Monday, December 29, 2008

Tank #28

I'm very tardy reporting my latest tank. I filled up last Monday, the 22nd!

Once again, because gasoline was over 10 cents a gallon cheaper than E85, I filled up with premium.

87 octane was $1.56. E85 was $1.69. Premium was $1.76.

I got 14.167 gallons of premium. The tank is now 11.5% ethanol. Octane is 92.7.

The last tank finished up with 23.5 mpg at 32 mph.

I don't notice the car driving any different with E20 or premium. They're equivalent, performance wise.

On the bright side, I saw that gas spiked to $1.66 today. E85 is still $1.69.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Cold starting

I can report no cold starting issues on E20. The car has started right up even when it was only 12 degrees outside.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

More on tank #27

It's 21.32% ethanol, and 90.87 octane.

Tank #27

I got the gas warning light today, and I was close to Gas City in Hammond, so I filled up there. They have E85 and gas on the same pumps, so it makes mixing easier. They also have E85 made by Verasun, and it was the same price as 87 ($1.80 a gallon).

Gallons E85: 3.028 @ $1.80

Gallons 87 Octane: 10.971 @ $1.80

Gallons from tanks # 26 (@11.63% ethanol): 2.401

Tanks #26 finished at 25.5 mpg at 36 average mph. I made a trip up to O'Hare, and that skewed the results. My ride back from the airport averaged 65 mph (including the local portion!). I was flying down the tollway.

The return of the price spread!

We've had a little spike in gas prices in the last day. Prices jumped from $1.45 a gallon to $1.80 a gallon in a couple of days.

The good news is that corresponded with a drop in E85 prices, and there is now a 10 cent spread between E85 and gasoline. E85 is $1.70 at Meijer.

According to my spreadsheet, E85 should cost around $1.60, so we're not getting gouged too much.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tank #26

I filled up at Meijer yesterday evening.

Gas was going for $1.50. E85 is still stuck at $1.99.

I chose to fill up with premium only.

I got 14.282 gallons of 93 Octane at $1.70 a gallon. My tank is now 11.69% ethanol.

I hope that Meijer lowers the E85 price soon. I see that other stations in the area are at parity.

Monday, December 1, 2008

This is just getting ridiculous

Meijer prices as of this morning:

87 Octane: $1.59
93 Octane: $1.79

E85: $1.99

That price isn't going to drop until that E85 tank is dry, but at that price no one is buying E85!

Monday, November 24, 2008

What should E85 cost? 11/24 edition

I'm calculating an E85 price of $1.60 to $1.65, which would be comfortably below gas at $1.74.

Meijer obviously has a high cost tank of E85 in the ground. They're unwilling to drop the price to just get it sold off.

Daily Meijer update

E85: $1.99
87 Octane: $1.74
93 Octane: $1.94

I'm switching to 93 octane on the next tank. I need to document mileage on 93 anyway.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Hits keep on coming

Meijer still has E85 at $1.99. Regular is down to $1.76, and PREMIUM is a mere $1.96.

Premium is now cheaper than E85. Unbelievable.

I have to think that sales of E85 are negligible. That is probably why the price of E85 is stuck at $1.99. It's the same E85 in the tank from weeks ago!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Where prices have been...

Negative spread grows

Seen at Meijer this morning...

E85: $1.99 a gallon.

87 Octane gas: $1.90.

The hits keep on coming!

Tank #25

I filled up at Meijer the other day.

3.017 gallons of E85 @ $1.99 a gallon.

10.549 gallons of 87 @ $1.94 a gallon.

2.834 gallons left from last tank @ 19.36% ethanol.

Ethanol content of tank #25 is 22.66%.

Tank #24 ended with 22.8 mpg at 27 mph average speed.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Worse than parity!

E85: $1.98
Regular gas: $1.95

I have to think that Meijer's E85 sales are down to nothing.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Regular Gas: $2.00.

E85: $1.99


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Price spread is simply awful!

Regular gas is $2.07.

E85 is $1.98.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Price spread increases a bit

Of course, the very afternoon after I buy E85 at $1.99, Meijer has it at $1.86. The spread increased to 30 cents as well.

For the first time since I came up with my spreadsheet to estimate how much E85 should cost, Meijer is selling it for LESS than my estimate of fair value.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tank #24

I filled up at Meijer this morning.

I got 2.5 gallons of E85 at $1.99 a gallon.

I got 10.975 gallons of regular at $2.21 a gallon.

I had 2.89 gallons left from the last tank at 10.57% ethanol.

The new ethanol content is 19.36% ethanol, and about 89.5 octane.

Tank #23 finished with 25.2 mpg at 29 average mph.

Price spread continues its decline

Meijer is down to 22 cents on their spread. Their E85 price actually rose from $1.90 to $1.99, and gas continues its decline, now down to $2.21.

Not good.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Fun with multiple regression

So I've added datapoints for 10% and 15% ethanol for my gas mileage and average speed. I threw out Alcohol's data, so now I've got data purely for my car. I've redone my regressions for mpg as a function of ethanol % and average speed.

It turns out that ethanol content is a statistically significant factor in mpg.

The next step was to take the regression equation and calculate MPG for various ethanol contents.

Then I looked at what price spread you need to make it worth it to use ethanol.

I found that it was anywhere from 57 to 72 cents. It's a spread that's quite a bit more than you get at Meijer!

Ethanol Producer "Poet" makes Forbes magazine


Interesting company.

I recently got a free subscription to "ethanol producer" magazine. A lot of the things in the Forbes article were in there: separating the 3 parts of the kernel, etc.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

E85 is $1.90 at Meijer... of last night.

Not good. I'm all for cheap gas, but according to my calculations, E85 should be maybe $2 a gallon.

Somebody is losing money on this. I'm guessing that there is excess inventory (of gasoline too). Probably the ethanol producers are taking it in the shorts. Verasun is in barkruptcy, I believe.

I might top off with E85 tonight. Stop the experiment with 87 octane gas (LTFT and mpg are more or less know at this point!). Get back on the wagon.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Tank #23

I filled up at Meijer again. Once again, I only filled up with 87 Octane gas.

14.736 gallons of regular. My tank is now at a little over 10% ethanol, octane is a little over 87.

It feels like the throttle response is sluggish (not much different from when I had 50% ethanol in there). I've got the ignition advance on the scangauge, and it looks like it is significantly retarded from when I was running lots of ethanol, like 4 or 5 degrees of timing.

I actually wanted to fill up with premium, but I was on autopilot when I was filling up (after 4 hours of overtime) and hit 87 without thinking about it.

Meijer changes their price spread!

Just as the price spread at Meijer starts to become fair, they go and change it.

It used to be that they charged 50 cents per gallon less for E85 than regular gas.

As of yesterday, the spread was 40 cents.

Regular was $2.51, E85 was $2.11.

That's just sad. But understandable. RFG is going for $1.47 on the NYMEX, ethanol is going for $1.71 on the CBOT. So E85 has lost much of its cost advantage over the last few weeks. If it wasn't for the subsidies, E85 would cost more than regular.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Long Term Fuel Trim update

I estimate that I've got about 15% ethanol in the tank.

I'm getting LTFT at cruise of 3 or so, which is EXACTLY where my regression equation says that it should be.


LTFT is an amazing thing.

What should E85 cost? 10/27 edition

Meijer has E85 at $2.15 today. It's been there for a few days.

They have maintained their 50 cent spread to regular even as prices have plunged over the last month.

As prices drop, E85 actually becomes a much better deal as long as Meijer maintains the 50 cent spread.

I reran my spreadsheet, and it says that E85 should cost anywhere from $1.95 to $2.10, so the amount Meijer is gouging us is also much less.

I think that I'm going to run another tank of E10, this time premium. Then back to mixing E85.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

tank #22

I filled up at Meijer on Monday.

I bought NO E85, despite it only consting $2.30 a gallon.

I bought 14.1 gallons of regular, which cost $2.80 a gallon.

My ethanol content is 15.29%.

I got 22.8 mpg at 32 mph avergage speed on tank #21.

Dialing back on ethanol

Since I got to roughly 50% ethanol per tank, I've found that drivability has suffered (much more hesitation), cold start is an issue (even at 55 degrees, the open loop portion of startup is rough, the car almost stalled once), and mileage isn't great.

So I've decided to run a couple of tanks of regular. This will allow me to get some good data on mileage and LTFT with low ethanol content. It's been a long time since I've run regular, and I don't have this data.

I'll probably run a couple of tanks ot premium as well, just to compare.

Then, more than likely, I'll run E30 through the winter.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More observations on LTFT

I've really been pushing the fuel injection hard as I've approached 50% ethanol.

It looks like my long term fuel trim at cruise is 24.

It also looks like LTFT is incapable of going over 25. Thus, there seems to be a risk of running lean, and pushing the ethanol content much further might not be a good idea.

It's hard to tell what the O2 sensor is going, the Scangauge scales the output from 0 to 100. I'm not exactly sure how to read it. It does bounce around alot. It will be 8 one second, and 72 the next. So I'm guessing that I'm not consistantly lean.

Tank #21

I filled up at Meijer on Sunday afternoon.

Gallons E85: 8.507
Price E85: $2.68

Gallons 87: 5.137
Price 87: $3.18

Gallons from tank #20: 3.179 (@ 46.62% ethanol)

Ethanol content of tank #21 (with E85 @ 74% ethanol): 49.35%

On tank #20, I got 22.8 mpg at 33 mph average speed.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What should E85 cost? 10/11 edition

Bulk ethanol futures on the Chicago BOT are running at $1.67 a gallon. That is quite a drop.

Updating my spreadsheet, E85 should cost anywhere from $2.02 to $2.40 a gallon.

Meijer had it for $2.85 last night.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Does ethanol decrease mileage?

I've got a good amount of data now regarding how much ethanol relates to mileage. I've tracked ethanol content, average mileage, and average speed for almost every tank I've driven.

I threw this data into Excel and ran a multiple regression. I wanted to see how these two factors (average speed and tank ethanol content) influence mileage.

Now, I'm a little weak in statistics, but my reading is that these two variables can explain about 60% of the variation in mileage. Average speed is a very strong factor in controling mileage. Ethanol content is not. In fact, we can pretty much throw ethanol content out, it is not a significant factor (95% confidence). But it is borderline at about 6%.

Interesting stuff. If I had to guess, if I could collect data on, say, average temperature at start, to capture the decrease in mileage due to cold starting, or average temp while driving, to capture when I use the AC, I'd be able to explain a lot more of the mileage.

