Crop-Fed Cars Hit The Highways

A popular new fuel, E85, could help put the brakes on America’s foreign-oil dependency.
The Department of Energy provides these answers to some frequently asked questions about the fuel:

Q: What is E85 and what are its benefits?

A: E85 is a fuel that is 85 percent ethanol (distilled from American corn, as well as nongrain crops) and only 15 percent gasoline. It is high octane and has a higher performance level than some gasolines-it can boost some vehicle’s horsepower by up to 5 percent-and it’s also domestically produced and clean burning. In fact, government tests show vehicles running on E85 reduce harmful emissions when compared with gasoline.

Q: Why use ethanol?

A: Ethanol provides plenty of horsepower with relatively little pollution. Because it is typically produced from corn and other grain products and other nongrain materials, the fuel is biodegradable and does not contaminate water. Also, because it is produced domestically, ethanol use increases the value of feed grains grown by U.S. farmers.

Q: How much does E85 cost?

A: Typically, E85 is priced to be competitive with 87-octane gasoline. President Bush has launched an initiative to make much more ethanol from many other sources too, like trees and prairie grasses. As this research continues and these newer ethanol plants are built, ethanol looks to be an affordable, sustainable way to cut reliance on imported fuels.

Q: Can my car run on E85?

A: Not every car can use E85. You must have what’s called a flexible fuel vehicle (FFV). An FFV is a vehicle designed to run on regular unleaded gasoline or any ethanol fuel blend up to 85 percent. Visit vehicles.php for a complete list of FFVs and to see if your car is flexfuel ready. To date, there are about six million FFVs on the road, including models from Ford, GM and Chrysler.

Q: What’s the difference between an FFV and a gasoline-only vehicle?

A: FFVs have just one major part that differs from gasoline-only cars: the fuel sensor that detects the ethanol/gasoline ratio. Also, an FFV’s fuel tank, fuel lines, fuel injectors, computer system, anti-siphon device and dashboard gauges are all modified slightly compared to gasoline-only vehicles. FFVs are generally available at little or no additional cost compared to gasoline-only models-and they carry the same warranties.

Q: Where can I get E85?

A: Visit base/search.php for a complete list of E85 sites. More stations are being added each week.

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