With a continually increasing demand for fossil fuels, automakers and consumers are slowly shifting to other alternative sources of fuel, such as Ethanol, hydrogen cells, and natural gas. This article aims to provide insight into what is e85 gas and whether it is a regular gas.
Approximately, the price of e85 gas is 30% less than that of gasoline, and many motorists prefer it, especially in Brazil. In the United States, regardless of few cars owners with FFVs, e85 gas is quickly gaining favor. If you own or choose to own an e85 ethanol flex-fuel vehicle (FFV), there are some cool points you will be pleased to know as well as compromises you will have to make in your driving habits. So, what is e85 gas?
What is e85 gasoline?
E85 gasoline, also known as flex fuel, refers to a fuel blend that holds up to 85% of ethanol and 15% of gas, thus giving us the e85 derivative. Ethanol is a bio-fuel obtained from biomass sources such as ‘starchy’ wastes, grains, and corn crops in the U.S. and wheat, sorbent, and sugarcane in Australia and Brazil. This natural, non-toxic alcohol burns cleanly, reducing greenhouse emissions by about 59%. Ethanol is manufactured in rural farming areas across America.
Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) are cars designed to specifically run on a particular blend of Ethanol and unleaded gasoline. While most fuels contain some percentage of ethanol in them, only flexible fuel vehicles can run on the e85 blend.
Does it operate like regular gas?
E85 fuel is a high-performance fuel with a higher octane rating than regular gas. When referring to octane ratings, we refer to the volatility in gasoline. High octane ratings represent least volatile gas, and best suited for performance gas-engines, requiring high compression ratios when the engine converts fuel into movement.
Ethanol’s high octane rating enables it to run with more boost and a higher compression ratio, while still maintaining immunity from detonation. Furthermore, cars that run on e85 gas produce fewer emissions than those using regular gas.
Regular gasoline has an octane rating ranging between 87%-94% and is more costly as compared to e85 gas. It is manufactured from fossil fuels as well as some detergents and additives to increase performance. Consequently, e85 gas is not regular gas, since it is from ethanol and gasoline blends.
E85 vs. Gasoline
When filling up your vehicle at a gas station, you may be wondering whether you are using the best fuel for your engine. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, there are more than 10.6 million flex-fuel vehicles, with many owners not realizing their engines can run on e85 gas. Using e85 gas has its advantages and disadvantages. Some of them include:
Pros of ethanol in gas
- Made from renewable organic sources
E85 gas contains 85% of ethanol and 15% of gasoline. Ethanol is a renewable source of energy that is harvested in rural farms all across America, mainly from corn. With an unlimited supply of corn, we can manufacture American-made fuel that is better for your engine’s condition than gasoline.
Regular gas is from fossil fuels, whose consumption has increased in the last 200 years, leading to depleted fossil fuel reserves. With the increased need for fuel, relying only on fossil fuels to produce gasoline could put the world’s fuel economy at risk.
- Environmentally friendly
E85 gas burns cleaner than regular gasoline, emitting no carbon dioxide into the air. The high amount of oxygen in its chemical structure allows it to burn pretty cleanly, thus reducing the emission of greenhouse gases like nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide. Carbon dioxide is one of the significant causes of climate change and global warming.
- Cheaper than regular gas
The cost of e85 gas in miles per gallon is less expensive than that of gasoline due to the lower energy content per unit volume in the ethanol in e85 gas. In turn, it may require increased fuel flow in flex-fuel engines. Luckily, e85 gas is a lot cheaper than standard gasoline.
Cons of ethanol in gas
- Not suitable for all car models
When used in incompatible engines, such as those of vehicles made before 2008, e85 gasoline may corrode the fuel-system components, rubber, magnesium, and aluminum. For e85 gas to run efficiently in older engines, it is vital to tune it up and replace fuel hoses, fuel pumps, seals, gaskets, throttle bodies, fuel injectors, and fuel filters, among many others.
Some recent car models can run with ethanol gas in their engines up to a certain point and flex fuel vehicle are made to run with any ethanol-gasoline blend up to e85 gasoline. Consult your owner’s manual or vehicle’s warranty to clarify if your vehicle can efficiently run on ethanol blends.