The people I meet while buying E85 at Meijer.

I met a crazy black man at the E85 pump. I suspect that he lives out of his car, based on his unkempt appearance and all the shit he had in the car. He was quite talkative, in an ADHD sort of way. Like I said, he was crazy.

He was driving a late ninetees Ford Escort, which quite obviously is not a FFV. So I took the opportunity to talk to the guy and find out what the deal was (with the car, not with him).

He said that he always fills up with straight E85. He said that he's been doing it for over a year, and he's had no problems with the car while doing it.

That Escort was either the last OBDI year or an early OBDII year. Maybe they're more flexible than later implementations?

Anyway, I was glad to see that the fraternity of crazy people running E85 in non-flex fuel vehicles included... someone certifiably crazy!

Tank #20

I filled up at Meijer on Saturday.

I decided to keep increasing the ethanol content, despite the CEL. I want to see if I can get LTFT over 25. If so, I'll keep going higher, if not I'll back off to something that doesn't light a CEL.

Gallons E85: 8.003
Gallons 87 octane: 5.571

Price E85: $3.05
Price 87 Octane: $3.54

Ethanol content of tank #20 (@ 74% ethanol in E85): 46.62%

I finished up tank #19 with 22.1 mpg at an average speed of 31 mph.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

CEL is back

Despite clearing the code, it was back within about 60 miles.

I'm going to just run with it lit. I'm still deciding whether my next tank should go higher on the ethanol (to see if LTFT can go beyond 25) or just go back down to an ethanol level that just doesn't light a CEL, to see if there are any cold start issues. It's starting to get really cold around here, it was in the low forties on the way to work today.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Well, I got a CEL on the drive home yesterday. Not too surprising, seeing as that I was getting long term fuel trims of 25.

I cleared the code (P0171), but unfortunately, that also reset the LTFT.

I was worried that I'd have a hard time starting the car with LTFT at 0, but it started normally this morning. By the time I got to work, LTFT was back to the 17 to 23 range, and STFT was around 0. So the ECU adapted in about 20 miles or so.

Also, interestingly, as soon as I cleared the code, the idle smoothed out noticably. I also though the throttle response improved.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Saw the magic "25" LTFT

Driving home yesterday, sitting in light traffic, I saw LTFT of 25 under light acceleration.

25 is supposedly when the CEL will light. Not sure how long LTFT has to be 25 before the CEL lights. I guess we'll see.

I'm seeing 21 or so at cruise.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fuel rail and fuel line metalurgy

I had the hood open this weekend, and inspected my fuel rail and fuel lines closely.

They're all stainless steel. Very nice and shiny!

I'm pretty sure that there are no metalurgical issues with running E85 in this non-flex-fuel vehicle.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Tank #19

I filled up this afternoon at Meijer. The god damn display on the pump was broken, so I didn't know exactly how much I had filled. I had to estimate, and I was a little short of where I wanted to be (7.5 gallons).

Price of E85: $3.29 Gallons: 7.307
Price of regular: $3.79 Gallons: 6.650

Gallons left from tank #18 (@42.81% ethanol): 2.243

Ethanol content of tank #19 (@ E74): 43.40%

I got 23.5 mpg at 28 mph average speed on tank #18.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Vapor recovery is not an issue for running E85 in a non-FFV

One of the claims against running E85 in a non-flex-fuel vehicle is that ethanol has a higher vapor pressure than gasoline, and thus you will get a check-engine-light when the vapor recovery system is overwhelmed.

As you can see from the graph above, that is not quite true. In fact, E10 has a higher vapor pressure than just about any mixture of E85 and gas that you could come up with.

From the graph (which is from an SAE paper), I would say that even running straight E85 will not throw a code from the vapor recovery system.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

How to improve cold starting on E85

A university paper on the subject is here.

This has got me worried. This paper was kicked off from the experience of a university team that converted a car to E85 in '98. They had cold start difficulties at 50°F! They doubled the fueling on cold start. Not sure how I would do that!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Considering upsized injectors

I'm seriously considering getting higher flow injectors to be able to run straight E85 with no CELs.

Figuring out what the injectors are, and what higher flow injectors are compatible, is no easy thing.

It seems that the stock injectors are Siemens part number 12790827. I've seen them quoted at 355cc/min, 32#/hr, 34#/hr, and 36#/hr. Not sure which they are, and I'm just going to assume 36#/hr.

These injectors are also used in the supercharger Cobalt SS.

Just doing the calculation, at 210 hp, with a .5 BSFC and 80% of capacity, you need 33#/hr injectors, so 36 seems right to me.

Now I need to figure out a compatible higher flow injector. Just comparing air-fuel ratios between gas and E85, I need about a 55# injector. Maybe a little less, since we know that the Saab injector is optimized for E10, not gas.

Monday, September 22, 2008

What's different about the Ecotec FFVs?

Found this:

Hardware changes for flex-fuel operation are limited to the injectors. Because ethanol has fewer BTUs (less energy) than the same volume of gasoline, more fuel is required to produce the same horsepower at wide-open throttle. Flex fuel engines use unique stainless injectors with a greater cone angle and higher maximum fuel-flow rate. The fuel rail matches the injectors, but it’s manufactured of the same stainless steel used for all 2.2L I-4 fuel rails.

The flex-fuel 2.2L doesn’t require a special fuel sensor. The first flex-fuel engines used a light-reactive sensor to measure fuel composition from 100 percent gasoline to 85 percent ethanol. The 2.2L has a virtual sensor—software programmed in the E37 ECM with no separate physical sensor whatsoever. Based on readings from the oxygen (O2) sensors, fuel level sensor and vehicle speed sensors, the ECM adjusts the length of time the fuel injectors open for the type of fuel used. Within a few miles after filling up, the E37 controller determines what fuel is powering the 2.2L I-4 and manages the engine accordingly.

I'm really beginning to thing that flex fuel vehicles are just regular cars with higher flow rate injectors!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Check this out, from a GM corporate website no less!

A new virtual fuel sensor reduces the cost and complexity of adding E85 capability to the fuel system. The ECM samples the exhaust at the oxygen sensor, and an algorithm determines whether E85 is used, as well as its mixture percentage with gasoline. It’s a much simpler, less costly system than previous systems that relied on fuel composition sensors. In fact, the entire system on the engine is simple: only the fuel rail and fuel injectors are different between E85 versions and non-E85 versions.

Did ya get that? The only difference between a flex fuel vehicle and a non flex fuel one is basically the fuel injectors. They probably flow a little more than the non-flex fuel ones.

I'm looking into the availability of higher flow injectors for the Saab.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Good resource regarding converting to E85

Evidently, there was a conference in Minnesota about converting non-flex-fuel vehicles to E85.

Here is the powerpoint presentation.

There is a LOT of good information in there. I especially liked the presentations from the Ford and GM folks about the changes they've made in their FFVs to survive E85.

I wonder how many of the issues they bring up are really a big deal.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

I drove a REAL flex-fuel vehicle...

...but not on E85.

I had to go to Tulsa on business, and because of the hurricane, there was literally only one rental car left, a Lincoln Town Car.

Lo and behold, it had a yellow gas cap indicating that it was a flex fuel vehicle.

Sadly, I couldn't find an E85 station in Tulsa, and the car had a full tank anyway.

But if you're in the market for a FFV, maybe a used Towncar is the way to go. There aren't that many FFV cars, they're mostly SUVs.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Tank #18

Well, it took me 2 hours to get home and an hour and a half to get back to work this morning, because of all the flooding and closed roads. So I decided to fill up so I don't get caught in traffic and run out of gas.

Gallons E85: 6.997
Gallons E10: 4.414

Gallons from last tank (@ 31.39% ethanol): 4.989

Ethanol content of tank: 42.81% (assuming E85 was 74% ethanol). Could be as high as 47.65% if it was 83% ethanol.

I was getting some funky STFT before I filled up. I saw -15! Kind of indicates that tank 17 was really low in ethanol.

I just ran up to O'Hare, and STFT looked much better. LTFT was around 17 or so.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Disaster! Then tank #17.

Well, we got 9 inches of rain since Friday. Needless to say, there's flooding all over the place...

...including Meijer's E85 tanks! They're totally shut down. Gas City is in Hammond very near the Little Calumet River, which is totally flooded as well.

And, of course, I'm at empty.

And gas is going for $4.26 a gallon. It was $3.79 on Thursday.

I put in 5.126 gallons of E10. No E85.

Unfortunately, because I didn't fill up, I don't know exactly what was left from tank #16. The display said 49 miles to empty, and the average mileage for tank 16 was 23.2. I'll just divide one by the other to estimate the gallons left.

So, tank #17 is 31.39% ethanol. So far that large decrease in ethanol (from near 40% to near 30%) hasn't kicked off a check engine light. I was getting short term fuel trims on the order of -5.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Funky stuff with my LTFT

My long term fuel trims are all over the place on this tank. It seems like they're fairly steady at 19% on the highway once I'm up to speed, but accelerating there I saw numbers as high as 24. Yikes!

And the LTFT is not as steady on this tank as the last tank. They go as low as 18, and as high as 21, and seem to fluctuate more, with 19 probably being the average.

I wonder if this is the behavior you'd expect when you're reaching the limit of the fuel injector system's ability to deal with ethanol.

I think the mileage is a bit worse as well. I'm sitting right at 23 mpg, with an average speed of 30.

Monday, September 8, 2008

What should E85 Cost? 9/9/08 edition

I'm calculating between $2.65 and $2.90 a gallon. That's for 74% ethanol, which is what we're supposed to be getting in Illinois and Indiana this month.

Meijer had it at $3.38 this morning.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

9-3 doesn't increase timing advance with increasing ethanol content

This plot is of the timing advance, which was in all three data file Alcohol gave me. Essentially, it's not showing any more advance with more ethanol.

Now, I don't know jack about timing advance, if ~32 degrees of advance is a lot, if you should expect a lot of advance on the highway, etc. But I was hoping to see the Saab Trionic ECU be able to increase advance, since higher ethanol means higher octane, and less detonation.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

How high can a Saab 9-3 go?

I've made a lot of progress in the last couple of days.

First, I found the Saab trouble code list that shows that if LTFT goes over 25, a CEL is thrown. So 25 is the upper limit for this car.

And I now know the relationship between LTFT and ethanol content. Is is y = 0.54x - 4.6. y is LTFT, x is ethanol content.

With these two pieces of info, I now know that I'll get a CEL at 54.8% ethanol!

