Thursday, December 24, 2009

Autoweek finds that E85 now makes sense

Autoweek takes a road trip and finds ample E85 outlets with low prices.

I am SO jealous of what some of you guys are paying for E85. If it was $2.15 a gallon at Meijer, I'd be continuing my experiment.

Friday, December 11, 2009

E85 experiment going on hiatus

I've put about 15,000 miles on the car using various amounts of E85. I've had absolutely no ill effects. The car has yet to go to the dealer for any warranty work whatsoever. Nothing but oil changes so far!

But Meijer has been having really crappy E85 prices (currently $2.49 when gas is $2.50). And I'm losing the motivation to use 2 pumps to pump the gas.

So the experiment is going on hiatus. I may start it up again at some point, but as of now, I'm done.

Are there any conclusions I can make?

1) E85 will not mess up your car, at least in the medium term. A year and a half of ethanol mixing and 15,000 miles did not result in the gas tank leaking or any of the other BS you often hear about when it comes to ethanol.

2) Mileage does decrease with ethanol use. In my case, I lost a few mpg. Not a big deal, but a decrease nonetheless.

3) Performance is the same on gas and E85. If you didn't know that there was 40% ethanol in the tank, you wouldn't be able to tell by just driving the car.

4) E85 prices at Meijer suck. They overcharge for it. But I appreciate them having it available. I wouldn't have done this experiment if they didn't carry it.

5) Non-flex fuel cars can handle up to about 40% ethanol without throwing a check engine light. Modern fuel injected cars have a lot of built in flexibility to burn mid-grades of ethanol.

Thanks to the few of you actively following the blog. I hope others find the blog as a resource against the anti-ethanol naysayers.

Phoning it in

Just publishing the raw data from the last couple of tanks...

tank# date E85 Regular Premium Left $E85 $Reg mileage speed Min % Max % Min Oct Max Oct
55 11/3/2009 0 14.515 1.885 2.26 2.36 25.8 42 13.50% 13.58% 87.80483527 87.87893415
56 11/17/2009 7.017 6.21 3.173 2.46 2.6 19.9 25 36.35% 46.84% 95.30961054 96.08605436
57 11/30/2009 7.017 6.97 2.413 2.46 2.48 20.6 29 39.55% 46.05% 95.13456591 95.89475727
58 12/14/2009 0 0 14.329 2.071 2.43 13.73% 14.55% 93.26955402 93.36555136

Monday, October 26, 2009

Chevy Avalanche

A flex fuel Chevy Avalanche filled up at the E85 pump at Meijer right after me.

Man, that's a big truck. It simply dwarfs my little Saab.

I bet that he gets single digit mileage on E85.

Tank #54

Tank: 54
Date: 10/25/2009
Gallons E85: 6.517
Gallons regular: 7.319
Gallons from last tank: 2.564
Price E85: 2.40
Price regular: 2.64

Ethanol Content: 40.48%
Octane: 94.63421264

Milage from tank 53: 20.6 mpg
average speed: 27 mpg

Tank #53

I put a little too much E85 in this tank. I was thinking that E85 is 70% gas now, but the switchover isn't until November. You can see that I'm a little high on the ethanol content, and I was getting LTFT of 24, just under the 25 that will set off the CEL. But I didn't get a CEL, and we now know EXACTLY what the limit is.

You can also see that my mileage SUCKED, partially because of the extra ethanol, partially because of the cold weather, partially because I did more local driving for some reason.

Date: 10/14/2009
Gallons E85: 7.033
Gallones regular: 6.494
Left from last tank: 2.873
Price E85: 2.26
Price regular: 2.36

Ethanol %: 42.26%
Octane: 95.25620155

Mileage of tank 52: 21.4 mpg
Average speed: 33 mph

Friday, October 2, 2009

A lovely sight

E85 is now $1.999 at Meijer. Man, it's nice to see a sign that starts with 1.

Gas is cheap, too. $2.24 a gallon. Not much of a spread, though.

Tank #52

Bought at Meijer.

