E85 Ethanol Gas Mileage Not Economical
With gas prices at record levels American drivers are looking for ways to cut costs. For those who drive hybrid cars or alternative fuel vehicles the options are plenty, but the cost savings may not be as good as one would think. I have a 2008 Nissan Titan Flex Fuel truck and recently started to look for E85 at gas stations close to my location. When I had first purchased the truck, the closest E85 station was 70 miles away. Now, with the addition of E85 pumps at new Valero stations in North Texas, I don't have to go far to get gas.
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Consumer Reports has done several tests of E85 and produced articles over the last few years about it's cost, fuel economy and lower emissions. The magazine's consistent conclusion is while the fuel is less expensive than regular unleaded gasoline, it offers poor fuel economy. I decided to put their findings to the test in my car. My test was by no means scientific. (Neither was theirs, at one point they mixed their own E85!) For two weeks prior to filling up with E85, I tracked my driving, noting miles, type of driving and average fuel economy. I come in averaging the same miles each week and had no significant driving trips over and above my usual road time.
Over a two week period using 87 Octane regular unleaded gasoline (from RaceTrac) I drove 380 miles each week, averaged 15.1 miles per gallon, and went through approximately 26 gallons of gasoline each week. My cost per week at $3.58 per gallon was $93.08 each week. Prior to filling the tank with E85, I let it run to almost empty (I was on fumes) and filled it completely putting in 34.8 out of 36 gallons of E85. My cost for that first fill-up at $2.98 per gallon was $103.71.
The first week using E85, I travelled 384 miles, Monday to Sunday. Like every other week, the drive time was split pretty evenly between city and highway driving. According to the truck's computer, I averaged 11.6 miles per gallon that week. A significant drop! I used roughly 33.5 gallons of E85. Under regular gasoline, I would have used approximately 25 gallons. The second week, I travelled 392 miles and averaged 11.5 miles per gallon. Burning through gas faster means filling up more and spending more money. The difference in gas mileage negates any savings from going to E85. Over the two week E85 test, I spent $202.64 on fuel, compared to $183.97 for the two weeks on standard 87 Octane gasoline.
Operationally, I experienced no difference in how the truck ran on E85. No stalling, no erratic acceleration, no overheating, no backfires. So from an overall performance standpoint, the E85 does the same job as the standard gasoline - it makes the car go. The biggest difference was in the fuel economy and added cost. This truck will be sticking to old fashioned gas until someone car figure out how to improve the fuel economy with E85.