LTFT vs. Ethanol Content

Well, the E30 data wasn't at a 70 mph cruise, so there was a lot of crap in it. Not usable for the analysis I want to do.

I plotted long term fuel trim vs. ethanol content for the data that I have (Alcohol's two data files, and my Scangauge reading from my last tank), and lo and behold, not only is there a linear relationship, it is a very stron relationship (R^2 of 1!!!!!!)

Pretty frickin cool.

And now I have a nice equation that I can use to predict LTFT based on tank ethanol content.

LTFT on E10 at 70mph

This is AWESOME data. You can see that LTFT on E10 is a mere 0.8, confirming my hypothesis that cars are "tuned" for E10, and that LTFT is essentially zero on E10.

I think Alcohol gave me a run on E30. Will do same analysis if I can.

BTW, this analysis required cutting the data from a word file, pasting it to excel, parsing the data to separate the text from the numerical data, and doing a halacious amount of cutting and pasting to get it all into tabular form. No shit, it's like half an hour of cutting and pasting per file! And it's only 45 data points!

Woe is me, I complain worse than an Obama voter.

LTFT on E20 at 70 mph

Alcohol sent me some data from his car. This is a graph from one of the data files, where he had the cruise set at 70 while running E20.

LTFT is pegged at 6.2. Interestingly enough, if LTFT is zero on E10 (do they design them that way), then it should be about 18 at E40. That's more or less where I am.

Alcohol sent me something similar for E10, I need to look at that for comparison.

LTFT on tank #16

It doesn't look like I'm getting any higher LTFT with the new tank. Still seems to be 17 on the highway.

This kind of indicates to me that the E85 I bought in August was 79%+ alcohol, and the tank I just bought was 74% or so. In that case, the ethanol content of my latest tank is no different than the last tank, despite adding half a gallon more E85.

Tank #16

I filled up at Meijer last night. Here are the stats:

Price E85: $3.29
Price 87 Octane gas: $3.79 a gallon

So much for Hurrican Gustav! That's cheaper than what I paid two weeks ago!

Gallons E85: 6.518
Gallons 87 Octane: 8.022
Gallons left from tank #15 (@~37.15%% ethanol): 1.86

I'm assuming that the E85 is 74% ethanol, 100 octane.

Ethanol content of tank #16: 38.52%
Octane of tank #16: 94.27

I got 23.7 mpg at 27 average mpg on tank 15.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Comprehensive list of GM trouble codes


I now know that you get the CEL for the lean condition(P0171) when long term fuel trim goes over 25. Good to know.

Being that LTFT at 40% ethanol is 17, the upper end of ethanol for the 9-3 is 58%. Also good to know.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What does it take to convert a late model car to E85

Here's an SAE paper about converting a '99 Silverado to E85.

They're not trivial changes! The changes to the fuel system were significant:

1) fuel pump
2) fuel lines
3) fuel rail
4) injectors

The paper says that +25 LTFT indicated a "severe lean condition". I wonder if it was lean, or just an idication that the injectors were being pushed realy hard.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

What's the EPA's beef?

Why does the EPA want to fine me? (i.e. anyone running more than E10 in their non-FFV).

I think that I've figured it out:

Nonetheless, even when the CEL does not illuminate on the non-FFV burning E85, proper catalytic operation of the catalytic converter for a non-FFV burning higher percentages of E85 may not be achieved as soon as necessary to prevent the emission of some pollution products resulting from burning the gasoline contained in the mixture, especially upon initial cold engine start. This is because the catalytic converter needs to rise to an internal temperature of approximately 300 degrees C before it can 'fire off' and commence its intended catalytic function operation. When burning large amounts of E85 in a non-FFV, the cooler burning characteristics of alcohol fuel than gasoline fuel may delay reaching the 'fire-off' temperature in a non-FFV as quickly as when burning gasoline. Any additional pollution, however, is only going to be emitted for a very short distance when burning E85 in a non-FFV, as the catalytic converter will nonetheless still 'fire off' quite quickly and commence catalytic operation shortly. It is not known whether the small amount of pollution emitted prior to catalytic converter 'fire off' may actually be reduced even during the cold startup phase, as well as once catalytic operation commences, when burning E85 in a non-FFV. Likewise, even once the catalytic converter 'fires off', operation with the CEL illuminated will still result in excess amounts of nitrous oxide being released, greater than when operating the engine on gasoline. The solution is simply to add gasoline, and extinguish the check engine light (CEL), at which time exhaust pollutants will return to within normal limits.

For non-FFVs burning E85 once the CEL illuminates, it is the lessened amount of fuel injection than what is needed that causes the air fuel mixture to become too lean; that is, there is not enough fuel being injected into the combustion process, with the result that the oxygen content in the exhaust rises out of limits, and perfect (i.e., stoichiometric) combustion is lost if the percentage of E85 in the fuel tank becomes too high. It is the loss of near-stoichiometric combustion that causes the excessive loss of fuel economy in non-FFVs burning too high a percentage of E85 versus gasoline in their fuel mix.

Man, the EPA is being a bunch of Nazis because of some cold start emissions?

Well, I stand corrected. Running more than E10 will delay the cat from hitting its light off temperature. There is no doubt about that, at least theoretically.

However, I still contend that, if this were a reality, the second O2 sensor, which monitors the performance of the cat, would know that the cat isn't performing correctly, and throw a CEL.

Is this the "damage" that E85 can cause in a non-flex fuel vehicle?

E85 is a mix of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Unless your car or truck is designated as a “flex-fuel” vehicle you should not use E85. If you run E85 in older cars (pre-1995 that are designed for gasoline) then your car may be severely damaged. It can cause damage to seals and hoses along with causing corrosion throughout the fuel system. It can also wash lubrication off the engine’s cylinder walls. The hydroxyl group on the ethanol molecule is an extremely weak acid, but it can enhance corrosion for some natural materials.

For ethanol contaminated with larger amounts of water (i.e., approximately 11% water, 89% ethanol), considerable engine wear will occur. This wear is especially harsh during times while the engine is heating up to normal operating temperatures. Just after starting the engine low temperature partial combustion of the water-contaminated ethanol mixture takes place and causes engine wear. This wear, caused by water-contaminated E85, is the result of the combustion process of ethanol, water, and gasoline producing considerable amounts of formic acid (also known as methanoic acid). In addition to the production of formic acid occurring for water-contaminated E85, smaller amounts of acetaldehyde and acetic acid are also formed for water-contaminated ethanol combustion. Of these partial combustion products, formic acid is responsible for the majority of the rapid increase in engine wear.

Engines specifically designed for flex fuels employ soft nitride coatings on their internal metal parts to provide resistance to formic acid wear in the event of water contamination of E85 fuel. Also, the use of lubricant oil (motor oil) containing an acid neutralizer is necessary to prevent the damage of oil-lubricated engine parts in the event of water contamination of fuel. Since older cars are not protected from formic acid the use of E85 is not recommended.

Everything you could ever want to know about ethanol blends


Like I said, there is no evidence that putting more than 10% ethanol in your car (E20, E30, E40, up to E85) does any damage. States like Minnesota and South Dakota have "blender pumps" that dispense E20, E30, and even E40, and there are no reports of damage to any fuel system.

The EPA and the automakers are a bunch of scare mongers on the issue. In the end, I blame fear of lawsuits. They know that damage is unlikely, but they can't take the risk that they're wrong.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Understanding Long Term Fuel Trim

Well, with Hotrod's guidance, I have a much better understanding about what I'm seeing with LTFT on the Scangauge.

When cruising, I am seeing a steady LTFT at 17. With almost 40% ethanol in the tank, that seems a little high. Maybe I'd expect more like 13.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

"Hotrod" answers my questions about long term fuel trim

Larry, i.e. "Hotrod" over at e85 forums, answers my questions about what I'm seeing on the Scangauge on Long Term Fuel Trim (LTFT):

Yes those numbers are almost certainly % + corrections to the base fueling, if You create a situation where you go lean you will see a minus sign show in front of the number (at least on my OBDII scanner and ecu)

It varies a bit by car, but most ecu's (engine management units) have about +/- 25% fuel trim authority. That means that when you get to a LTFT of about 20 -25 you will likely trip a CEL as the ecu is adding 20 -25% more fuel than it normally would run to get to its target fuel air mixture.

On my car LTFT is a lot more dynamic than I expected it to be, and I learned to totally ignore the fuel trims until the engine temp was up to full coolant temp, to avoid having issues with cold start enrichment and warm up enrichment. Also ignore it during acceleration because you are seeing acceleration enrichment which is normal.

I finally got in the habit of watching the LTFT's only when I was on light throttle highway cruise, (or at fully warmed idle conditions learn what is normal for both conditions on your car). Stable highway cruise is a condition I know should stabilize out at a stochiometric fuel air mixture, and is usually maintained long enough for you to get a feel for what the average number is.

LTFT is long term only in the perspective of the ECU it actually appears to change quite rapidly as you drive around, the STFT is almost real time, ie if you were to have a misfire on one cylinder it would see the change in mixture and try to compensate for it.

If you push the mixture too far, I would expect you would see the LTFT would peg at what ever is the maximum capability of your system, likely 25% or so, and then you would see the STFT start climbing. At some point the ecu decides this is not a transient issue but a permanent change in the engines tune and needs attention and that is when it trips the CEL. On my car I found the CEL always tripped on steady state highway cruise conditions, as apparently that is when the ecu trusts the value of the fuel trims the most.

Monday, August 25, 2008

The REAL lowdown on the "risk" of running E85 in a non-FFV

This is the best comment I've ever read:

My Take on E85 fuel system wear in Non FFV's.

In 1988 mandates require auto manufacturers to be safe with E10 (10% ethanol) which everyone has been running for years. At this time, the use of vunerable rubbers, eaisly corroded metals, etc was minimized to allow safe operation of vehicles on 10% ethanol. Furthermore, Ehanol is typically only corrsive to modern fuel systems when it is exposed to water (ethnol is, unfortunately attracted to water and readily absorbs water). This is part of the reason all fuel systems are closed, no outside air (minimal) or moisture can enter the system when the gas cap is closed.

An acceptable figure for damaging moisture contect of E85 would be approximately 1%(over a period of time), thats about 1 pint of water would have to be consistently added to every 12.5 gallon tank of gas to obtain any appriciable corrosion in a fuel system 1988 or newer (personally I use 1996 is a benchmark for converting vehicles to E85 without substantial fuel system upgrades, also when OBDII was implemented but this is another subject).

