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.