E-85 Fuel and Simple Mathematics…

Today I watched a video on the WTAJ TV-10 News website concerning the availability of E-85 in State College, PA. The video is here.

It looks really good — like it’s a good thing to go buy a flexible-fuel vehicle and save some cash at the pump at the same time. But is it? Let’s do some math.

A gallon of regular fuel at the station is $3.35. E-85 is $2.99. That’s a savings of 11% at the pump. But everyone agrees that E-85 is not as efficient as gasoline. The good people at WTAJ note that when they say, “…vehicles using the special fuel will get poorer gas mileage.” How much poorer?

Wikipedia notes that a Fuel-flex Chevy Tahoe averaging 18 MPG on gasoline will average 13 MPG on E-85. That’s a decrease in efficiency of 28%. So let’s imagine that we put 1,000 miles on our Fuel-Flex Tahoe. Here’s what the math says:

Fuel Cost MPG Miles Driven Total Spent
Gasoline $3.35 18 1000 $58.91
E-85 $2.99 13 1000 $79.91

In this scenario, using E-85 instead of gasoline will actually cost an additional $21 per thousand miles driven. That may be good for the environment, but until the price is closer to 30% less than gasoline it’s not a financial advantage to the consumer.

So buy it if you want to reduce your petroleum consumption and emissions, but don’t fool yourself that you’re saving money. Kermit was right.

One thought on “E-85 Fuel and Simple Mathematics…

  1. Sort of like hybrid vehicles. The extra cost on a hybrid cancels out the savings on gas. Still, they’re pretty cool.

    Drive within the speed limit, brake long, speed up slowly and combine trips.

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