The long and short of it is, fuel system (modern) are very robust, running E85 in a modern engine can be safely done (in my opinion, based on information available to me). After coverting my personal vehicle, a 1998 Toyota Tacoma, and 2nd hand reports of Subaru's running E85 for periords of 2 - 5 years or so, I have seen no physical evidence that rapid deterioration of a fuel system occurs in late model vehicles. One could thorize that over a period of 10 to 20 years an issue could generate but I don't expect to have my Toyota until 2028, it would be 30 years old and by then I hope there will be some better alternatives. Or I will have completely overhauled it anyway.

My experience is based on a Mechanical Engineering Degree and 2 years working for an injection company (several years ago) engineering department conducting durability testing on injectors and pumps.

People expect manufacturers to come out and certify that their cars will be ok but this is never going to happen, no one will take that kind of liability or potential loss of sales etc etc. Converting a vehicle is a personal decision that each person should make based on thier own judgement (and take responsibility for). There is an abundance of mis-information on the web going in both directions and I encourage everyone to weight each source carefully.

Real negative's of running E85

1. reduced mileage per gallon, anywhere from 5-30%, people with turbocharged or supercharged engines have been able to take advantage of higher octane ratings and optimize system performance (mileage, torque and HP) retaining up to 95% of their original fuel economy. In my Toyota 4cyl, I have been getting 18 mpg as opposed to 21-22, but the fuel has been consistently $1 cheaper so it's a win win for me, plus I like more of my money staying in the States.

2. Initially, you will experience the need to change fuel filters several times until all the garbage in the regular gasoline is cleaned from the system. I personaly consider this a good thing. It's not that hard to change a $10 inline filter, I like to cut them open and double check that there is not debris from fuel system parts, so far just sludge from the 125000 miles worth of cheap gas. Some people have had a fuel pump failure from the increased sludge coming out of the take while the E85 is cleaning things out, not common but still a possiblity.

3. When switching between the gas types, you will notice the cars computer taking some time to gradually change parameters, some say about 20 miles or several run cycles. (engine cycles involve the car warming up from cold, not just turning it on and off)

How does a Flex Tek or Full Flex conversion work?

Well, they both work off the same principal per my understanding. In a nutshell oversimplified explanation, a cars computer reads unbonded 02 (from the O2 sensor, go figure). Based on this reading, it just reads O2, nothing else, it assumes that unused O2 means there's more oxygen than fuel and therefore inefficient combustion. The only parameter that the computer can change is the fuel injector duty cycle. Great, why do I need a piggy back computer if the computer can add more fuel by itself. From the factory, computers can usually only adjust fuel rates by +/- 15% to accomodate changes in elevation, fuel quality, etc. Well, it's a fact that E85 contains 25-30% less energy so it stands to reason that about 30% more fuel is required for efficient combustion. So, this piggy back computer simply adds a predetermined (about +15% for this example) to the injector duty cycle. Now, your cars computer can easily adjust from 0 to +30% fuel to accomodate a range from regular unleaded up to E85. People will notice the gradual change in performace as the computer adjusts parameters, thats why it is recommended to run 50/50 mix of E85 and regular unleaded in between regular gas and E85, as the cars computer (OBDII) adjusts parameters gradually and remembers the previous parameters at each startup.

These piggy back computers acheive settings that "gearheads" have been doing for years when modifying and tuning cars but it takes all the guess work, trial and error, dyno time, expensive sensors associated with an expensive ECU or fuel system controller that most of us couldn't handle programming or installing...

E85 is a step in a right direction, easily used in Late model vehicles and even better when included as an OEM feature. The option warrents careful consideration by anyone interested in supporting our local economies, reducing dependence on forign resources, sticking it ot the man (oil companies realize 100 million dollard each and every day in pure profits), reducing polution, 70% at the tailpipe and a modest 20-30% when the entire supply chain is considered.

Interesting Fact, our tax dollars (through subsidies) pay farmers not to farm over 40 million arcres of agricultural land in the United States. Using modern technology and coservative estimates this land alone could alleiviate approximately 50% of US importants on oil. Yeah, the cost of beef might increase a little, so what, at least that money would stay here and our childrens childrens childrens would stand a good chance of having some resources left.

EPA overstepping its authority.

From commenter 2.0T BOI, we find this article about the EPA hassling people who mix E85 in their non-flex fuel vehicles:

What is E30?

E30 is gasoline that contains 30 percent ethanol. The fuel can't legally be put into vehicles that were not made to run on more than 10 percent ethanol.

WARNING: EPA claims the right under the Clean Air Act to fine individual car owners who illegally fill up with a fuel like E30, because the fuel could damage emission control systems, said Dave Ryan, an EPA spokesman. Violations of the law carry potential fines of $2,750. "Depending on the circumstances of each case, there could be cases where the individual motorist would potentially be liable, along with the retailer and/or the retailer's supplier," Ryan said in an e-mail. Ethanol increases the oxygen content of engine exhaust and that can disable a car's emission system if it isn't designed to accommodate the fuel, experts say.

That's a bunch of BS right there. Who are these "experts" and what evidence do they have to say that excess oxygen in the fuel disables the car's emissions system.

I don't think that there is any evidence to say that. In fact, I have 10k miles worth of evidence to the contrary siting in my driveway!

The EPA talks a good game, but they're a bunch of pussies. All the evidence that they need to prosecute someone is RIGHT HERE! I even have the receipts for all the E85 I've bought, and spreadsheets documenting everything. Come and get me. I look forward to challenging their evidence in open court.

Scare mongering about E85 in the local paper

I was wondering how long it would take to get stories about people mistakenly putting E85 in their cars.

Now that there are pumps with E85 and gasoline dispensing capabilities, it will be much easier to mix E85 and gas, but also much easier to fill up with the wrong fuel.

The article was a bunch of BS. If I mistakenly filled up, I would just run the damn thing out. I'd come back to the station every day or two and top off with gas. No need to spend $240 to drain the tank.

Last tank mpg

Forgot to post...

Last tank averaged 25.5 mpg at 31 mph average speed.

Not bad at all!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tank #15

I filled up at Meijer this morning. The pump has been fixed, the keypad worked, and the printer had paper. Woo hoo!

Here are the stats:

Price E85: $3.35
Price 87 Octane gas: $3.85 a gallon

Gallons E85: 6.015
Gallons 87 Octane: 9.164
Gallons left from tank #14 (@~34.77%% ethanol): 1.221

I'm assuming that the E85 is 79% ethanol, 100 octane.

Ethanol content of tank #15: 37.15%%
Octane of tank #15: 93.48

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

I've rethought what E85 should cost

I just can't get over how cheap E85 should be, according to my spreadsheet. I think that I'm probably underestimating freight.

Just looking at the NYMEX price for unleaded (currently at $2.86 a gallon), adding in the gas tax and the sales tax, to get Meijer's price of $3.85, you need to add 23 cents per gallon. This is the cost of freight, handling, profit, whatever.

If I add that same factor to my E85 calculation, I get $2.68 a gallon.

I found another website that supposedly has rack prices for ethanol in a number of states. For example, it has the rack price in Indiana as $2.52 right now. Using that number, and picking 12 cents per gallon as freight, I get an E85 price of $2.81.

Either way, that's significantly cheaper than the $3.35 that Meijer is currently charging for E85.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Scangauge update

I played with my new toy on the way to work this morning.

Horsepower, O2, and fuel trim all work. Torque, A/F ratio, the post-cat O2, and knock retard do not. I'll have to work on finding some alternative codes for those.

Fuel trim was all over the place. Short term fuel trim was anywhere from -5 to 5. Long term fuel trim was 12 at idle and as much as 20 on acceleration. I was surprised that LTFT varried as much as it did.

O2 was also all over the place, anywere from 8 to 70. Not quite sure what that means, or even what the units are!

What SHOULD E85 Cost? 8/18 edition

How about $2.32 a gallon?

It's about a dollar more than that at Meijer now.

One word: GOUGING!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fun with the Scangauge

I successfully added short term fuel trim, long term fuel trim, and lambda from the O2 sensor to the Scangauge.

I also added the second O2 sensor (after the cat), horsepower, torque, and air fuel ratio, but I didn't get to test them to see if they work.

Long term fuel trim is 12, whatever that means. Short term fuel trim was 0 or 1.

Could it be that 12 means 12%, and the injectors are 12% over their normal duty? Makes sense to me. That would be about right for 30% ethanol.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Scangauge pic

I REALLY like this thing. Currently, I'm displaying instant mpg, ignition advance, manifold absolute pressure, and open/ closed loop.

I'm going to download the codes to add fuel trim and the O2 sensor to the display.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Scangauge II installed

I got the Scangauge II in the mail yesterday evening, and I installed it that night. I need to post a picture of the install, it's pretty slick.

Coolest thing is that it shows boost right out of the box. It measueres manifold pressure, in PSI(a). At full boost, it was showing 25 psi(a), which is 10 lbs. of boost. Sweet!

It also shows if you're in closed loop or open loop. Even half throttle gets you into open loop. Not a good thing if you're using a lot of ethanol!

It can show a number of other parameters right out of the box: ignition advance, water temp, intake temp, voltage, fuel consumption, fuel pressure, etc.

Fuel trim is not available out of the box. It needs to be added manually. I need to go over to the website and figure out how to do it.

All in all, it's a VERY slick package. Just having boost is worth the price of admission.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

I ordered the Scangauge II

I finally bit the bullet and ordered the Scangauge II from Amazon. It set me back $160, no tax, no shipping fees.

My wife's van has an intermitant problem with the ABS (light comes on then goes out) that I want to troubleshoot with a scanner.

And then, of course, I get to use it to see the fuel trim when running E85!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Tank #14

I filled up at GAS CITY!!! yesterday morning. Here are the stats:

Price E85: $3.60
Price 87 Octane gas: $3.99 a gallon

Gallons E85: 5.527
Gallons 87 Octane: 9.747
Gallons left from tank #12 (@~32.12%% ethanol): 1.126

I'm assuming that the E85 is 79% ethanol, 100 octane.

Ethanol content of tank #13: 34.77%%
Octane of tank #13: 93.77

Thursday, August 7, 2008

I sold a man on E85!

So at Gas City, I was a little confused. I figured that they'd have one pump for E85, out of the way. So I asked a guy who looked like he might work there where the E85 pump was.

Well, it turned out that he wasn't an employee, but he wanted to know what E85 was. And it turned out that he drove a flex fuel Impala. He filled up with E85 just because of me!


