Is This Gas? FlexFuel, E85 Ethanol, and BioFuel Explained

Friday, November 14, 2008 11:18

I recently noticed a 2009 Chevy Impala which had a “FlexFuel” designation on its trunk.  Underneath, in small letters, it said “E85 Ethanol.”  I asked the driver if he knew what that meant, and he said “No.”  I couldn’t believe it – he didn’t know the what the flex fuel designation meant on his own car!?!  It turns out there’s a whole new breed of FFV, or Flex Fuel Vehicles, out there on the market and many consumers don’t even know what they are.

First, let me explain what ethanol is.  Ethanol is known by several other names: ethyl alcohol, pure alcohol, grain alcohol, or drinking alcohol.  That’s right – it’s the heavy stuff we drink to get drunk.  But it can be used as a fuel or fuel additive.  The ironic truth is Henry Ford designed his first car, the Model T, to run completely on 100% ethyl alcohol way back in the early 1900s.  But today the U.S. gov’t doesn’t allow 100% pure ethanol as a fuel.

E85 Ethanol is a type of biofuel. In the U.S. it is mainly produced by distilling corn.  Not surprisingly, it’s more popular in the midwest where we have a lot of corn being grown.  According to Wiki, E85 is an “alcohol fuel mixture that typically contains a mixture of up to 85% denatured fuel ethanol and gasoline or other hydrocarbon (HC) by volume.”  There’s a lot of controversy around using E85 as a biofuel, since it may have an even bigger carbon footprint than traditional fuel.

E85 is a bit cheaper than gas; currently it’s about .20 to .30 cents less per gallon; of course, you’ve got to find a station which is selling it.  But there are plenty of cars on the market which will run on E85, and according to Chevy, they’ve been making FlexFuel cars which will run on biofuel for the past 8 years.

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Posted in category Alternative Fuel, Biofuel

11 Responses to “Is This Gas? FlexFuel, E85 Ethanol, and BioFuel Explained”

  1. Online Game says:

    November 14th, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    somehow that looks a bit like a space car.

  2. Don says:

    November 14th, 2008 at 3:13 pm

    Ethanol also contains less energy per gallon than gasoline, so using E85 will reduce your fuel economy by 20-30% – in light of this, the price difference should be bigger than $0.30 per gallon

  3. Andy says:

    November 14th, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    I don´t think that using Ethanol from food plants is a good idea. We will need this food to feed our children instead driving big cars.
    Indeed there is also here in Europe a discussion whether the net balance is good – many people have doubts
    Buy a smaller or more efficient car, drive less, use a bike – these are simple things to save money and the environment.

    Andy’s last blog post..Wordpress Theme “Black Puzzle” released

  4. FIFA Player Agent says:

    November 15th, 2008 at 7:29 pm

    It will be interesting to see if the rise of biofuels leads to increasing food prices. I’m worried that poorer countries will divert farming resources to producing fuel rather than food for their people.

  5. fasttraknews says:

    January 10th, 2009 at 12:49 am

    Well, I do hope that those consumers will be able to read your blog post. Hybrid buyers should be really educated regarding biofuels

    fasttraknews’s last blog post..Schumi Thankfully Backs Away from Dangerous Biking (WSB)

  6. turbonetics says:

    March 25th, 2009 at 8:54 pm

    Great article! Now I know the difference between FlexFuel, E85 Ethanol, and Biofuel. I hope more people can read this so they’ll be educated as well…

  7. Joe@motorcycle clothing says:

    April 19th, 2009 at 9:10 pm

    Funny how the driver didn’t know his car can take e85 ethanol. I think the future of green cars lies in hybrid and full electric cars rather than a bio fuel such as e85. Its ridiculous we’re not there yet…the technology is there but car makers have just been so slow in using it for production model cars.

  8. industrial castors says:

    May 31st, 2009 at 5:14 am

    It’s nice to know the discoveries of gas alternative which are environment will make a great help in conserving the world and make the our environment healthy.

  9. Mouli Cohen says:

    July 28th, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    Its an exciting time for people with an interest in future technology, but surprising that people refuse to pay attention to what is happening in front of them.

  10. Benn says:

    October 11th, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    Ethanol is just one of many cleaner burning, sometimes cheaper, better for the world alternative fuels. With the proper research and development, a world that depends less on oil and oil producing countries is a reality.

  11. May@ Toyota Lease Return Southern California says:

    June 2nd, 2011 at 5:08 pm

    I agree with SEO Sultan. Though this change may be a way of trying to find alternative means to fuel powered, hybrid, and electric vehicles, it still has its own pros and cons, everything does. You have to look at things in the long term and see how it can positively or negatively affect us and the world.