Wherefore art thou, Ethanol?

So I bought a new car at the end of last year, one that promises it can also run on an alternative fule: E85.

Never having seen E85 offered, I pretty much forgot about the whole deal until this week when I got a letter saying there was a recall going on for some aspect of the car’s ability to use E85 fuel.

I’ll admit I’m curious, even if it takes me six months to get there, so I went online to try to find a way to access this ALTERNATIVE FUEL my car maker has so graciously made usable to me (once recall repairs are made).

Well hold onto your hats, kids – Do you know how many E85 stations there are in our fair state? EXACTLY ONE. (three if you count the private ones).

ONE??? And it’s in San Diego???

I found another site that counts three private ones and promises a public one opening in Brentwood on June 21st. I’d rather eat my own eye than drive to Brentwood for anything, so it’s not looking good that I’ll drive 20 miles each way for E85.

And in case you’re wondering, 33 of the states have fewer than 10 E85 stations. Minnesota has between 300 and 400 though. Go figure.

2 Replies to “Wherefore art thou, Ethanol?”

  1. We bought (regular) gas at a station selling E85 on a cross-country trip last year. It was impressive because it was selling for half the price of regular gas.

    Until I researched it and found you get half the mileage.

    So you’ll save petroleum, but not money. And there are predictions that the diminished supply for feed will result in higher meat prices.

    The more alternatives, the better; but there are dark linings in every silver cloud.

  2. Yup E85 is scarce around here, back east its a big deal. There are several good articles out there, car and driver does the best on exposing the e85 myths.
    Short is that unless you are getting e85 for more than 1/3 the cost of gas you are losing money on a cost per mile basis. The 2008 EPA mileage guides will reflect not only more accurate estimates, but include the ethanol potential. Scary but beasts like a Chev Tahoe with an epa 15mpg city drops to 10mpg city on ethanol.
    Potential to clean up the air is a better selling point as you will be using a lot more gallons of that vs gasoline.
    There are also driveability issues. More so for the cold states than us. Ethanol attracts water which can cause freeze up problems in below freezing weather for the fuel lines. Ethanol takes much more warmth to vaporise which causes cold start problems. Alleviated to a degree with tank heaters and fortunately not an issue for us.
    The only hazard out there we haven’t seen explained is the aldehyde issue. Burning alcohols like ethanol and methanol in an internal combustion engine releases a lot of those buggers. Why worry? Aldehydes when exposed to sunlight, heat become formaldehydes which are known carcinogens. Personally, I think this needs to be looked at very closely before we make the big jump to e85 or ethanol as I shudder to think what some 5 million cars running on that here could do to the environment.

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