Vehicle fuel choices continue to multiply, including availability of the ethanol blend known as E85. In just this past year, the number of stations offering E85 has more than doubled. Recently, the total number of stations where consumers can fill up their vehicles with this grain-based fuel surpassed the one thousand mark.
“We are so pleased to achieve this milestone,” said Phil Lampert, executive director of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition (NEVC). “From a very humble beginning of a few stations in Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa, achieving this level of stations is significant.”
Number of E85 Stations by Year:
E85, the 85 percent ethyl alcohol-15 percent petroleum blend, is used in flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs). FFVs can be fueled with E85 and/or gasoline interchangeably. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that more than 4 million light-duty FFVs are operating in the United States. While most FFVs presently fuel with gasoline, greater access to E85 fueling stations is expected to change that.
E85 use is driven by environmental, economic, and national security concerns. Using this fuel, which is produced from renewable crops that are grown in the United States, can help reduce petroleum consumption, thus decreasing our dependence on foreign oil.
“If I fill my truck with thirty gallons of E85, only 15 percent of that would be gasoline (4.5 gallons of foreign product),” says Mike Kelly, owner of Dulaney Oil Company, the only retail outlet for E85 in West Virginia. “I have just cut my dependence on foreign oil by 85 percent.”
Kelly says that ethanol is also replacing a chemical in gasoline called MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) that was used to boost octane and oxygenate fuel so that it burns cleaner. MTBE is thought to be carcinogenic, and it mixes easily with water. If a spill occurs or a tank leaks at a gas station, the chemical may contaminate groundwater or drinking water wells and can be difficult to remove. Ethanol as an additive does not present that problem.
Results from a national survey sponsored by the National Alternative Fuels Training Consortium show that Americans believe that developing alternative fuel sources for cars, trucks, SUVS, and buses is very important to them; 55 percent of respondents would consider an alternative fuel/advanced technology vehicle for their next purchase. With E85 fuel becoming more available to consumers, that dream could rapidly turn into reality.
The NEVC has an up-to-date listing of E85 refueling locations. Find the list at www.e85refueling.com.