- Increased fuel consumption
Regular gasoline produces more energy than ethanol blends. The engine of a typical vehicle burns 20%-30% more e85 gas than it would regular gas. Vehicles using e85 gas are bound to increase fuel flow, thus a higher fuel economy for FFV owners. More so, flex fuel stations are fewer than regular gas stations. In case of an emergency, it is likely that if your FFV runs out of gas, the next flex fuel station could be miles away from you.
E85 vs. race gas dyno
As race car enthusiasts and drivers, there are many reasons why race car fans and drivers are confused between e85 and race gas dyno. Whether it is because of the prices, better engine performance or simply, for the conservation of the environment, the list is endless. However, more professional race car drivers are choosing to use high octane rating fuel. In 2011, American Ethanol and NASCAR partnered up to promote the use of their E15 gas. The 98 octane fuel blend was used in three of NASCAR’s national series; whereby NASCAR achieved 7 million miles of racing using the mixture by March 2015. So, why are more and more race car drivers using high octane rating gas?
Does race gas make more power than E85 gas?
Race gas has high octane rating level that is ideal for racing cars. It provides excellent resistance to detonation in their internal combustion engines. The higher the octane rating, the more the boost/ or timing run on a racing vehicle. Race gas adds power to any engine, unlike E85 gas, which is only suitable for flex-fuel cars.
Race gas is more expensive than pump gas as it ultimately gives more power that is ideal for the track. However, what about when your racing vehicle is no longer on the racing track? Is it worth the extra dollars to buy race gas? Luckily, there is a pump gas that provides high-octane levels and costs even less than regular gas; E85 gas.
E85 gas has 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, meaning car owners will have to substantially tune their engines to fit the varying blends of E85 gas. According to the US governing body (regulation ASTM 5798), ethanol content in E85 gas can vary from as low as 51% to 83%. Despite E85 low costs, consumers have to use a substantially increased amount of the gas to reach the same fuel/air mixture needed for complete combustion as compared to standard race gas. As a result, there is a reduction in fuel mileage, and it can also destroy fuel systems not designed for ethanol-based fuels.
What happens if you put e85 in your car by mistake?
Flex-fuel vehicles can easily switch between e85 gas and regular gas, without any engine complications. However, if you fill up your non-FFV with e85 gas, some issues are bound to occur, if there is no immediate action. You can quickly fix it by filling up the rest of your tank with regular gas and riding it out. Misfueling a vehicle with e85 for the first time should not cause any long-term damage. However, if you have filled up your tank with the fuel, you will have to pump it out completely and replace it.
- Fuel components degradation
Non-FFVs do not have the proper fuel system components to handle ethanol burning in their engines. As a result, their fuel systems may deteriorate due to ethanol’s corrosive nature. Repairing and replacing your vehicle’s fuel intake components may cost you even more than your car’s overall value. You may also opt to tune up your non-FFV to enable it to use e85 gas,
which is also an expensive option.
- Damages seals and gaskets
Older vehicle models consist of rubber and plastic parts, which ethanol can easily destroy. Similarly, regardless of modern vehicles having ethanol-compatible fuel systems, storing ethanol for a long time may lead to the growth of acidic bacteria in the alcohol mixture, accelerating damage to the delicate gaskets and seals.
For car owners storing vehicles with ethanol fuel in the tank, it is advisable to add fuel stabilizer designed explicitly for the ethanol blend in your tank, to prevent acidification of and bacteria growth in the fuel.
- Severe engine failure and damage
Ethanol absorbs water, especially in cold weather, and breaks down much faster than gasoline. In small engines, or if you have little fuel in your gas tank, the ethanol absorbs water, and water in your tank causes the vehicle to stall. Water in the fuel also leads to the formation of rust in the interior surfaces of your engine, leading to a clogged fuel filter and damage to your pistons, seals, and rings, among many other engine components.
