What Types of Vehicles Use Ethanol?
Ethanol Fuel Information
All gasoline vehicles are capable of operating on gasoline/ethanol blends with up to 10% ethanol. In fact, some states require the seasonal or year-round use of up to 10% ethanol as an oxygenate additive to gasoline to mitigate ozone formation. These low percentage oxygenate blends are not classified as alternative fuels. We speak of ethanol vehicles as those specifically manufactured to be capable of running on up to 85% denatured ethanol, 15% gasoline (E85), or any mixture of the two up to the 85% ethanol limit. E85 may be seasonally adjusted in colder climates such that the real proportion of E85 is less than 85% ethanol. Vehicles manufactured for E85 use are commonly called flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs). View the FFV fact sheet (PDF 288 KB) to get a snapshot of information on flexible fuel vehicles, conversion information, costs/benefits, and more. For more information on lower percentage ethanol blends, please see our site on fuel blends. For more information on alternative fuel vehicles capable of fueling with higher percentages of ethanol, read on.
Light-duty FFVs include a wide range of vehicles, from compacts to sport utility vehicles to pickup trucks. Unlike bi-fuel natural gas and propane vehicles that have two unique fueling systems, FFVs have only one fueling system. To qualify as an alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) for tax credits, incentives to meet requirements for mandated fleets (federal, state, and fuel provider fleets) under the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPAct), a vehicle must be capable of using fuel blends up to 85% ethanol.
FFVs are widely available. There are more than 5 million FFVs currently on the road in the U.S. today but many owners may be unaware that they may fuel with E85. Check your owner’s manual, visit with your dealer, or see our list of current model year FFVs to determine if you drive a vehicle that can fuel with E85.
E85 fueling stations are located primarily in the Midwest; more than 1,000 public E85 stations are available across the United States. The actual fueling process is the same as fueling with gasoline or diesel. Visit our station locator to find the stations in your area.
FFVs have recently become widely used by consumers, but they have operated in private and government fleets for years. Take a look at our Clean Cities fleet success stories for details.
Vehicle and Fuel Costs
E85 is usually sold at prices comparable to regular grade gasoline, although prices vary regionally. For more information on fuel prices, download the Alternative Fuel Price Report.
With the mass production of some E85 compatible vehicles, original equipment manufacturers usually offer these vehicles at the same prices as comparable gasoline vehicles. The Clean Fleet Guide has a FFV Cost Calculator tool that calculates the costs and benefits of using E85 in your FFV instead of gasoline.
Special lubricants are no longer required for FFVs. Use E85 replacement parts (identify E85 as the fuel when ordering). Maintenance assistance is available from local dealers; practices are very similar, if not identical, to those for conventionally fueled vehicles.
Compared with gasoline-fueled vehicles, most ethanol-fueled vehicles produce lower carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions and the same or lower levels of hydrocarbon and non-methane hydrocarbon emissions. Oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions are about the same for ethanol and gasoline vehicles. E85 has fewer highly volatile components than gasoline and so has fewer evaporative emissions.
Ethanol has a high octane rating (108 +), which is beneficial in engines that are designed to operate on higher octane fuels. However, because ethanol is blended with gasoline in E85 the actual octane level rating will vary by season and location. Unlike gasoline, the octane rating of E85 is rarely posted on the pump and doing so is not required by law.
General Motors has a fun “Cornulator” on its Live Green, Go Yellow Web site. Use it to estimate barrels of oil saved by fueling with E85.
A gallon of ethanol contains roughly 66% of the energy of a gallon of gasoline. However, as it is most commonly blended, E85 contains 71% of the energy of gasoline. In actual use, drivers can expect a fuel economy reduction of at least 15% relative to gasoline. Some auto manufacturers are installing larger fuel tanks, so the range of FFVs is similar to gasoline vehicles. Power, acceleration, payload, and cruise speed of vehicles operating with E85 are comparable to those operating with equivalent conventional fuels.