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
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
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.