E85 fuel is a fuel blend of ethanol and gasoline with varying percentages. This is good for the environment as it reduces toxic emissions by a great percentage; which is something Global Warming activists would greatly rejoice about but, before you go the fuel pump however, let’s see what the sensation is all about.
You’ve heard about going green initiatives happening across all spectrums. From plastic recycling/alternatives to planting trees and the energy sector as well has been looking for ways to lessen emissions going into the ozone layer.
E85, also known as flex-fuel is a biofuel from corn in the US and sugarcane in Brazil. The ethanol, 85% is mixed with gasoline, 15%. There are other ethanol percentage combinations used depending on the type of car, geography and seasons of the year.
E10 for example has 10% ethanol and 90% gasoline. The E stands for ethanol. E10 is used in most vehicles since most automakers approve 10% of ethanol on their gas vehicles and as stated by US Department of Energy, most of the gasoline sold ‘’contains up to 10% ethanol’’.
Let’s see what some benefits of the E85 are, as well as the drawbacks.
Benefits of E85
Environmental friendly. E85 releases less emissions of some of its components such as carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide into the environment because its raw materials come from corn. This is good because it relieves the ozone layer from having to absorb toxic fumes. Should a permanent solution be achieved such that all vehicles manufactured release reduced amounts of toxic emissions, then we can hold on to some hope that the threat global warning has will decrease.
Better alternative.E85 fuel provides a good alternative for fuel in the place of petroleum which one, is causing the environment great harm and two, has to be sourced out mainly from outside the continent making it a big expense to import.
Better knock resistant. E85 has a high octane rating compared with other fuel options rating at 105. Octane rating is quite simply the fuel’s power to withstand knock; knock is the knocking sound the engine makes which should tell you something is wrong. With the octane rating at 105, it means that E85 gives a lot of boost compared with other fuels and is especially favored among racers and speed adrenaline folks.
Added to this, it has great cooling properties which help in lowering the rate at which the engine detonates therefore improving power output. These two properties coming together greatly improve engine knock resistance providing that boost that every racer is looking for to take their speed driving experience to another level.
Price per gallon. The price per gallon is relatively low compared to other fuel blends.
Drawbacks of E85 fuel
As we now know, ethanol used in E85 fuel comes from corn in the US. This corn requires vast acres of land to grow and with ethanol looking like the next big thing in renewable energy, the demand is growing. To be able to cater to all those demands, then it means that more land has to be dedicated to corn farming alone.
Many have argued that this could potentially put the lives of all Americans in jeopardy. Why? If more and more people move away from growing domestic crops and switch to growing corn, the grocery store will be left with few sources to receive their produce from, leaving them no choice but to hike their prices in order to deal with economic changes.
Another drawback of the E85 is that inasmuch as it is a growing sensation, with many people moving to test the waters of this renewable energy source, demand is not being met. There are few E85 fuel pumps around the US compared to gasoline pumps, to meet this growing demand. However, this could change in a few years’ time with the current shift to renewable energy. Most of the E85 fuel pumps are currently located in the Midwest.
Expense per mile
One of the benefits highlighted above is the cheap price per gallon but while that would look attractive on paper, don’t let it fool you. E85 may be cheaper than gasoline but it is more expensive per mile, than gasoline. It burns more fuel for the same amount of gasoline.
So, even if the price is low on fuel it eventually costs you more than gasoline would, travelling the same distance. A great example givenhere by Robert Allison shows that it is about a penny per mile cheaper to use regular gas as opposed to the E85 fuel on his 2007 Chevrolet Suburban vehicle.
Ethanol is a miscible liquid and as such it attracts water moisture. Water is an issue since it brings about rust which could in turn lead to breakage over a certain period of time. If left in the tank for too long e85 could attract water moisture and eventually lead to engine failure. If you are going to leave your car parked for a long period of time, it is advised that one drains out all the e85 fuel and cleanse with gasoline.
Make sure you check whether your vehicle is a Flex-Fuel Vehicle before going to fuel at the pump. Flex-Fuel Vehicles are designed to accommodate a combination of ethanol and gasoline. Use of E85 on a conventional vehicle could end your engines life, quite literally.
While some people have opted to transform conventional gasoline engines to using E85, which technically is possible, it is illegal to do so not unless certified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. This conversion could also see you violate your car’s warranty.
Does E85 give you more power?
The answer to this is yes, it does. Due to E85’s high ranking octane at 105, it gives more boost compared to other fuels. How this works is that it for one has a higher latent heat of evaporation than gasoline. This means that it contracts and cools the intake of air better than gasoline. So, the amount of air it takes in directly affects the power produced.
E85 gives more torque since it burns faster than gasoline and it has better knock resistant due to its cooling properties and high octane rating which increases compression ratio, charge pressure and the ignition advancement all dependent on your engine type. All these factors help in increasing torque and power.
What is the lifespan of E85?
While the exact lifespan of e85 is not clear, people driving Flex-fuel vehicles have not been quiet about their experiences. One such person is Roadrunr, not his real name, who decided to drain out the fuel in his car after it had sat in the tank for nine months. The color of the e85 nine months prior was clear and when he drained it, it was yellow in color. It looked different but not much else had changed.
As we know, ethanol is hygroscopic meaning that it has a tendency to attract a lot of water moisture. It could be the reason for the coloring as some have said, but we tend to disagree because water left in such an atmosphere for nine months would have resulted in rusting or some sign of it but there was none. And the fuel was free from any particles or anything that would otherwise suggest ‘expired’ fuel.
What do we think? We think that the color change could have something to do with additives found in the fuel.
Storing E85 fuel
For good storing of the E85 fuel, we advise keeping it tightly sealed so as not to expose it to the environment as it will attract the water vapor.
If you can avoid it then try using your car regularly to avoid having the fuel sit in your tank for too long. If you have to leave your car in the garage for a long time, then we advise draining the tank completely and leaving no traces of the e85fuel and if you’ll be leaving your car for say a month, then fill your tank completely leaving no room for any air to get in. E85 that is left in the fuel system too long can cause corrosion which will result in replacing the damaged components. This will set you back a couple of dollars to get the problem fix.
So is E85 good or bad? Well, while we need to consider the severe environmental effects that petroleum products are having on the environment, we’d like to conclude by saying that more research still needs to be conducted to find a permanent solution that doesn’t involve endangering the survival of human kind.
Some of the drawbacks highlighted here are significant enough not be ignored but to try and find solutions for better renewable energy. Going green needs to be in favor of mankind and not vice versa. The land issue needs to be considered carefully.
We do hope that this article has helped get a better sense of what E85 fuel is and what it’s all about. For information however, here’s a link to keep you informed:
Steven Reilly is a qualified mechanic and his passion for cars goes beyond just the technical aspects. He is also an amateur racer and all round car enthusiast. When he is not driving them, he can often be found in his garage under the hood of a rare model. Steven Reilly has lost track of the number of hours he has spent setting up his fine collection of rebuilt models. He believes that cars can provide a constructive and fun opportunity to teach the youth important life skills. In line with this, he is developing a community outreach program, potentially dubbed ‘Cars for change’.