September 11, 2006
Consumer Reports Looks at E85
In its October 2006 issue, Consumer Reports magazine looks at E85 Ethanol and the FFVs (Flexible Fuel Vehicles) that can use it. Unfortunately the full online version of the article is only available to subscribers. However, you can view a preview.
The general tone of the article is skeptical. Here are some of the key points:
- The way FFVs are currently accounted for in the CAFE standards probably lets auto manufacturers put out more lower mileage gasoline vehicles than are really offset by FFVs.
- E85 is only available at about 800 gas stations nationwide (out of 176,000). Converting to add E85 can cost $200,000 in tanks and pumps. (A $30K tax credit helps.)
- While E85 does reduce Nitrogen Oxide emissions (a greenhouse gas) over gasoline, there are other emissions unique to E85. Nonetheless E85 is a net win on emissions.
- Current E85 production from corn competes with feed corn use, and would probably drive up the costs of some foods (e.g., beef). Cellulose-based ethanol may be a better alternative.
The bottom line:
It's more likely that ethanol will be only one in a portfolio of choices that include biodiesel, diesel, electric, hydrogen, natural-gas, and efficient gasoline cars.
September 15, 2006 7:14 PM
Terry Parker Says:
It should also be noted the miles per gallon for E85 dropped 27 percent when running on E85 as compared with gasoline using the consumer reports test vehicle, a 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe. That 27 percent fuel-economy penalty means drivers would be paying almost $4.00 for the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline when using E85.
Per my own experiences, even gasoline with a 10 percent mix of ethanol can reduce the miles per gallon on some vehicles as much as 15 percent. This can be verified by talking to just about any service manager at new car dealerships. Furthermore, just adding ethanol to gasoline raises the price at the pump and ethanol in some motor vehicles can do damage to engines due to ethanol’s corrosive nature. .
The bottom line is ethanol is not a good choice for consumers and should be avoided when ever and where ever possible. Any concern about the use of foreign oil should be no different than buying foreign cars, buying foreign made electronics, buying foreign made bicycles or buying anything else that is foreign made. If a person owns any of these large purchase foreign products, they should not be complaining about the use of foreign oil.
November 29, 2006 8:44 PM
Some responses to Terry:
1. I don't own a FFV so no direct experience with E85, other than noticing the price is about 20 cents LOWER per gallon at the station in SE Portland vs. conventional gasoline.
2. I don't seek fuel advice from new car dealership service managers. However all modern automotive fuel systems are designed to work properly with 10% ethanol fuel without damage. My personal experience with 10% ethanol has shown little significant difference in MPG. In many areas the retail price for higher % ethanol mixes is significanly LOWER than non-ethanol gasolines due to tax incentives. Financially I think it is break-even.
3. How foreign oil is different than other products is it is produced mostly by countries with dictatorial leaders who hate us. We go to war to secure the supply of cheap foreign oil but not Chinese electronics or Japanese cars.
I choose to buy ethanol whenever it is available and reasonably priced.