The market for alternative fuels such as E85 is growing, driven by many factors, including fluctuating gasoline prices and energy security. With consumer demand for alternative fuel vehicles increasing, auto manufacturers are working to produce more flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs), which are capable of operating on 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, or any blend in between.
There are more than 15.5 million FFVs on the roads today, and automakers will produce several million more each year. To help increase these numbers, some of the major automobile manufacturers in the U.S., including Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, have all pledged to make 50% of all new vehicles coming off their assembly line model year 2012 and beyond FFVs. FFVs are available in most vehicle classes, including compacts, sedans, minivans, trucks and SUVs.
Click here to download a brochure with general information about E85 as well as a list of which vehicles can use E85. For additional copies, please contact the RFA Market Development Team at (402) 391-1930.
The number of E85 fueling stations continues to grow nationwide. As of late 2013, there are more than 3,100 retail stations (out of 142,000 stations nationwide) offering E85 across the country.
How to Tell if Your Car is a FFV
Check your owner's manual or the rear of your vehicle for a badge, visit with your dealer, check the fuel filler door, or click here to determine if you drive a vehicle that can fuel with E85. New models are coming out each year and there are more than two million FFVs being produced each year.
Many states offer incentives for the purchase of alternative fuel vehicles. Click here to learn more.
Retailers that choose to offer E85 may be eligible for incentives at the state and federal level. Incentives can be reviewed at www.byoethanol.com/incentives.
Frequently Asked Questions
How is a FFV different from a gasoline-only vehicle?
A FFV will contain a fuel sensor that detects the ethanol/gasoline ratio. In addition, a number of other parts on the FFVs fuel delivery system are modified so that they are ethanol compatible. The fuel tank, fuel lines, fuel injectors, computer system and anti-siphon device have been modified slightly. This normally includes a stainless steel fuel tank and Teflon-lined fuel hoses. The use of E85 in gasoline-only vehicles is not recommended as it may cause damage due to the incompatibility of the alcohol fuel (ethanol) with the parts in gasoline-only engines. Performance and emissions may also be compromised.
Can a vehicle be converted to E85?
In November, 2007, the first kit for converting conventional gasoline-fueled vehicles to run on E85 was certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use in select vehicle models. The “Flex-Box Smart Kit” manufactured by Flex Fuel US has been developed for use on vehicles common to many police, taxi, and government fleets, such as the Ford Crown Victoria, Mercury Grand Marquis, and Lincoln Town Car using a Ford 4.6-liter engine. Flex-Fuel US is also seeking and anticipating EPA approval for kits suitable for other makes and models of passenger vehicles, light trucks, and performance vehicles.
While other E85 conversion options are available, they would likely be illegal according to the EPA. Certification by the agency requires testing of the emissions profile after the conversion has been installed, to ensure compliance with federal air quality regulations and emissions standards.
Converting a conventional vehicle to a flex-fuel vehicle can yield several benefits, including:
- An approximate 15 percent per gallon fuel cost saving over gasoline
- Increased horsepower
- Support for domestically-source fuels and enhanced energy security
- Potential reductions in overall greenhouse gas emissions
A copy of EPA’s Updated Certification for Alternative Fuel Converters is available at: http://www.epa.gov/otaq/cert/dearmfr/cisd0602.pdf.
What is the range of a FFV?
In general, fuel economy of most flex-fuel vehicles can be expected to decrease as ethanol content is increased due to the lower energy value in ethanol as compared to gasoline. Engineering advances are expected to minimize the fuel economy penalty while taking advantage of the increase in octane found in ethanol with the next generation of fuel combustion and ignition technology. Also, please note there are many variables with regard to fuel economy, including the season, the weather, the state of tune of the vehicle, road grade, tire pressure, and the use of air conditioners.
Where can I find E85 fuel?
The US Department of Energy's Alternative Fuels and Advanced Vehicles Data Center now has an online station locator. Just specify which kind of fuel you want, then enter your address, and the locator will map out the closest stations that sell that fuel. If you are traveling and have a Garmin or TomTom GPS device, you can use RFA's Points of Interest (POI) E85 Fuel Locator application. It only take a few moments to download and can help you locate stations nationwide. For more information, click here. You can also download the Flex-Fuel Station Locator from the Apple App Store or from the Android Marketplace. More information can also be found at www.chooseethanol.com.
- Handbook for Handling, Storing & Dispensing E85
- E85 Fuel Ethanol: Industry Guidelines, Specifications & Procedures
Renewable Fuels Association, March 2009
- Business Case for Installing E85 at Retail Stations
- E85 Retail Business Case: When and Why to Sell E85
- State E85 Incentives and Laws
- National Corn Growers Association
Page last updated April 2013