My first trip to Gas City

So I checked out Gas City on Calumet in Hammond, Indiana. It's WAAAAAAY nicer than Miejer. Every single pump is E85 capable. Instead of selling mid-grade, they sell E85. Pumps are newer, and they're in excellent shape.

Now the downside: Gas City gouges worse than Meijer! They sell E85 for 40 cents less than regular. Worse, they sell regular for 15 cents more than Meijer! I think that Gas City caters to people coming over from Illinois, and those customers are willing to pay quite a bit more than Hoosiers.

Even so, Gas City is not that far out of my way (maybe 2 miles total, and they're all on the Bohrman), I like their pumps, and the whole experience was pretty nice. I might go back!

Meijer makes it hard to be a customer

Besides gouging us, Meijer is not maintaining its sole solitary E85 pump.

I was totally out of gas (car said 24 miles to empty. YIKES!). I pulled up to the pump at Meijer, and there was a sign that said that the card reader AND printer were not working. No pay at the pump.

I decided to go to Gas City instead. I've been meaning to check them out, this was a great excuse to give them a shot.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

E85 prices coming down with gasoline

Meijer has E85 at $3.22 as of yesterday afternoon.

I've seen a number of no-name gas stations in Hammond, Indiana with gas at $3.65.

So it appears that the huge drop in crude oil prices in the last couple of weeks is translating into cuts in gasoline AND E85 prices.

My spreadsheet says that E85 should cost $2.68 a gallon.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

CEL turned off itself

I was successful in getting the CEL to turn off by itself. Gassed up with the tank at ~32% ethanol, and within a few drive cycles, it was off. I had a long run up to O'Hare (about 50 miles each way for me) and that did the trick.

This is yet another confirmation that 30% is a safe limit for the amount of ethanol this car can run without fear of a CEL.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What SHOULD E85 Cost? 7/22 edition

I just re-ran my spreadsheet.

As the price of oil has plunged, so has ethanol on the CBOT and unleaded on the NYMEX.

How does $2.63 sound?

A lot better than $3.46!

Meijer is SUCH a ripoff. I with Family Express would build a station on Indianapolis right by the Bohrman. Even they're making money at $2.99 a gallon.

Lucky tank #13

I filled up at Meijer yesterday afternoon. Here are the stats:

Price E85: $3.46 a gallon
Price 87 Octane gas: $3.96 a gallon

Gallons E85: 4.513
Gallons 87 Octane: 10.036
Gallons left from tank #12 (@~37.670%% ethanol): 1.851

I'm assuming that the E85 is 79% ethanol, 100 octane.

Ethanol content of tank #13: 32.12%%
Octane of tank #13: 91.167

32% ethanol is a level that I know the ECU can handle without a CEL. The only question is, will the CEL clear by itself, or do I need to disconnect the battery again? I'm going to just drive it and see if it goes away.

It's a little hard to say exactly because the dealer reset the mileage, but I think that tank 13 finished with a mileage of 24.2. Average speed was 31 mph.

Once again, shortly after I filled up, Meijer dropped the price of E85 by 10 cents a gallon! D'oh! My timing is impeccible.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Disaster Strikes!

I brought my car to the dealer on Friday for its 10k miles service. When I got the car back, I noticed that they had reset everything, indicating that they had the battery disconnected.

One thing that having the battery disconnected does is reset the ECU. Everything that the ECU "learned" about running on E85 (short term and long term fuel trims, in particular) was lost.

Seeing as I was running at 38% ethanol, I was worried that I'd get a CEL.

Well, on the way to work today, I got one!

Damn! This is a setback. Luckily, I'm within a day or so of a new tank. But I'll have to back off the ethanol content down to 30%. This is going to set me back weeks.

On the positive side, this shows that the ECU can adapt to higher ethanol content as long as you increase the ethanol slowly and give it time to learn and adapt.

Also, I think that this shows that the CEL is set when the difference between STFT and LTFT becomes too great. Again, by slowly increasing the amount of ethanol in the tank, you can overcome this problem.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


The afternoon after I bought E85 the price was 5 cents per gallon less.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tank #12

I filled up at Meijer this morning. Here are the stats:

Price E85: $3.74 a gallon (YIKES!)
Price 87 Octane gas: $4.24 a gallon

Gallons E85: 5.998
Gallons 87 Octane: 9.004
Gallons left from tank #11 (@~38.501% ethanol): 1.398

I'm assuming that the E85 is 79% ethanol, 100 octane.

Ethanol content of tank #12: 37.670%
Octane of tank #12: 92.222

Tank 11 finished with a mileage of 24.2. Average speed was 31 mph.

Price of E85 is insane. I'm pretty sure that this is the most I've ever paid for it. Come on, Meijer, give us a break! My spreadsheet is still showing that E85 should be about $3.10 or so.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Close to a new tank...

...gas gauge light went on this morning.

I'm in a bit of a quandry. I need to take the car in for an oil change and the 10k mile service. I don't want a CEL going off before I go in, so I probably won't be increasing the amount of E85 in the tank on this next fillup. If anything, I should probably back off a bit.

That stinks!

Also, my appointment at the dealer isn't until the 18th. I might have ANOTHER tank by then. That would be two "wasted" tanks!

Dillemas, dillemas.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Still an idiot

Sorry, I keep cross posting items from my other blog, mistakenly.

I'd like to keep the local politics and the E85 separate!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Comment on new train station in Gary

Commenter g has an awesome comment on the proposed station in Gary:

There is already a train station in Gary that hasn't created development. Same thing as the Genesis Center and Rail Cats' stadium. I don't think the sweetheart deals for the Bennigan's and new strip center across the street are nothing more than public funds used for private gains.

This is a terrible idea being pushed by the contractors in the "Gateway Group" and the politicians they can buy.

How does it possibly help Gary to remove the train station in Miller? That is their tax base and to make it even less attractive to live in would be a disaster.

Just raise the platforms at Miller and downtown Gary like NICTD has already done in recent years for all the other stations (at least from OD/Portage to Chicago) and the "travel time" problem will be solved.

Besides, $120M for a new station that hardly anyone will use and is reported to be only 60K SF is just a mind-boggling number at $2,000/sf. Sure, the rail elements might be expensive, but this has ridiculous profits built in for the contractors to pay their cronies. Just like the Rail Cats' stadium cost and the cost to build the new strip center across the street, THIS WILL JUST BE MORE OF THE SAME THIEVERY OF TAXPAYERS FOR PRIVATE GAINS.

Sorry for the rant, but this is preposterous an so many levels.

At the Railcats stadium, someone said that it cost $54 million to build that stadium, which works out to be $10,000 per seat. That's more costly than New Yankee Stadium in the Bronx!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I'm an idiot.

Obviously that last post was meant for my other blog.

Lake County Solid Waste Board sends "educators" on junkets

How would you like to go to Put-in-bay on taxpayer expense?

While many Hoosiers are curbing their travel plans due to high costs of living, three district employees and a contractor will again use taxpayer dollars to attend a weekend retreat to plan recycling programs for the upcoming year.

In the past two years, these county employees have billed the district more than $5,000 for room and board at some posh locales.

In August, the educators used property tax revenue from the agency's travel budget to stay at the Ahoy Bed & Breakfast in the town of Put-In-Bay, Ohio. Located on South Bass Island in Lake Erie, Put-In-Bay bills itself as "the Key West of the North" on a municipal Web site.

In August 2006, the retreat was based at the New Buffalo Inn & Spa in New Buffalo, Mich.

Waste Management Executive Director Jeff Langbehn said the educators "basically lock themselves in their rooms and work 12-hour days" during the annual August retreats.

Besides the three educators, taxpayers also pay travel costs each year for Diane Thurber, a former Solid Waste district official who Langbehn says has unmatched recycling educational expertise.

Solid Waste has an annual travel budget of about $15,000.

Lake County Commissioner Gerry Scheub, a member of the Solid Waste Management District board of directors, defended the trips.

"A lot of people in county government travel to Las Vegas or Hawaii, so traveling around the Midwest isn't so bad," Scheub said.

"Well, I base my position on the results," Scheub said. "We have the best Solid Waste district in the state, it does very positive work."

Scheub is an idiot, and one who is up for re-election in November. Defense of this obvious waste should come back to haunt him.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What does the future hold for my tank?

My plan is to increase my E85 by half a gallon per tank. Seeing as I average about one tank every two weeks or so, I wanted to see how long it might be before I max out the ethanol content.

It's going to take awhile!

Price I've paid for E85 at Meijer

Here's what I've paid so far for E85 at the Meijer in Highland.

I threw in a regression line just for the hell of it. Gives you an idea of how fast E85 (and gas) has been increasing in cost over the last 4 months.

What is the octane in my tank?

I also recalculated the octane in the tank. Again, because of the seasonal variability of the ethanol content of E85, the octane of the E85 you buy is difficult to know.

The minimum octane content is right under 94, the maximum is 94.6. The turbo has got to be loving that!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

How much ethanol is REALLY in my tank

The seasonal variability in ethanol content of E85 makes determining what the hell is really in the tank very difficult.

I too a closer look at this document, and I see that it only specifies MINIMUM ethanol content by month. The MAXIMUM content is ALWAYS 83% (so the 85 in E85 is BOGUS).

So I did the graph to figure out what is the most ethanol that could be in the tank, and what the least amount could be. I'm somewhere in between.

Interestingly, it appears that I am now above the ethanol content that gave me a CEL on tank #4. I'm still below the amount that gave me the first CEL.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Meijer clerks don't know jack.

I asked the Meijer clerk about the ethanol content of the E85 they're selling.

Not only did she not know, I don't think she could even spell "E85". It was like talking to someone with a mental impairment. Which she probably was.

I "inspired" someone!

From an anonymous commenter:

You have inspired me to try and ruin my car too. I've been putting increasing amounts of e85 in my 2.0T equipped VW.


Turbos love ethanol. I bet the gasoline direct injection VW really loves ethanol. The charge cooling effect of the direct injection and the ethanol must be amazing.

Tank #11

I filled up at Meijer yesterday afternoon (the low tank light went off right in front of Meijer! Sweet!). Here are the stats:

Price E85: $3.62 a gallon
Price 87 Octane gas: $4.12 a gallon

Gallons E85: 6.007
Gallons 87 Octane: 8.009
Gallons left from tank #10 (@~35.152% ethanol): 2.184

I'm assuming that the E85 is 79% ethanol, 100 octane.

