated gasoline or conventional gasoline. Ethanol burns cleaner than gasoline, and reduces a number of priority pollutants, including carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and hydrocarbons. It is considered carbon dioxide neutral, since, though carbon dioxide is produced when ethanol burns, the plants used to make ethanol use carbon dioxide during photosynthesis. Some studies show a very slight increase in aldehydes from ethanol combustion.

Ethanol is also considered an alternative fuel when used in an 85% blend (E85) to meet goals outlined in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. E85 uses ethanol blended at 85% in the summer time, but uses a slightly lower 70% in the winter. E85 can be used in numerous vehicles currently on the road, called Flexible Fuel Vehicles, or FFVs for short. The major automobile manufacturers produce numerous models of FFVs; you may even own one. Many retailers become interested in E85 when they see the many FFVs coming into their stations, and seek to bring in E85 to serve these customers. You can tell by looking in the fuel door of the vehicle, where a small sticker may state: This vehicle runs on E85 or gasoline. To check your vehicle's VIN number, click here. You can switch between E85 and gasoline in your FFV with no problem. These fuel formulations are approved by all automakers and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Will Ethanol perform well in my customers vehicles and is it covered under their automobile warranty

All automobile manufacturers approve the use of ethanol/gasoline blends. Approval of ethanol blends is found in the owners manual under references to refueling or gasoline. General Motors Corporation states in its owners manual they recommend the use of fuel oxygenates, such as ethanol, when and where available. Fuel ethanol blends are sold in nearly every state and can be found in 46% of the nations gasoline. Fuel ethanol blended gasoline has achieved nearly 100% market share of all gasoline sold in certain carbon monoxide (oxygenated gasoline) and ozone nonattainment areas (reformulated gasoline, RFG). Minnesota has adopted a statewide oxygenated fuel program that has resulted in ethanol being blended in over 95% of the States gasoline. Therefore, fuel ethanol is successfully used in all types of vehicles and engines that require gasoline.

Is ethanol-blended fuel bad for fuel injectors

Ethanol or ethanol-blends have never contributed to burning or fouling of port fuel injectors. Some components in gasoline, such as olefins, have been identified as causing deposits that can foul injectors. But since ethanol burns 100% and leaves no residue, it cannot contribute to the formation of deposits. Ethanol blends actually keeps fuel injectors cleaner helping improve engine performance. It does not increase corrosion, nor will it harm any seals or valves.

Will ethanol-blended fuel cause vapor lock

Vapor pressure specifications of gasoline continue to be lowered by state and federal statute, virtually eliminating the vapor lock problems that were reported in the past. Additionally, all major auto manufacturers now have in-tank fuel pumps, which are not subject to vapor lock like the older in-line fuel pumps.

Will ethanol blends make engines run hotter

Ethanol actually helps keep your engine cooler, since the ethanol in the fuel combusts at a lower temperature. In fact, many high-powered racing engines use pure alcohol for that very reason.

How is ethanol different than gasoline

Ethanol is an alcohol based fuel, which is distilled from natural materials such as corn, sugar cane, or other plants, and is considered a renewable fuel, since farmers can grow more of the materials needed to make it. Gasoline is refined from petroleum, which is a finite resource that takes millions of years to form. Considered in its most basic form, petroleum is rock oil. Many other types of oils have been used as mankinds fuel, and have been depleted to the point of non-sustainability; whale oil is an example of a once prominent fuel oil that is no longer used as a fuel.

Ethanol has a lower energy content than gasoline, so fuel economy is less when using E85. This drop may be between 10 to 30 percent, dependent on the vehicle model. Good driving habits (smooth acceleration, avoiding jack-rabbit starting) and proper tire inflation may be used to address some of this decrease. However, E85 has a much higher octane than even super premium gasoline, at 100-105, which improves vehicle performance.

Ethanol is produced in the United States, from domestically grown crops, and its use helps the farm economy. Buying a domestic fuel keeps transportation fuel dollars in the United States, instead of exporting funds to foreign countries that may or may not be friendly to the United States.

What is E85

E85 is a mixture of 85% ethanol, and 15% gasoline. It is an alcohol-based fuel that can run in millions of existing vehicles that are on the road, right now. With E85 at your station, you can help fuel them. Standard model vehicles that can run on either E85 or gasoline are called flexible fuel vehicles. These vehicles do not have to run solely on E85; they can go back and forth between E85 and gasoline with no problem. They are made by the major auto manufacturers, including General Motors, Daimler Chrysler, Ford, and Nissan. There are currently more than 6 million of these vehicles on the road, and you, a friend or relative, and certainly a portion of your existing customers, may have an FFV. In fact, many retailers become interested in E85 when they see the many FFVs coming in to their stations, and become aware of the opportunity to fill customers needs for the fuel. Since it is domestically produced, green, clean burning fuel which helps us use less foreign oil, now is the perfect time to present it to customers.

History of E85 and Flexible Fuel Vehicles

E85 is a leading gasoline alternative in the U.S. and in other countries, especially Brazil, where it is found at nearly every gas station. E85 is now found at about 1,300 stations around the U.S. When E85 is not available, flexible fuel vehicles operate on any blend of ethanol or gasoline. E85 has fewer tailpipe and evaporative emissions, and decreases air pollution. Made from crops grown by American farmers, it is renewable, since more crops are grown each year to produce the ethanol portion. There is no incremental cost for an FFV, which has slightly different fuel lines, fuel sensor, and fuel tank than a standard vehicle. An FFV looks and performs exactly like a standard model. For some models, every vehicle produced for that product line is an FFV.

More and more FFVs are being produced every year, and the car companies have told the President they would like to make even more, if there were more fueling stations. Originally, FFVs were first produced in 1998, when the Alternative Motor Fuels Act created fuel economy credits, also called CAFE credits, for automakers to produce FFVs, and also created programs for research, development, and demonstration projects related to their use. This legislation intended to spur increases in the use of innovative fuels, plus improve emissions from vehicles over time. Now the demonstration period is well over, E85 and FFVs are used around the country, and projections show that there could be nearly 30 million FFVs by 2015.

The number of E85 stations has nearly doubled since late 2005. With the increase in the price of oil, E85 has proved a less expensive and dependable alternative. It is a liquid fuel, and is stored in regular fuel storage tanks such as you already have at your station. E85 has safety practices similar to gasoline, and is dispensed in a similar manner. The government created a very large incentive for ethanol production with the 2005 Renewable Fuel Standard, which calls for increasing amounts of ethanol and other renewable fuels to be blended into the nations fuel supply. Though much of the ethanol may go into standard gasoline as a clean air oxygenate, this has created many more opportunities for E85 sales, and made ethanol more available in the Northeast, where it is stored in large distribution terminals.

E85 has a lower energy content than gasoline, because it is an alcohol, with a lower BTU content. So you will see a mileage drop when you use the fuel, which varies from vehicle to vehicle, but can be from 11 to 30 percent. For this reason, E85 is priced lower than gasoline, to make up for the decrease in fuel economy. For example, in October 2007 in Albany, New York, regular gasoline was $3.03 per gallon, while E85 was $1.99. This pricing attracts customers, and more than makes up for the loss in mileage. When you consider all the other benefits, you begin to realize why there is so much talk about E85, and why it is so popular in areas where ethanol is produced. Ethanol production is planned for the Northeast area too, with the first operational plants located in New York State, with more to follow.

Other than lower gas mileage, motorists will see little difference when using E85 versus gasoline. For more information on ethanol's energy content, see the E85 Fuel Properties section. Use the FFV Cost Calculator to quantify the effect of E85's lower energy content on FFV fuel economy and fuel costs.