Ethanol E85 Cars

At least eight manufacturers offer flexible fuel vehicles that can use E85 ethanol, regular gasoline, or a mix of both. FFVs can operate on E85, a motor fuel that blends 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, which if widely used, could dramatically reduce the dependence on oil for fuel in the United States. Unfortunately, the number of gas stations that carry E85 is still small.

People are buying the cars thinking E85 is the coming thing and they want to be ready. More people will want E85 vehicles once there are more stations in the market.

Ethanol is a type of alcohol made from organic sources, such as corn and sugar cane. It is blended with gasoline to form E85, an alternative fuel that can be made in large part from renewable, domestic resources. General Motors, one of the big proponents of E85, says a barrel of oil is saved for every 37 gallons of E85 used. Ford says the 5 million FFVs already on the road, if fueled exclusively by E85, would cut petroleum use more than 10 million gas-electric hybrid Escapes would.

For the 2007 model year, flexible fuel vehicles will be available from General Motors, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, Mercedes Benz and Nissan, including large and small cars, SUVs and pickup trucks.

General Motors plans to build more than 400,000 FFVs, and Ford made a commitment of 250,000 cars a year. Although FFVs are more expensive than standard cars to manufacture, they are typically priced the same. A listing of all 31 FFV models can be found at

E85 is available only from service stations that have installed the necessary equipment. Putting E85 in cars not specially equipped to handle it can cause severe damage to the engine because of the alcohol content.

Right now there nearly 200 fuel stations across the country equipped to dispense E85.

Cars fueled by E85 don’t get better mileage because ethanol contains about two-thirds as much energy as gasoline, so the miles per gallon is less. You have to fill up more often using E85 than you would running on straight gasoline.

Because there’s less energy in E85, a vehicle may have slightly less horsepower than when it runs on gas. The car’s engines are tuned to run most efficiently on gasoline because chances are most people will use gas more often than E85 until it’s available at more fueling stations.

The fuel systems and engines in FFVs are specially equipped to hold ethanol, which is more corrosive and has different combustion characteristics than gasoline. A gas-powered vehicle might run for a brief time on E85 but would eventually suffer expensive damage.