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Ethanol fuel discussion


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Does anyone else here have experience using Ethanol (E85) in their car?

 

I've been driving a bunch between Austin and San Antonio for our move (around 70 miles) and Ethanol is readily available along the route in about 4 different H-E-B stations.

 

What is everyone's experience with fuel economy on E85?

 

I have been getting about a 25% reduction of efficiency to 15MPG (from the 20MPG I usually get in my 2005 Ford Explorer). So at current gas prices I believe I'm getting a slight edge on gas prices based on current prices (1.25 for E85, 1.59 for regular unleaded), but based on the time it takes to pump up the difference in price doesn't really make sense to me to seek out gas stations specifically selling E85.

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In the US, ethanol is bad as it is made from corn. Extremely inefficient and expensive to produce. The only reason that it is cheaper than dino gas right now is because of government subsidies. Brazil uses sugar cane ethanol, which is FAR more efficient, and doesn't affect food supplies nearly as much. Corn prices in the US have jumped since they started producing ethanol, which is at least part of the reason that farmers have had to raise their prices for meat and dairy.

 

I'm saying this from memory, so it might not be exact, but corn ethanol requires 1.2 units of energy to produce 1 unit of usable ethanol energy, meaning that it takes more energy to produce less energy (never a good equation). Sugar cane ethanol, by comparison, requires 1 unit of energy to produce 9 units of usable ethanol energy. Using this, Brazil has managed to become completely energy independent, but they have been working on it for the last 20+ years.

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In the US, ethanol is bad as it is made from corn. Extremely inefficient and expensive to produce. The only reason that it is cheaper than dino gas right now is because of government subsidies. Brazil uses sugar cane ethanol, which is FAR more efficient, and doesn't affect food supplies nearly as much. Corn prices in the US have jumped since they started producing ethanol, which is at least part of the reason that farmers have had to raise their prices for meat and dairy.

 

I'm saying this from memory, so it might not be exact, but corn ethanol requires 1.2 units of energy to produce 1 unit of usable ethanol energy, meaning that it takes more energy to produce less energy (never a good equation). Sugar cane ethanol, by comparison, requires 1 unit of energy to produce 9 units of usable ethanol energy. Using this, Brazil has managed to become completely energy independent, but they have been working on it for the last 20+ years.

Problem is right now you need fossil fuels to create ethanol (to harvest the corn and it also contains 15% in the final product).

 

From my understanding Brazil uses E100 sugar-based ethanol, which would be incompatible with almost every car in existance in the US without engine modification.

 

The prices REALLY didn't make sense a few months ago... they price ethanol 35c or so less than gas no matter the price. So in order for it to make sense financially, gas has to be lower than $1.70 or so (considering the reduction in economy)

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Problem is right now you need fossil fuels to create ethanol (to harvest the corn and it also contains 15% in the final product).

 

What he's saying though is that the sugar content of corn is low enough that it will likely always take more energy to get ethanol out of what you must put into it. Even if you could somehow improve the process such that you could get 2:1 energy output, the same tech applied to cane sugar would give 18:1. Plus farmers plant different types of corn for ethanol vs. eating, so it's not like you can change your mind mid-season and eat the ethanol corn (or put the eating corn in your gas tank.) Whereas sugar cane is sugar cane, do what you want with it.

 

Ethanol isn't bad as a carrier, it just isn't an energy solution (similar to hydrogen.) It would be much more efficient to concentrate on getting cars to go electric whenever possible and improve the battery/range situation in electric cars. Then the problem becomes how best to produce electricity, which has many more options and is a robust system. Ie - If you wanted to, you could run American cars on coal (converted to electricity), of which we have a lot. Or have 50% coal, 30% solar, 20% nuclear, or whatever mix is best.

 

Living out in the country, I can't wait for someone to get us a nice electric light pickup truck for my daily needs.

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PS - Ethanol is "sweaty" too, so don't try to store it like gas. "Sweaty" means it will slowly suck water out of the atmosphere and change it's chemical composition. In a regular commuter gas tank this is ok as you use the gas before it turns (to whatever), but don't fill an extra 10 gallon tank for your emergency reserve and leave it in the garage for a year. Ethanol doesn't like that ;)

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So I hit the gas station last night with 289 miles on my trip counter to refill. Took 19 gallons to fill up (on a 21g tank) so my fuel economy with ethanol was ~15.2mpg.

 

Soooo... it's like... a 1% more cost effective to buy ethanol at current prices. The trade-off is having to go to the pump 25% faster (every 3 days instead of every 4 for instance)

 

...

 

I'll stick with unleaded. :)

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How about for a winter? If it is only 10% ethanol. Is that OK?

 

Yeah, that should be fine. There tends to be so much extra crap in gas these days that storing beyond 3 months anytime isn't a great idea unless it's treated. You can treat gas (or ethanol?!?) with a product called Stabil that basically allows you to keep it stored for up to 2-3 years. I keep about 10 gallons for generator/lawn equipment/whatever and the Stabil does a good job of keeping it ready to go. I slowly use it up when the expiration date approaches. BTW - You can get Stabil and the like anywhere gas supplies are sold (even Walmart tire center.)

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