E85 More Affordable as Gas Prices Rise

By David Thomas  on April 6, 2011


The somewhat controversial alternative fuel, E85, an 85% ethanol blend, is now more affordable versus traditional gasoline than it was a year ago. Many automakers build flex-fuel engines that can run on E85 or regular unleaded gasoline. You might be driving one and not even realize it.

Regular unleaded is $3.72 a gallon as of today, up $.88 from a year ago.

E85 costs $3.13 a gallon nationally, up $.60 from a year ago.

The problem with E85 is it’s 25% less efficient than regular gasoline because it burns at a higher rate than gas. To even the playing field, E85 would need to cost 25% less than regular unleaded. It’s not there … yet.

A year ago today, E85 cost 10% less than regular unleaded. Today, it costs 16% less.

If you use a BTU-adjusted price that AAA advocates for an apples-to-apples comparison, which takes into account E85’s poor fuel efficiency, things are still improving.

Last year, when using the adjusted price E85 would cost 17% more than gasoline to get the same mileage per gallon. Today, that figure is down to 11%.

You can search for current flex-fuel compatible vehicles here. Check your owner’s manual or gas cap to see if your model can run on E85.

Does E85 get better gas mileage than premium unleaded gas? (Ask.Cars.com)
Does E85 fuel affect the 2011 GMC Sierra’s gas mileage? (Ask.Cars.com)

Hybrids/Alternative Fuels

Managing Editor David Thomas has a thing for wagons and owns a 2010 Subaru Outback and a 2005 Volkswagen Passat wagon.  Email David