Ethanol content of tank #11: 38.501%
Octane of tank #10: 92.488

Tank 10 finished with a mileage of 26.1. Average speed was 35 mph.

At 38.5% ethanol, this tank is well over the ethanol content that caused the CEL to light on tank #3. At 35% ethanol, tank #10 had almost as much ethanol as tank #3, but no CEL lit.

And as commente Alcohol likes to mention, my estimates of E85 ethanol content is most likely conservative. So I probably have more ethanol in the tank than I have calculated above.

It seems like you need to SLOOOOOWLY build up to higher and higher levels of ethanol. I probably got the CEL on those early tanks because I went from 30% to 40% too quickly.

My strategy now is going to be to increase each tank by half a gallon of E85 each time I fill up. That's why I went from 5.5 gallons of E85 last tank to 6 gallons on this tank. Next tank will be 6.5 gallons.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Getting close to a new tank...

80 miles to go or so...

Meijer is at $3.65 this morning. My spreadsheet says that E85 should be $3.08.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

E85 does not pay Indiana excise tax

It looks like E85 is exempt from Indiana state excise taxes (18 cents per gallon).

But the retailer has to collect the tax and then apply for a credit. And it looks like there is a $1M limit to how much all E85 retailers can deduct.

See here.

I verified that Indiana charges sales tax on gas purchases. The sales tax in Indiana was recently jacked up to 7%.

So we're back to $3.13 a gallon for E85. Meijer is still charging $3.52 a gallon.

I'm an idiot.

I forgot the blender credit in my calculation.

With the blender credit, I get $3.11 per gallon. That's with no station profit in there.

So Meijer is making roughly 40 cents a gallon on E85.

I wonder how much of the capital cost of the new E85 pump and tank add to a gallon of E85.

Also, anyone know if all the federal and state taxes apply to E85? How about the sales tax? I didn't have the sales tax in there.

Just adding a 7% sales tax brings the price up to $3.32 a gallon.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Are we being gouged on E85? I don't think so!

Okay, I just made a new spreadsheet that calculates the price that E85 "should" be.

The spreadsheet goes out to the CBOT and Nymex websites and gets the price of ethanol and unleaded from yesterday. It takes 85% of the price of ethanol, 15% of the unleaded price, adds the gas tax (51 cents in Indiana) and a 3 cent freight charge.

It's telling me that E85 should be $3.54 a gallon.

Point of fact, it is $3.52 a gallon right now at Meijer. And E85 is NOT 85% ethanol right now, so it should even be a little more expensive.

Now I have the spreadsheet, I need how to make a widget that refers to it.

E85 becoming more popular in Northwest Indiana

I'm not the only person using E85 in Northwest Indiana.

Some interesting quotes regarding E85 pricing:

The coalition recommends E85 be priced at least 20 percent less than regular unleaded to make up for a loss in fuel economy, Lampert said.

Family Express President and CEO Gus Olympidis said he dropped the price of E85 to $2.99 a gallon at his northern Indiana stations not only because ethanol "is cheaper right now than gasoline," but because U.S. grown corn goes into the blend.

Competing chain Gas City dropped E85 prices at several of its Northwest Indiana locations to about 60 cents below the going rate for regular unleaded gasoline in order to stay competitive, Gas City district manager JoEllen Jostef said.

And we all know that Meijer prices it at 50 cents less than regular.

So there you go. Meijer is gouging us by 50 cents a gallon for E85!

Seriously, if it should be priced 20% less than regular, which is at $4.02 at Meijer, they should be pricing E85 at 80 cents less. So they're gouging us by 30 cents.

Even a 20% discount for E85 may not properly reflect its true cost with a reasonable level of profit added. It STILL might be gouging!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Conductivity meter to determine ethanol content?

How about this?

Just how much ethanol is in E85 this time of year?

Commenter Alcohol said that E85 is actually 83% ethanol this time of year.

I beg to disagree.

June is a "2" month, 2 being 74% ethanol, minimum.

I need to find a hydrometer that can measure the ethanol content at the pump. This guessing business is nuts.

Commenter Alcohol explains the Check Engine Light

the CEL is often triggered by the trim being out of boundaries rather than actual lean condition.

With all vehicles however- the concern is not likely to be in closed loop operation- the concern likely would be in open loop such as WOT that you might go too lean unless the ECU has a learn ability for open loop. Larger injectors are often used in performance applications to insure full power and stoichiometric conditions at WOT.

Interesting. You know Al, I used to be an actual, honest to god automotive engineer, and I don't know this stuff. How do you know all this?

The Scangauge will tell you if you are in open or closed loop, in addition to trim and O2 sensor data.

I have to think that the way that I drive, I am very seldom in open loop.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Tank #10

I filled up at Meijer this morning. Here are the stats:

Price E85: $3.52 a gallon
Price 87 Octane gas: $4.02 a gallon

Gallons E85: 5.562
Gallons 87 Octane: 8.725
Gallons left from tank #9 (@~34.102% ethanol): 2.113

I'm assuming that the E85 is 75% ethanol, 100 octane.

Ethanol content of tank #10: 35.1521683%
Octane of tank #10: 92.005

Tank 9 finished with a mileage of 25.5. Average speed was 34 mph.

At 35% ethanol, this tank is very close to an ethanol content that caused the CEL to light.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

What does the check engine light really mean?

What does it mean when the check engine light comes on?

I found this paper, where E85 was run in a Toyota Prius hybrid. This is interesting:

While using E-85, the check engine light came on. Upon inspection this
produced a code indicating a lean condition was detected. During this testing, it
was noted that the check engine light for the lean code would come on between
140-160 miles after clearing the code. The oxygen sensor output and the shortterm
fuel trim all indicated that the Air/Fuel ratio is stoichiometric, and that the
fuel control module was maintaining the correct amount of fuel required. What is
setting off the check engine light is that the system monitors the change in the
base fuel map, which is indicated by the long-term fuel trim. If this change is
outside of the set boundaries for an extended period of time, then a code is set to
indicate that the fuel system is making greater adjustments to the fuel quantity to
maintain the correct air/fuel mixture than is necessary under normal
circumstances. The use of ethanol caused the fuel system to adapt the long-term
fuel trim by an increase of 32.81%. ! This supports the lower average fuel
economy of ethanol in the results. See figure 4. An added advantage of using E-
85 showed gains in power output, as shown on table 1. Although ethanol has a
lower energy density than gasoline, due to its lower air/fuel ratio, and effectively
cooling the intake charge, it allows more fuel to be introduced to the combustion
chamber thereby providing the power gains seen

So the check engine light does not necessarily mean that you are ACTUALLY running lean, just that the computer can't figure out where all that extra oxygen is coming from.

If one had a Scangauge II and one could ensure that a real lean condition is not occuring, one could run ethanol levels that cause the CEL to occur.

One really needs a Scangauge II...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Tank #9

I filled up at Meijer this morning. Here are the stats:

Price E85: $3.66 a gallon
Price 87 Octane gas: $4.16 a gallon

Gallons E85: 5.520
Gallons 87 Octane: 9.208
Gallons left from tank #8 (@~31.809% ethanol): 1.672

I'm assuming that the E85 is 75% ethanol, 100 octane.

Ethanol content of tank #9: 34.102%
Octane of tank #9: 91.821

Tank 8 finished with a mileage of 26.4. Average speed was 39mph.

I tried to increase the ethanol content a little bit. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hard starting!

When I left work yesterday at 4:30 PM it was 47 DEGREES!!!!

My car actually was a little hard to start. It stumbled on the first turn, and I had to hit the ignition again. Not a big deal, but a little surprising nonetheless.

And that's only on 30% ethanol! I wonder how hard 70% ethanol would be to start, and when it's REALLY cold.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

E85 setting new price records...

...right along with gasoline!

It was $3.59 at the Meijer on Rt. 41 yesterday, when gas was $4.09. It was $3.55 at the Meijer on Indy this morning, with gas at $4.05.

I'm seriously considering getting the Scangage II. Amazon has it for $157 with no tax and free shipping.

It is obvious that the Saab can do fine at 30% ethanol without throwing any CELs, but it's about time to see how far we can push it beyond 30%. I'll get a CEL, but is it really causing a dangerous lean condition? Need the Scangage to find out.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Things I learned at Miejer this morning.

The pump at Meijer has a little sign above it that I never noticed before. It said that E85 has 105 octane. Also says "for flex fuel vehicles only".

Tank #8

I filled up at Meijer this morning. Here are the stats:

Price E85: $3.36 a gallon
Price 87 Octane gas: $3.86 a gallon

Gallons E85: 5.017
Gallons 87 Octane: 10.007
Gallons left from tank #7 (@~32.939% ethanol): 1.376

I'm assuming that the E85 is 75% ethanol, 100 octane.

Ethanol content of tank #8: 31.809%
Octane of tank #8: 91.365

Tank 7 finished with a mileage of 24.2. Average speed was 30mph.

After I filled up, on the way to work, I was briefly at 30.1 mpg coming off of Cline Ave. The car has excellent highway mileage. Turbos are amazing.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Van tank #2

Well, the stalling problem on the van only happened once. I had the van again yesterday, and it was at 1/8th a tank. I went and filled it up for my wife.

And I just can't resist mixing in a little E85! I'm an addict.

I got 5.067 gallons of E85, 13.769 gallons of 87, and there were 6.134 gallons from the previous tank.

That works out to about 26.6% ethanol in the tank. A little more than last time.

Using E85 saved a whopping $2.50 on this tank.

Mileage was maybe a mpg or two less than on 87, as you would expect.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

$3.50 for E85!

And $4.00 for 87 octane at Meijer.


I'm almost at half a tank, and I'm at 23.5 mpg. Pretty consistantly getting that mileage.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

E85 kit for my Saab

There is a company that makes a CPU reflash for my Saab that allows running straight E85.

Bonus? Horsepower goes from 210 to 238!

There's a place in Yorkville, Illinois that sells and installs the ECU. I'm seeing how much it will cost now.

I might also upgrade the car to dual exhaust at the same time.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Meijer's E85 pump was busy this morning!

As I was driving by on the way to work, a restyled, first gen Dodge Caravan was fueling up. I'd guess that it was maybe a '93 or '94. Definately NOT flex fuel. Not OBDII either. I think it was a woman driving. I wonder how E85 is working for her.

Waiting to fuel up was a late model Impala. Could have been flex-fuel. Same color as the last, non-flex-fuel Impala I saw fueling up after tank #6. Could have been the same guy.

