Archive for February, 2013

The Great Big Lie That is Ethanol

February 5, 2013

A few weeks ago, a family vehicle suffered a fender bender from a driver sliding into it at a traffic light and, as usual during the winter, the quality body shops were booked solid. So, it took a couple of weeks before we could drop off the vehicle for repairs.

We ended up with a rental that was capable of burning ethanol. Initially, I was excited about this development because, after all, the tank could be returned full at minimal cost.

But something was amiss. A few years ago, when ethanol E85 first appeared at gas stations in the area, every pump had an E85 nozzle. Now I discovered that not only have a number of stations dropped E85 but if they still offered it, only one pump had an E85 nozzle. With a “savings” of $0.49 per gallon, why wasn’t there more demand for ethanol?

Next, after finally finding a station with E85, I pumped a tank-full of ethanol in the vehicle. In around-town driving, I noticed the fuel gauge seemed to drop rather rapidly.

Over this past weekend I had to make a trip out of town, and a road trip makes it easy to test the fuel mileage I was getting from the E85 ethanol. I filled the tank with E85, reset the trip computer (there’s an onboard computer with fuel economy data, but I wanted to test the accuracy of the computer as well) and drove off.

The trip to my destination consumed most of the tank. I filled the tank with regular 87 octane gasoline for the return trip. Noting the gallons pumped and resetting the trip computer again, I headed home. What I discovered upon arrival was a shock.

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