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...