Ethanol blends also decrease the life span of engines and their components. Whether it is through the formation of rust or quick deterioration of engine components, such fuel makes non-FFV engines age faster. Ethanol is also highly susceptible to pre-ignition, thus, causing poor fuel economy, ‘pinging’ or ‘spark’ sounds in your engine, slow acceleration, and backfiring, among many other mechanical issues.
E85 vs. 91 at 20psi: Which is more efficient?
For those who are not car enthusiasts, pounds per square inch denoted as PSI refers to the pressure contained in a vacuum system, such as engine compression levels or car tire inflation. You will find the recommended PSI range for your specific vehicle in your owner’s manual. Non-adherence to the recommended PSI range results in the poor performance of your vehicle, as your tires may wear out and you may experience reduced fuel efficiency. Now, let us look at what happens when you use e85 vs. 91 at 20psi.
E85 gas, also known as flex fuel, is an ethanol blend that consists of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. With this gas, only flex-fuel vehicles can safely use it and comfortably switch between refueling with regular gas and e85 gas. Modern cars, those manufactured after 2008, can also use ethanol blends, but they need a fuel system tune-up to protect its fuel system components and engine from corroding. Older vehicles, even when tuned up, experience difficulty when using e85 gas due to its corrosive nature.
In the U.S., unleaded gasoline consists of different variations of octane rating; 87 (regular gas), 88-90 (midgrade gas), 91-94 (premium gas), and 93 (super premium). 91 gas, also referred to as premium gas, contains a higher octane rating than regular gasoline and e85 gas, meaning it burns more efficiently in the engine’s combustion chamber. Any vehicle model can use 91 gas. In most cases, using gas with a higher octane rating does not offer your vehicle any additional benefit.
What is an octane rating?
Octane ratings tell us the amount of air-fuel mixture that needs to compress before it spontaneously ignites. Gasoline with high octane ratings performs best when used in vehicles specifically designed to operate on that particular octane level. Lower octane gas, like that of regular gas, handles the least amount of compression before it ignites.
The ratio of compression in your engine determines the rate of octane level your vehicle is most comfortable with. For instance, you cannot put e85 gas in a non-flex fuel vehicle, since such a vehicle was not designed to run on such fuel.
Octane prevents the air-fuel mixture in your engine form igniting before the spark plug ignites it. By doing this, your engine performs at its best. When refiners add ethanol to gasoline, it is partly to boost the octane level of the gas. Ethanol-free gas has other additives that work similarly to ethanol in ethanol blends.
Is e85 gas cheaper than 91?
Generally, e85 gas is cheaper than regular and premium gasoline. Due to its easy process of manufacture and renewable nature, ethanol blend fuel stations are becoming more popular all over the U.S. However; cheaper does not always mean affordable. E85 gas has lower energy content, meaning you may end up paying more in the long run.
According to mechanics at Edmunds, e85 gas completes fewer miles per gallon as compared to a vehicle that uses regular gas. As a result, you may find yourself spending more money on refilling e85 gas; hence, more expensive in the long run. However, renewable gas burns cleaner than 91; thus, it is more eco-friendly since it has fewer toxic gas emissions.
Premium gas is usually the most expensive gasoline you can buy at a gas station, costing about 50 cents per gallon. Despite its higher price tag, it does not promise better engine performance, fuel economy, or better emissions control. The gas is expensive, mainly because of the additives in it, which cost a lot in production. Many professionals agree that buying more octane than your vehicle requires is a complete waste of resources.
What is the shelf life of e85?
E85 gas has a maximum shelf life of one year. Compared to gasoline, ethanol blends have a more stable chemical structure, if stored in proper conditions. At room temperature, it does not decompose or oxidize, unlike gas, which will readily oxidize.
However, if you fill your stored vehicle with e85 gas, you have to ensure it is neither too hot nor too cold. Ethanol quickly absorbs water, whereby in low temperatures, the mixture of water and ethanol forms an acidic blend that corrodes your fuel tank as well as other components.
On the other hand, once the ethanol absorbs a substantial amount of water, it separates itself and settles at the bottom of the fuel tank, thus causing your vehicle to stall, if you do not remove and replace such fuel.