Date: 9/30/2009
Gallons E85: 6.008
Gallons Regular: 8.221
Gallons from tank 51: 2.171
Price E85: 2.00
Price Regular: 2.24
Ethanol content: 37.50%
Octane: 93.95031342

MPG of tank 51: 22.4
average speed: 31

Tank #51

Bought at Meijer.

Date: 9/18/2009
Gallons E85: 6.333
Price E85: 2.20
Gallons Regular: 7.682
Price Regular: 2.50
Gallons left from tank #50: 2.385
Ethanol content of tank 51: 40.63%
Octane: 94.41660402

Mileage of tank 50: 22.6 mpg
Average Speed: 31 mph

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tank #50!

What a milestone! 50 tanks of mid grade ethanol with NO ISSUES! I averaged 31% ethanol over that timeframe.

Bought at Meijer:

Gallons E85:6.042
Gallons regular: 9.264
Left from last tank: 1.094 gallons
Price E85: $2.20/gallon
Price regular: $2.56/ gallon
Ethanol content of tank: 37.38%
Octane: 93.54490938

Mileage of tank #49: 23.2mpg
Average speed: 33 mph.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tank #49

Date: 8/31/2009
Gallons E85:6.025
Gallons regular: 8.097
Gallons left from tank 48: 2.278
Cost E85/gallon: $2.20
Cost regular/gallon: $2.46
Ethanol content of tank: 39.42%
Octane: 94.00228037

Tank 48: 21.7 mpg @ 30 mph

Filled up at Meijer

Monday, August 31, 2009

Tank #48

Date: 8/20/2009
Gallons E85: 6.036 @ $2.40
Gallons regular: 8.161 @ $2.50
Leftover: 2.203 gallons
Ethanol content: 39.32%
Octane: 93.98956361

I filled up at Gas City in Hammond. Their pricing totally sucks, but I was close by when the gas light went on.

I continue to run right under E40, and the car is running fantastic. LTFT is 21 to 22, no CELs. No hesitation or hard starting. You'd be hard pressed to know that the tank was nearly half ethanol.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Tank #47

Filled up on 8/7/2009:

Gallons E85: 6.017 @ $2.30/ gallon
Gallons regular: 8.225 @ 2.58/ gallon
Gallons left: 2.158 @ 39.64% ethanol

Ethanol content: 39.22%
Octane: 93.83178052

Tank #46:
Average MPH: 34

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

E85 anniversary!

I've been running E85 in my Saab for a year and a half. I've had the car for 2 years.

The car has 20k miles on it, and I've put about 15k miles on it with E85 mixes anywhere from E20 to E55. I averaged 32.5% ethanol over the entire time frame, and lately I've been running E40 exclusively.

So much for ethanol eating a hole in your gas tank, fuel lines, engine block, whatever.

What you're really getting when you mix your own E40

I went on vacation the other weekend. Because I've got a minivan full of kids, overloaded with all their crap, and I love to drive fast, I fill up the van with premium fuel.

I want as much power to pass as I can get!

So on my travels, I stopped at Shell to gas up.

Lo and behold... Shell sells 94 octane gasoline. It was 10 cents more per gallon than 93, which is 10 cents more than 89, which is 10 cents more than 87.

What do I get when I mix my own E40? 94 octane.

I'm going to have to redo my cost savings calculations to reflect that 94 octane is 30 cents a gallon more than 87, instead of doing it based on the 20 cent premium that 93 costs.

Tank #46

Filled up on 7/23/2009:

Gallons E85: 6.025 @ $2.16
Gallons regular: 8.003 @ 2.33
Gallons left: 2.372 @ 39.65% ethanol

Ethanol content: 39.64%
Octane: 93.94805018

Tank #45:
Average MPH: 30

Tank #45

Filled up on 7/7/2009:

Gallons E85: 6 @ $2.16
Gallons regular: 7.956 @ 2.34
Gallons left: 2.444 @ 39.57% ethanol

Ethanol content: 39.65%
Octane: 94.28779156

Tank #44:
Average MPH: 30

Good E85 pricing near Lafayette, Indiana

I found a Family Express between Lafayette and Delphi that had E85 at $2.09 when regular was at $2.48. Not bad!