Meijer's E85 pump was busy this morning!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Meijer E85 pump gets a workout

The car filling up after me was a late model Chevy Tahoe flex fuel. Those are sweeeeet SUVs. I was surprised to see that it was a chick driving it. That's the first woman I've seen using the E85 pump.

Tank #7

I filled up at Meijer this morning. Here are the stats:

Price E85: $3.30 a gallon
Price 87 Octane gas: $3.80 a gallon

Gallons E85: 5.000
Gallons 87 Octane: 9.004
Gallons left from tank 6 (@~31.343% ethanol): 2.396

I'm assuming that the E85 is 75% ethanol, 100 octane.

Ethanol content of tank #7: 32.939%
Octane of tank #7: 91.629

Tank 6 finished with a mileage of 23.5. Average speed was 28mph.

After I filled up, on the way to work, I was briefly at 29 mpg at 45 mph average speed. I don't think highway mileage is any worse on E85.

Friday, May 2, 2008

What cars are E85 compatible?

I found a nice list here.

This is a great resource if you're looking for a used E85 compatible vehicle, because it shows what to look for in the VIN number. You can go to and look at VIN numbers to find the E85 cars.

I know that SUV values are dropping like a rock, but there's an E85 compatible Explorer and Moutaineer. You could get into one of those for $15k and run straight E85 with no worries. Of course, combined mileage on E85 is 11 mog, down from 15.

Another good choice is the Ford Taurus. They're dirt cheap. I found an '01 Taurus flex fuel for $6000 on Look for the 8th digit in the VIN to be "2". They sold flex fuel Tauruses 'til '05.

Nobody is advertising these cars as flex fuel. Chances are the dealers don't know the difference. Go in there and steal one!

Is Meijer ripping us off on E85?

I've long suspected that Meijer's pricing of E85 is a ripoff.

Meijer always has E85 50 cents cheaper per gallon that 87 octane gas, just like gas stations always have premium 20 cents more than 87.

I know for a fact that there are times that refiners "give away" octane. Certain times of the year you can buy gas that is marketed as 87 octane, but that really has 91 or 93 octane. So the cost difference is artificial.

Is the same thing happening at Meijer? An anonymous commenter says:

Buzz- I pay $2.649 for E85. Colorado has stations selling it for $2.40. Meir is overpriced.

Damn! If Meijer had E85 at $2.69 when 87 is at $3.85, my E85 experiment would make a lot more sense!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mid tank update

Halfway done with tank #6.

Mileage so far is 24 mpg, and average speed is 30 mph.

E85 was $3.35 yesterday at Meijer. Yikes! That's a lot.

It was $3.25 this morning. It was $3.15 two days ago.

There's a lot of volatility in the price of gas and E85 lately.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Can E85 cause a car to stall?

I got a call from my wife on the cell yesterday. She had just pulled into the pre-school parking lot, and the van stalled.

It started right back up, and she got home without incident, but this is the first time it has ever stalled that I can remeber.

Did the 25% ethanol in the tank do that? I'd say that we've got about 50 miles on this tank.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The things I've seen at the E85 pump

I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one gassing my non-flex fuel vehicle with E85.

I actually had to wait to gas up tank #6. A guy was gassing up his 2000 Linclon Town Car. He put in 13 gallons. That's nowhere near the capacity of a Town Car, and I'm pretty sure that they're not flex fuel.

When I filled up my wife's van, the pump indicated that the last customer put in 2.5 gallons.

After I used it, the next customer was a late model Chevy Impala. It did not have a flex fuel badge, so I'm pretty sure that it was a non-flex fuel model.

My Wife's van on E85

Well, I was out in the wife's van for a Depot run, and it was running on empty. I took the opportunity to gas it up with a little E85.

She's got an '02 Chevy Venture with the 3.4L V6. It's got a little over 60k miles.

It's got a 25 gallon tank. I put in 5.5 gallons of E85 and filled the rest up with 87 octane gas. It works out to about 25% ethanol.

We drove around doing a few errands today. So far, so good.

E85 was still $3.15 a gallon, and 87 was still $3.65.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Where are gas prices going in the next 4 or 5 years?

I'm listening to Bloombrg radio on XM, and they were interviewing some analyst. He was asked where he thought prices were going in the longer term, 4 or 5 years out.

Answer: $7 a gallon.

Yikes, that's scary.

My E85 experiment makes even more sense, although I hope that when gas is $7 a gallon, E85 isn't $6.50 a gallon!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Tank #6

I filled up at Meijer yesterday. Here are the stats:

Price E85: $3.15 a gallon
Price 87 Octane gas: $3.65 a gallon

Gallons E85: 5.008
Gallons 87 Octane: 10.002
Gallons left from tank 4 (@~28% ethanol): 1.39

I'm assuming that the E85 is 75% ethanol, 100 octane.

Ethanol content of tank #6: 31.374%
Octane of tank #6: 91.56

Tank 5 finished with a mileage of 23.5.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Tuesday afternoon price explosion!

E85 went from $3 to $3.24 yesterday afternoon. Regular is $3.74, premium is $3.94

Wouldn't you know it, my gas light came on as soon as I passed Meijer on the way home yesterday!

The information display says that I still have 64 miles to empty. I'm going to drive another day or two before I fill up. Maybe prices will go down a bit.

$3.94 for premium?!? Ouch.

On a bright note, on the way to work today my mileage got back up to 23.5 mpg. My average speed is 27 mph. I think that I've been doing a lot of local driving, and 23.5 is not bad for local.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Cars of the near future? Your car on E20.

There was an Society of Automotive Engineers symposium on how cars will be fuelled in the future.

Interesting tidbit:

Even non-flexible fuel vehicles can run on up to 10 percent ethanol, or E10, but the Department of Energy, the United States Environmental Protection Agency and others have begun studying the idea of introducing "intermediate" gasoline blends that contain 15 or even 20 percent ethanol.

Novacek and Maher urged caution. They said higher blends could damage vehicles not optimized to handle high concentrations of ethanol. Also, they said, many non-vehicle engines, such as those found on lawnmowers, may not be able to handle more ethanol.

The EPA is pushing to get E15 and E20 in pumps? That's news to me.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Tank # 5

I filled up at Meijer yesterday. Here are the stats:

Price E85: $2.94 a gallon
Price 87 Octane gas: $3.44 a gallon

Gallons E85: 4.002
Gallons 87 Octane: 9.830
Gallons left from tank 4 (@~30% ethanol): 2.568

The difficulty is that we are in the transition from winter blend E85 to summer blend. The ethanol content of E85 at this time is unknown. It can be anywhere from 70% to 76%.

Worst case, this tank has a little less than 28% ethanol. Best case, it's 29%.

Octane would be similarly difficult to figure out. I think that, worst case, it is a little over 91 octane.

Tank 4 finished with a mileage of 24.5. So far, I've done about 15 to 20 miles of local driving, and the mileage is right at 20.

Not bad.

Thursday, April 10, 2008


I'm getting close to the end of this tank. I've gone at least 300 miles on it, and no CEL. The information display is showing 24.5 mpg and is very steady.

Gas prices exploded Monday afternoon. Prices when from $3.25 to $3.55 that afternoon.

Meijer still has regular at $3.44 and E85 for $2.94.

I'd probably get gas tomorrow, if I didn't have the day off. May not be 'til Monday.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Mileage increasing tricks

Since cars get worse mileage on ethanol than straight up gas, I've been trying to implement little tricks to improve my mileage and offset the ethanol mileage hit.

For example, pumping up the tires to their rated limit (35 psi) using the cruise as much as possible (even on Indianapolis Blvd!), and keeping it at 65 mph on the highway.

I learned a new trick. My car has one of those "manumatics". It's an automatic, but you can shift it yourself if you want. You pull the stick towards you, and shift up by pushing it forward and pull back to downshift.

I recently learned that when it is in manumatic, the torque converted is locked in gears 3, 4, and 5.

If you drive on the highway in 5th gear, the torque converter doesn't lock and unlock like it does in D. Saabistas report as much as a 1 mpg improvement in highway mileage by driving in 5th gear rather than "D".

I started doing that today. We'll see if I can see any improvement.

Every little bit helps. If I can minimize the mileage penalty of mixing E85 with regular gas, the cost savings is over $6 a tank.

30% is the magic number

I let my wife drive the car. That was the real test, she has a very heavy foot and drives fast.

She drove out to the dunes and back without incident.

I've gone about 150 miles on the 30% ethanol tank. I think 30% has been proven to be the limit for this car.

As of this second, the mileage meter is reading 24.5mpg. I think that that's 1 or 2 mpg below what it would be on straight up premium.

Friday, April 4, 2008

And the CEL is...

...O2 Sensor too lean.

Went to Autozone, they used the scantool to read and clear the code.

Nice little service that they offer there.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Another CEL

Well, I thought that 36% was still too much ethanol. I was right. On the way to work this morning, I got another CEL. I got off and added another 3.592 gallons of Amoco Ultimate to the tank.

So... tank #4 statistics:

Gallons from tank 3: 12.8
Ethanol content of tank 3: 36.435%

Gallons of 93 Octane Amoco Ultimate: 3.592

Ethanol content of tank 4: 30.6273%
Octane of tank 4: 94.31

I'll clear the code after work tonight and see what happens.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

CEL update

Well, I forgot to go to Autozone. Instead, I cleared the code myself by disconnecting the negative terminal of the battery.

Driving to work today on the 36% ethanol tank, I got over the East Chicago bridge without incident. I'm hopeful that this ethanol content won't throw a code.

Just looking at the mileage indicator on the dash, 36% ethanol gets a lot better mileage than 43% did.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tank number 3

Gallons from tank 2: 13.25
Ethanol content of tank 2: 42.71%

Gallons of 93 Octane Amoco Ultimate: 3.146

Ethanol content of tank 3: 36.435%
Octane of tank 3: 94.74

I just hope that I can clear the CEL code and not have it come back on with 36% ethanol. That's still a lot more than the 30% that worked so well on tank 1.

DAMMIT! Check engine light goes off at 43% ethanol!

Man, that was quick.

71 miles into my 43% ethanol tank, the CEL went off.

I was Cline, starting to go over the bridge over the canal in East Chicago, by Mittal. The cruise was set at 65, and the turbo was spooling up. I'm not surprised that the CEL would come on in that situation.

The car was running well. No hesitation or missing that I could feel.

I got off Cline and hit the BP in Whiting on Indy as soon as I could. I added 3.146 gallons of Amoco Ultimate.

