Glass of ethanol fuel on black background

5 Myths About E85 Fuel – Debunked

E85 has grown in popularity over the last decade as an alternative fuel source for flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs). Made of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, this high-octane blend has distinct advantages and disadvantages compared to traditional gasoline.

However, there are also many misconceptions floating around about E85 that deserve clarification. This article debunks 5 of the most common myths to help drivers understand the real impacts of choosing E85 fuel.

Myth #1: E85 Damages Vehicle Engines

Key Takeaways
E85 is safe for flex fuel vehicles made after 2001
E85 gas mileage is 25-30% lower than gasoline
Over 4,000 E85 fueling stations now exist nationally
E85 typically has lower fuel cost per gallon than gasoline
Evidence shows modest reductions in emissions with E85

FALSE. This myth has persisted because in the early days of ethanol fuel some blends resulted in corrosion issues. Modern E85 fuel is specially formulated to prevent corrosion problems.

All vehicles produced after 2001 have upgraded seals, gaskets, lines and hoses that can safely handle E85 with no degradation over time. As long as your car is designated as “flex-fuel“, using E85 will not damage the engine.

In fact, E85’s higher 105-110 octane rating makes it less prone to pre-ignition and knocking. This makes it a popular choice for boosting performance in modified engines designed to take advantage of higher octane fuels.

Myth #2: E85 Fuel Economy is Terrible

E85 race fuel

This one is TRUE, at least compared to gasoline. E85 has less energy per gallon because ethanol itself contains only about 70% as much energy compared to traditional hydrocarbon fuels.

You can expect 25-30% fewer miles per gallon using E85 – the exact reduction depends on your driving style and habits. However, E85 prices at the pump are also typically lower to offset the fuel economy difference.

Whether E85 offers any fuel cost savings over gasoline depends on the spread between pricing. Check in your area to see current rates. With a big enough price advantage per gallon, the added efficiency of gasoline gets negated.

Myth #3: You Must Modify Your Car to Run E85

This myth is HALF TRUE. The majority of vehicles produced after 2001 were designed as flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) that can safely utilize E85 with no modifications required.

However, it’s important to double check your owner’s manual or the fuel door sticker to confirm E85 compatibility – don’t just assume your car can handle it. If your vehicle is older than 2001, aftermarket modifications may be needed to properly handle the ethanol corrosion and fuel system demands.

Overall, it’s easier than ever today to find cars that work with E85 from the factory floor – no custom mods required. Just confirm compatibility before filling up.

Myth #4: E85 Fueling Stations Are Too Rare to Find

The expanding E85 infrastructure is making this myth increasingly FALSE. While not as ubiquitous nationally as traditional gasoline, there are now over 4,000 E85 fueling stations across the United States with the highest concentration in the Midwest corn-growing states.

Apps like FlexFuel make locating E85 pumps even simpler. Drivers can even submit new station information to continually improve availability mapping.

As ethanol production technology improves and more FFVs hit the roads, nationwide infrastructure coverage will only grow. Major fuel providers are on board to meet demand.

Myth #5: E85 is Not Environmentally Friendly

It’s complicated, but this myth is deemed MOSTLY FALSE. Setting aside land use change impacts, the majority of research shows that E85 can modestly reduce lifecycle GHG emissions compared to gasoline – especially when produced from corn waste materials instead of crops.

However, the real-world impacts depend greatly on evolving ethanol production methods and technology. As scientists find innovative ways to boost efficiency and cut carbon, ethanol’s environmental benefits over gasoline at the tailpipe will likely become clearer over time.

In summary – don’t believe everything you hear about E85 at the local gas station. Despite some downsides, this alternative ethanol blend is a viable option for saving money while combating oil dependence and benefiting the environment – with advantages likely to grow going forward.

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