News 5 Investigates

Jun 18, 2014 9:02 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Investigates: Is E-85 ethanol gas worth it?

If you filled up your gas tank lately, you may have noticed prices are beginning to climb.

As the cost for unleaded fuel rises, some turn to ethanol gas which is the cheaper alternative.

If you're one of the drivers using this fuel, you probably noticed a significant savings at the pump. However, we uncovered it may not be the best option long-term.

"It's 85-percent ethanol which is basically grain alcohol and a 15 percent mixture of gasoline," Autosmith owner Darren Dodd said. "The disadvantage of E-85-is that your fuel economy drops by about 15-percent. Say your car gets 20 miles to the gallon, you're only going to get about 17."

Because E-85 is mostly alcohol, Dodd says the fuel can damage cars that are not equipped to be "flex-fuel" vehicles.

"It (the E-85 gas) is highly corrosive," he said. "That's why the vehicle has to be flex-fuel compliant. It will eat not only rubberized parts but metal if they are not made out of the proper material."

However, if your vehicle is E-85 compatible, Dodd says the fuel is eco-friendly.

"It does give you lower carbon monoxide and dioxide emissions," he said.

Newer model cars give drivers the option of putting regular unleaded or ethanol fuel inside their cars. Unfortunately for older models, testing the waters with E-85 gas is risky.

"Doing that (using E-85 gas in older model cars) would require most of the fuel system to be replaced which can be extremely expensive," Dodd said.

Most gas stations have a 10-percent ethanol blend in their unleaded fuel.

To find out whether your car or SUV is E-85 compatible, check for a "flex-fuel" emblem on the back of your car. The information will also be stated in your user manual and possibly on the fuel door.



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