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E85 Primer: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Ethanol-Based Fuels, But Were Afraid to Ask.

Published Aug 21st 2008, 2:33pm by Jody DeVere in Featured Articles

e85 logoHere is some fabulous news! I read recently on , that Los Angeles County has approved a ground-breaking facility that will revolutionize the Biofuel industry. They are going to be making their E85 out of grass clippings, wood chips, paper products, and cardboard... and not corn.

Flickrcomphotosquirky1197633484I have been pained watching the "powers that be" push corn down our throats as the best source of making ethanol. Anyone who has ever grown corn can attest to the fact that corn requires lots of pesticides, herbicides, and a ton of fertilizers to grow. AND you need to rotate the field every year because it leeches out all the minerals from the soil. I was picturing the next "1930's Dust Bowl" if corn became the replacement for gasoline.

What the heck is E85 anyways?
E85 is a special alternative fuel that is a blend of 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol. This special blend is used to power Flex-Fuel Vehicles. Depending on where in the United States you live, you may have trouble finding an E85 fueling station at this time, because there are only about 1500 in the USA.

E85station Most of them are located in the Central United States; there are none in Alaska, Hawaii, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, or Vermont; fewer than ten in each of the Western sates of Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming, and fewer than ten in each of the Eastern states of Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia. That's quite a long list! Want to find out if there is a station near you? Check out this guide to E85 stations across the United States. According to this site, "the number of stations offering E85 is expected to double in a little over a year as service stations are being offered incentives from Government and Ethanol Industry grants up to $30,000 to install E85 fuel pumps."

2007c hevy tahoe ltz flex fuel badge Flex Fuel Vehicles?
Okay, so there's not a lot of difference between a Flex-Fuel vehicle and a regular gasoline engine vehicle. Mechanically, the only difference is the addition of a fuel sensor that detects the ethanol/gasoline ratio and the various parts that must be upgraded to tolerate the ethanol, which is very corrosive. But there is enough difference that you don't want to be putting E85 into a regular gasoline engine. You really do need to be driving a Flex-Fuel vehicle to use E85 to power it down the road.

Making fuel out of ethanol is not a new idea. Henry Ford's first cars were made to run on ethanol, but gasoline was so plentiful and cheap that it became the fuel of the day.

Flex-Fueled vehicles running on E85 don't really get any better gas mileage then their gasoline counterparts, but the advantages to using E85 versus gasoline are HUGE!
* Ethanol burns cleaner and tests have shown reduction in those nasty harmful hydrocarbon and benzene emissions.
* E85 can help reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) -- that harmful greenhouse gas which is a major contributor to global warming (and causing Vermont rain all summer - which only lasts three months if we are lucky).
* Ethanol is totally renewable! It may be the hero of the day by helping to reduce our dependency on petroleum fuels.
* Manufacturing ethanol out of scraps will help clean up the environment while providing an alternative to straight gasoline-powered engines!
* The National average price of E85 in July 2008 was $3.28, 17.5% less than unleaded which was selling at $3.98. ( )
I am so glad to hear that we can manufacture ethanol out of scraps and help clean up the environment at the same time!

Would you be interested in filling your car's gas tank with E85 made out of grass clippings, wood chips, paper products and cardboard?


Amy_mattinatAmy Mattinat

Amy Mattinat is on the advising board of Her business, Auto Craftsmen Ltd., is an independent Import Dealership located in Montpelier, Vermont. Amy is passionate about creating Automotive Excellence within her business and feels that good communication is the essence of being able to explain, suggest and fix any problem her clients may have. She writes a monthly automotive column in Vermont Women Magazine, articles for AskPatty, and on her blog

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