Proper storage of e85 gas involves consistently maintaining the room temperature and storing it in a fully sealed, dark container. It is best to fill up the storage container to minimize the chances of oxygen reacting with the gas. Similarly, you may also opt to add ethanol blend additives to fresh e85 gas, such as K100, to eliminate the water, stabilize the fuel, and clean fuel system components as well as your engine.
Signs that your e85 Gas has gone bad?
Vehicles move from one place to another as a result of a complex combustion process, which heavily relies on high-quality gas vapors delivered to the engine’s combustion chamber. However, if the fuel does not decompose properly to release its fumes, the ignition process is interrupted, causing the vehicle not to start up properly and poor engine performance.
When a vehicle is in storage, e85 gas goes bad when it mixes with oxygen during humid conditions and hot temperatures. E85 gas is a mixture of various chemical substances, each with their unique characteristics.
Over a long duration of inactivity, some of these chemical substances decompose or evaporate due to certain environmental factors, causing the gas to go bad. Ethanol is also known to be hydrophilic, meaning it attracts water. Water in your fuel tank and the engine is hazardous, as it increases the volatility of the gas and increases the chances of rust formation and corrosion.
Stale gas is easily noticeable because of several factors. From color change to odors to texture to stratification, the signs are endless. Pour some of your stored e85 gas into a container and compare it to its fresh equivalent. Fresh e85 gas is clear in color. Oxidized gas changes to a darker color and has a strong sour smell.
You may also notice phase separation, whereby the alcohol (ethanol) separates from the gas. You can even notice stale gas in your vehicle when it experiences difficulty in starting up or stutters, produces ‘pinging’ sounds, stalls, and roughly idles.
How to restore your old e85 gas
If not stored properly, all fuel has a limited storage life. Due to various environmental factors, chemical reactions in the fuel will degrade its quality and performance. When it comes to dealing with old e85 gas, many car owners ask themselves whether it is possible to restore it.
Many at times, it is not likely for the restoration of old gas, simply because you cannot reverse chemical reactions. It is advisable to add fuel stabilizer though, but only to prevent further gas degradation from occurring.
However, if you find your e85 gas has not undergone phase separation but is darker in color, you may add fuel stabilizer with a high level of detergency. As a result, as the old e85 gas is burning in your engine, specific components, which do not fully combust, form, leaving deposits in the engine’s combustion chamber. Adding this additive removes such elements as they are formed, ensuring optimum engine performance.
Although the discussions about e85 gas vs. regular gasoline are endless, it is clear that ethanol is receiving favor with many in powerful positions. There are more ethanol refining plants, and ethanol is well on its way to becoming the first alternative source of fuel with extensive public use. However, it is advisable to consider what is e85 gas carefully, and if your vehicle is ethanol compatible, to avoid engine explosions and severe accidents.
What cars run on E85 gas?
Many cars have started embracing the use of E85 for their cars due to the high costs and availability of gasoline. In the market, the most friendly E85 gas users is General Motors. You will notice most of the GM vehicles that use the gas have badges with the word “Flex fuel” on them.
This means you can switch from gasoline to ethanol without it significantly affecting your engine. Other automakers that have joined the fray of ethanol gas will include Chrysler, Ford, Toyota, Isuzu, Mercedes and Mazda. The biggest challenge with e85 is that it is not as widely available as gasoline. You have to first grow the corn to produce the ethanol. This whole process is time-consuming.
What happens when you mix gasoline and e85?
Firstly, realize that e85 has contains some level of gasoline – in this instance 15%. The thing your car will operate normally even if it does not have the “flex fuel” sign but you run the risk of generating deposits in your fuel pump. Adding e85 won’t boost your cars horsepower in any way. In fact, you get less fuel ranges than if you have used gasoline.
The main reason blend their gasoline with e85 is to increase their octane levels. This works great especially in situations where you are running on bad gas and you want to reduce the chances of engine knock. If you are using an engine that is tuned for E30 then it can comfortably work with both premium gasoline and e85.