E85 and Flex Fuel Questions & Answers

Q: What if E85 is not available?

The flex fuel vehicle system allows drivers to use any combination of gasoline or ethanol - from 100% unleaded gasoline up to 85% ethanol. If E85 is not available, you can therefore use unleaded gas.

Q: What is the difference between an flex fuel vehicle and a regular gasoline-only vehicle? Do they use different parts?

A flex fuel vehicle has only one major additional part - the fuel sensor that detects the ethanol/gasoline mix. Other parts on a flex fuel vehicles fuel delivery system are modified slightly to be compatible with a high level of ethanol. These include the fuel tank, fuel lines, fuel injectors, computer system, anti-siphon device, and dashboard gauges. Since high levels of alcohol are corrosive, any parts that come in contact with the fuel have been upgraded to tolerate the alcohol. Normally, this will mean a stainless steel fuel tank and Teflon-lined fuel hoses.

Q: Is it true that I will get less miles per gallon with E85?

Yes, but the cost savings from using E85 should more than offset the loss in mileage. While ethanol has less energy content than gasoline, E85 also has a much higher octane (ranging from 100 to 105) than gasoline. Flex fuel vehicle's that are not optimized for E85 typically show a 5% to 15% drop in fuel economy. This varies based on temperature and driving conditions and is modest compared to other fuel efficiency factors. For example, aggressive driving can reduce mileage by 20%, and low tire pressure can cut mileage by 6%. The driving range for any particular vehicle will depend on the size of the fuel tank and the driver's habits.

Q: Can a car be retrofitted or converted to use E85?

Experts do not recommend converting a gasoline-only vehicle to operate on E85. This conversion involves a lot of complex changes for which these vehicles aren't designed. In contrast, flex fuel vehicles come from the manufacturer with the same warranties as gasoline vehicles and are designed specifically to use E85 efficiently and burn cleaner.