E85 Is Too Expensive (in the Metro-East)

Prairie Gleanings

Driving a Flex Fuel vehicle for two weeks makes the problems with E85 quite apparent. You can't find it; and it's too expensive.

Published on: August 23, 2013

I’ve driven nearly 1,500 miles in the past two weeks.

To make two winding trips around the state of Illinois, I rented a Ford Focus. Since my personal car is a Nissan, I was excited about taking full advantage of the Flex Fuel component that comes with Ford automobiles.

Only one of the fuel stations along my travels offered E85. It was a station just a couple miles from my house. Since I was filling the car up before I returned it, I didn’t get a chance to see what sort of fuel economy reduction I would experience using E85.

According to this article by Edmonds, they experienced a 20% to 25% fuel economy reduction when driving a Chevy Tahoe between San Diego and Las Vegas.

I love Fords "no-cap" fuel port. No more forgetting to replace the fuel cap and having the check-engine light pop on as a result.
I love Ford's "no-cap" fuel port. No more forgetting to replace the fuel cap and having the check-engine light pop on as a result.

I paid $3.48/gallon for E85. Regular gasoline (E10) was going for $3.68 on the same day. Would I have come out ahead?

Using Edmonds 20% reduction, I would have expected my fuel economy to drop from roughly 33 mpg to 26.5 mpg. Problem is $3.48 is only a 5% reduction from $3.68.

To account for the reduced fuel economy, E85 would need to be priced just under $3 a gallon. Sorry, but a 20-cent reduction just isn’t cutting it.

According to this farmdocDaily article, my experience isn’t out of the ordinary. To date, E85 has typically been offered at a 5% to 15% discount to gasoline. It’s not enough to increase demand.

The University of Illinois article uses a 25% reduction in fuel mileage in its calculations. So, Edmunds is not out in left field on the fuel economy calculations.

I hope the pricing issue changes in the future. I enjoyed the Focus. The Sync system was terrific. Our next car could very well be a Ford Escape. (I really dig the redesign.)

But, if I’m going to drive a Flex Fuel vehicle, I need an economic reason to buy E85.