I'll go to Autozone this evening and use their scantool to see what the code is and to clear it.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Another Saabista uses ethanol

An anonymous comment:

I have an '04 Saab 9.3 2T Aero w/6 speed manual non-flex. The preferred fuel for me in it is E20-E30. With 90 octane NL the turbo will only spool to red zone- with E20 it will peg if you nail it and you better get ready for some torque steer. I buy this for about 25 cents less than what 90 octane NL costs. While I have tested E10-E60 in my none flex vehicles and all blends in my flex vehicles for mpg-- I have not yet done this on the Saab. (I picked it up last fall and as a 2wd and low skirt Aero version- it was parked for the winter)

So I'm not the only eccentric Saabista messing around with E85. Cool!

Sounds like Anon is from Minnesota.

My 2.0T has the premium package, which includes the 17 inch rims and skirts from the Aero. I wish I could have gotten the 60th Anniversary package that included the Aero seats. My seats are nice, but the Aero seats are near perfect (and the Convertible seats ARE perfect.)

I guess we don't get enough snow here in the Chicago area to worry about "the snow plow effect" of the air dam. I do scrap the air dam on my driveway every time I pull out, though!

The second tank!

Sorry for not posting, I've been on vacation. I drove my wife's van, a 2002 Chevy Venture minivan with 62k miles. Seeing as how this is a very used vehicle (as opposed to my 6 month old Saab) and not under warranty, I don't put E85 in it.

Meijer had E85 for $2.75 a gallon yesterday. Even though I wasn't on empty, I filled up with E85. They had 87 octane gas for $3.25 a gallon, so the spread between E85 and regular has opened up to 50 cents a gallon. Nice.

My mileage on the previous tank, which was 30% ethanol, was 23.5 mpg. This is about 1 mpg less than I normally get on straight Amoco Ultimate.

Stats for the new tank:

Gallons E85 (70% ethanol): 7.508
Gallons 87 Octane gas (10% ethanol): 4.595
Gallons left from last tank (30% ethanol): 4.297

Ethanol content of new tank: 42.71%

Octane of new tank: 95.147

Fuel savings (E85 @ $2.75/gal, 87 @ $3.25/gal, 93 @ 3.45/gal): $6.17/ tank

So far I've driven about 20 miles. Driveability is fine and no check engine light. Mileage is attrocious so far (19.8 mpg) but I did drive about 5 miles of local last night. The drive to work this morning took it from 11.8 mpg to 19.8 mpg. I had the cruise set at 65 mph where I could on Cline Ave. That's my new top speed!

I also pumped up the tires to the max they're rated for, 35 psi. Ride is QUITE firm.

The drive home should be interesting.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

E85 map of NWI

Just how much ethanol is in that there pump?

Sorry, I posted Illinois instead of Indiana, but they're the same numbers.

This time of year we're Volatility 3, which is 70% ethanol. We are going into 2/3, which could be 70 or 74% ethanol, or a mixture. The summer we get 79% ethanol, minimum.

E85 Availability in NWI

Locations in Munster, Dyer, Hammond, Hobart, Merilville...

Almost no excuse NOT to gas up with E85!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

More on the energy intensity of E85

From Autoweek

The ethanol used to make E85 comes mostly from corn. One bushel of corn produces 2.8 gallons of ethanol. The corn is ground into a powder, which is treated with water, enzymes and ammonia. It is heated and stirred, then cooled before yeast is added. That starts the process of converting sugars in the "mash" into alcohol. There are a few more steps before the ethanol is ready to be mixed with gasoline.

The bottom line: Making E85 is an energy-intensive process. Researchers are divided over whether ethanol is an energy loser. It can be if the corn has to be shipped long distances to an ethanol plant. Much of the cost-effectiveness of producing ethanol depends on where the refinery is.

Is E85 the next unleaded?

From Autoweek:

By now you’re probably aware of E85, whether you caught President George W. Bush hailing it in his State of the Union address or heard General Motors chairman Rick Wagoner touting it as he revealed his company’s line of flex-fuel vehicles.

So what’s all the hullabaloo? And if you want to help save the planet, should you hop on the E85 bandwagon?

E85 is the designation for a fuel that combines 85 percent ethanol with 15 percent gasoline. E85-compatible—or flex-fuel—vehicles can run on E85 or regular unleaded gasoline. Because the alcohol in E85 can break down rubbers and plastics used in typical internal-combustion engine fuel systems, vehicles must be specially modified to allow its use. And to obtain maximum power from higher-octane E85, engines must be tuned to run on it, or be able to adjust timing and the air-to-fuel ratio when running on E85.

Supporters say the alternative fuel is environmentally friendly, reduces dependence on fossil fuels and imported oil, and takes advantage of America’s surplus of agricultural crops, like corn, that can be readily converted to ethanol for use in E85.

Critics note insufficient ethanol production facilities exist to significantly offset the nation’s appetite for fuel, that refineries aren’t adapted to producing E85, and that E85 is harder to transport because its corrosiveness means it cannot flow through existing gasoline pipelines. In addition, in most states E85 costs about the same as unleaded regular while costing the driver up to 15 percent in fuel-economy penalties because it does not pack the same explosive punch as gasoline.

Those negatives aside, Phil Lampert, executive director of the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition, sees a substantial upside—and predicts prices will drop as more ethanol production comes on line in the next 18 months. But even with ethanol production slated to nearly double in the next 10 years, E85 will remain a bit player in the U.S. fuel market for years to come—which is not to say you won’t be burning some ethanol. Blends of up to 10 percent ethanol with gasoline may become more commonplace soon. Ethanol enhances the octane rating of the fuel, supplanting the toxic additive MTBE, which itself substitutes for lead as an octane booster.

E85 vehicles remain a small niche, with about 70 models capable of running on the alcohol mixture on the U.S. market since 1998. GM, which claims industry leadership on promoting E85 use and awareness, recently made a substantial push into E85 vehicles, announcing its 2005 and 2006 sport/utility vehicles and pickups, along with two Chevrolet car models, are E85 compatible. The company has marketed 28 flex-fuel models since 2000. Chrysler, Dodge, Ford, Isuzu, Mazda, Mercedes-Benz, Mercury and Nissan have also sold or are still selling flex-fuel vehicles in the United States.

Owners of the estimated 5 million flex-fuel vehicles on the road today—those who deliberately bought a vehicle for its flex-fuel capability—are likely to find their E85 consumption limited by the short supply of E85 fuel pumps in most states outside the Midwest farm belt. The number of E85 fueling stations doubled from 2005 to 2006, but that still means you can buy it at only 600 of the nearly 200,000 fueling stations in the United States. In most states E85 outlets exist only in major population centers. As a result, owners of flex-fuel vehicles often have to run on regular unleaded gasoline.

Minnesota, which has passed legislation to support the use of ethanol, leads the nation with 208 stations offering E85, while Illinois ranks second with 117. But the numbers drop dramatically from there, and in 13 states—including a number of Northeastern states that pattern their strict emissions rules after California—E85 isn’t sold at a single station. In the eco-friendly Golden State you will need access to the private E85 pumps at Vandenberg Air Force Base to get a tankful, or you will have to live, work and play in San Diego, home of the only publicly accessible E85 filling station in California.

Does E85 use less fossil fuels?

From Autoweek:

Yellow gas caps denote E85 capable vehicles on products from GM.

To power a vehicle the same distance as gasoline, E85 made from corn
Requires 24.3% more overall energy input
But consumes 32.9% less fossil energy
And expends 69.5% less petroleum energy
Source: Argonne National Laboratory


WASHINGTON -- Along with automakers, the Bush administration wants to end debate over whether ethanol made from corn yields more energy than does the fuel used to produce it.

The Energy Department's verdict: It does.

A new department brochure says that 740,000 British thermal units of fossil energy are consumed to make and deliver ethanol that contains 1 million Btu of energy. The latest version of the brochure, issued last month, is part of a broad department defense of ethanol.

The department cites an analysis by the Argonne National Laboratory, which identifies a big positive energy balance for corn ethanol. The calculation includes the natural gas, petroleum products, electricity and coal used to grow corn, distill it into alcohol and deliver ethanol. It does not count solar energy in the corn.

The analysis "has laid to rest some long-held misunderstandings about ethanol," the department says. Critics who call ethanol an energy loser don't account for the improving efficiency of ethanol plants or other benefits, the department adds.

When scientists perfect methods for making ethanol from plant debris — so-called cellulosic ethanol — the energy equation will look even better, the department says.

Critic unbowed

"Every argument they make is bogus," says Tad Patzek, one of the leading critics of ethanol, of the administration's defense. Patzek, a professor of chemical engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, vows to keep fighting ethanol.

Even if the administration's optimistic assumptions are granted, Patzek says, ethanol at best breaks even. That is, the energy derived from ethanol would be no greater than the energy used to make it, he says.

The technology to produce cellulosic ethanol is far from proven, Patzek adds. And it would threaten tropical ecosystems where plants would be harvested for ethanol.

Automakers build hundreds of thousands of vehicles each year that can run on E85. Those manufacturers — especially the Detroit 3 — want to see the debate ended in ethanol's favor. E85 consists of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

Beth Lowery, General Motors' vice president of environment and energy, says she knows of at least a dozen major studies of the energy balance of ethanol. Nine of them find ethanol to be an energy winner, she says. The Argonne study is the most important, she adds.

The disagreements among the studies reflect researchers' assumptions, Lowery says. Some analysts who declare ethanol an energy loser count the energy used to make trucks that haul corn, she says.

They also don't account for the value of ethanol byproducts, such as cattle feed that remains after the fuel is made, she adds. And ethanol critics rarely consider the amount of energy needed to deliver a gallon of gasoline to a service station, Lowery says.

Other hurdles

Ethanol faces other big obstacles. The fuel requires heavy government tax breaks to be economically competitive with gasoline. Fewer than 900 of the nation's 170,000 filling stations sell E85.

Ethanol got a big boost this year when President Bush, a former oil man, touted it as a way to break the nation's "addiction to oil."

The Union of Concerned Scientists, an environmental group, says ethanol made from corn offers limited environmental benefits and limited potential for large-scale replacement of petroleum. But it is a key to the transition to cellulosic ethanol, the group says.

Michael Wang, the Argonne analyst whose research model calculated ethanol's positive energy balance, believes the debate is overblown.

Wang says about two-thirds of the energy used to make electricity is lost before the current reaches consumers.