Of course, I was driving my wife's van, and she doesn't let me put E85 in it!

Update: rerunning my "What should E85 cost" spreadsheet, $2.09 is a fair price, within the range that E85 should cost ($2-$2.11 a gallon).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Baaaaad E85 pricing

E85 was $2.15 yesterday. Regular gas was $2.12. Ouch!

Pricing for regular is back up to $2.45 today. There's a ton of volatility in the gas markets right now.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tank #44

I filled up at Meijer last night. Both E85 and regular gas cost $2.70. The bastards.

I got 6.017 gallons of E85 and 8.007 gallons of regular. The ethanol content of the tank is 39.42% and the octane is 94.2.

I got 23 mpg at 35 mph on the last tank. I did a lot of fast driving, that's why the mileage sucked so bad. I've also had the a/c on a lot, it's hot as hell in Chicago.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What should E85 cost? 6/15/09 edition

With Meijer now gouging their E85 customers again, I've revistied my spreadsheet where I calculate E85 prices based on the spot market for ethanol and unleaded, including the blender credit.

E85 in Indiana should cost between $1.98 and $2.10 a gallon. Meijer currently has it at $2.70 a gallon.

Can you say gouging?

Back in the bad old days of last summer, they priced E85 50 cents a gallon cheaper than regular. That would be about $2.15 a gallon now, which I think would be a very fair price.

One wonders why they price E85 as they do. They can't be selling any at these prices.

tank #43

I filled up at Meijer on June 6th. I got 6.025 gallons of E85 at $2.70 a gallon and 8.121 gallons of regular at $2.76 a gallon. This works out to be 38.83% ethanol and 93.9 octane.

The last tank, at 39.16% ethanol, got 22.4 mpg at 29 mph average speed.

As of today, E85 is still $2.70 a gallon. But regular has dropped to $2.66. I hate that!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Meijer goes back to their thieving ways

No sooner had I praised Meijer for letting their spreads widen then they closed the spread with a vengence.

E85 is now $2.70, and regular is $2.73. Youch.


It's too bad, because E85 was making a lot of sense at the 50 plus cent per gallon spreads of a week ago. I have to think that they were selling a lot of E85 back then, and nothing now.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Tank #42

I filled up at Meijer on the 27th. I got 6 gallons exactly of E85 at $2.10 and 7.862 gallons of 87 octane gasoline, with 2.538 gallons left from the last tank.

It works out to 35.55% ethanol in the tank and 93.95 Octane. I saved $5.65 by mixing in E85.

Since then, I've noticed gas as much as $2.66 a gallon, and E85 steady at $2.10. These are really nice spreads. It's nice to see Meijer let the spreads fall where they may, even if they're higher than 50 cents a gallon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Was I being hard on Ed Wallace?

Was he right in taking offense as my characterization of his sources as "Bernie's Garage and Hot Dog Emporium"?

I think that that's rather funny.

Anyway, maybe I have too high expectations for so called journalists. I could blog an article with tighter sources than that BW article. At least I would provide some hyperlinks.

More from Ed Wallace

Woo. A little sensitive?

No, but when you open your blog with misstatements such as you did, doesn’t warrant any time for a response.

My reply:

Your article consisted of talking to a couple of mechanics and checking out a BMW discussion board. It was worthy of mockery.

Now, I think the Lexus thing is interesting. I googled it, but all I found was some press statements and such. Why don't you do a little... reporting? Talk to the Lexus engineers. What was the metallurgy of the components that were destroyed by ethanol? Was it 10% ethanol that did it?

Your mechanic buddies made a pretty bold claim when they said that they checked the ethanol content of the tank that had the failed fuel pump. 18% ethanol? Where did that come from? You seem to be slandering the retail gasoline industry, implying that they're spiking their gas with illegal amounts of ethanol. Where did that gasoline come from? Which retailers are spiking their gas?

