The Alternative Fuel: E85 - Is It Really Brand New?
E85: The Alternative Fuel
The Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPact) considers E85 an alternative fuel. It is used to fuel flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs). Fueling stations offering E85 are more common in the corn belt (Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota), but are spreading to other states including here in New York, according to the U. S. Department of Energy online website.
But is it really a whole new idea or have farmers known about this fuel for decades. I caught up with a couple of mystery people who talked about the old stills that made grain alcohol and those moonshiners, as they were called. Their interview went as follows:
Exactly what is this E85 fuel?
E85 is a mixture of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Thus the 85.
Can it be used by any car?
The E85 fuel is for vehicles - the FFVs - that are specifically designed to run on E85 (but can also run on regular gasoline) and there are about 8 million such vehicles on the road today. Many of the 2010 models of U.S. vehicles are FFVs, but according to the Department of Energy, many folks don't know they have such a car. This includes the Cadillac Escalade, Buick Lucerne, Chevy Impala, Dodge Caravan, and many more, even model years before 2010. You can do a vehicle search at:
How is ethanol made?
Ethanol is mainly produced from corn crops using a dry-mill or wet mill process with dry mill accounting for more than 80% of the industry capacity, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Then...
But is this a brand new idea? I mean nothing is really new about fuel. We're just been steered towards fossil fuels.
Anyway...the ground corn flour is mixed with water, enzymes and yeast and fermented into a 'mash.'
Wait a minute? Mash sounds like what was made in the old days with giant stills, hidden way back up in the woods, and the revenue man would come, and you'd be jailed for making it. Those folks were often called moonshiners because they had to work by moonlight...
Yes, in this case, however, the 'mash' goes through a distillation process to produce a 200-proof ethanol and it is then denatured with gasoline. This way it is not fit for human consumption.
Ah, but it sounds to me like old time farmers used to make not only drinking alcohol but fuel for their tractors.
Hmmm, I come from a long line of farmers from way back and I don't recall gas stations being anywhere near the farm so perhaps they did make their own fuel. Yes, using corn for fuel is certainly not a new idea.
Why not just use 100% ethanol?
It seems a pure fuel made of of 100% ethanol has problems operating efficiently in cold weather. So it would be a problem for cars.
Most farmers did not operate tractors during cold weather anyway. So I suppose 100% ethanol was just fine.
Hmmm again. I suppose you are right.
Are there environmental benefits?
This source of energy is largely renewable, reduces dependency on imported oil, helps the U. S. agricultural sector, creates jobs in the U.S. - and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
Why haven't I seen this fuel and where can I buy it?
E85 is now being offered in more than 40 states and there are more than 1,950 fueling stations. To check an E85 locator, for a station, you can view the following link:
So, we are just doing what folks were stopped from doing in the early part of the last century?
Seems that way. Would you you like to read about cars made from flax? This process is another old idea that is brand new again. If so please see the link below:
Cars Made From Flax
- Cars Made From Flax
The French automotive group, PSA, has begun using components made from natural materials. PSA makes Citroens and Peugeots. The bio-car plan has three elements: - the use of bio-polymers, recycled materials...