Maybe the Lexus engineers have some insight. Are they seeing ethanol contents higher than 10%? Are there Lexus owners who are mixing their own gas, like I am, and causing problems? Or is it the retailers?

I'm just sick and tired of the misinformation out there about ethanol. That's why I started mixing ethanol in my gas. I want to prove, one way or the other, that it's either OK or causes damage. No more BS articles about mechanics and discussion boards. I want hard proof, and I took it upon myself to do it.

Ed Wallace strikes back

So I e-mailed the author of the BusinessWeek ethanol hit piece:


Interesting article you had in BW. Can't say that I agreed with any of it.

I've got a '07 Saab 9-3 that I run an ethanol mix in. I usually run as much ethanol as I can without setting off the check engine light, right up to about 40%. I've been doing it for almost 20k miles now, with no negative consequences, other than losing a couple mpg. I document what I'm running on my blog at

Saab actually makes a flex fuel 9-3 that they sell in Sweeden and the UK. The only difference is the engine tune and the fuel injector flow rates. They use the same fuel tank, fuel pump, fuel lines, fuel rail, and fuel injector model.

You know, fuel pumps fail. They actually fail pretty frequently. That's why whenever there is a change to the fuel supply (reformulated gasoline, ethanol, MTBE, whatever) you get a rash of stories about how the change to the fuel ruined the fuel system. But what's the truth?

I'd rather see some documented sources from automotive engineers working in the field than some anecdotes from mechanics. No offense to mechanics, but they're not engineers trained in failure analysis. And I'm not just saying that because I'm a licensed professional engineer who has worked in the automotive field and who currently works for "Big Oil".

I do appreciate the news of the Lexus recall. I'm going to look into that one.

Whalen responded:

Well, to start off with, I notice at your post that you’ve completely lied about my sources for my article.

Nice. And yet you want me to read your email and believe everything you are saying.

That’s no way to get your point across.

City Garage is a well respected chain of repair shops in Dallas Fort Worth.
Likewise, so is Moritz BMW.

It is not Bernie’s Garage and discussion boards.

I replied:

Woo. A little sensitive?

On my blog, I link to articles I find about ethanol. If I had a dollar for every article written with local mechanics as sourcing, I would be a rich man.

I don't care if they're respected or not. Mechanics are not qualified to say if ethanol was the source of fuel pump failure or not. And neither are commenters on a discussion board.

I did like the comment to the article from the Ford engineer. Now that was good information, that the electrical conductivity of ethanol can cause the commutator windings in the fuel pump motor to corrode. I'll be on the lookout for that in my Saab. Ditto for acid corrosion in my lawnmower (I NEVER drain the gas over the winter).

BTW, I've got every receipt for gas and E85 I've ever put into my Saab. Should I ever get to a failure, or should I hit 100k or more, I'll be able to properly document every tank of ethanol/ gas mixture I've run. THAT is the kind of sourcing I'd like to see in an ethanol article!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Businessweek says that ethanol is "destroying engines"


Funny how these anti-ethanol stories about engine damage all use "Bernie's Garage and Hot Dog Emporium" as a source. And discussion board posts.

If there is anything that's I've learned from almost 20 years of posting to discussion boards is that the level of technical knowledge there is pretty low.

The only new bit of info in the article is that Lexus is recalling cars to address corrosion of the fuel rail, allegedly due to ethanol.

Seeing as how the Saab has a stainless steel fuel rail and stainless steel fuel lines (that I can see in the engine bay), I'm not hurting anything by running ethanol.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Tank #41

Well, I ran a bunch of tanks of premium, but I needed to fill up yesterday, and I mixed in some E85.

I filled with 6.008 gallons of E85 and 7.985 gallons of 87 octane. It works out to 38.54% ethanol. This will be a great test to see if this is the limit for E85 without a CEL. It's 93.93 Octane.

E85 was $2 a gallon, and 87 octane was $2.60.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Well, that didn't last long!

Those BASTARDS at Meijer raised their E85 price to $2.00 yesterday, probably minutes after I posted about the 70 cent spread.

87 octane is down to $2.56.

Even so, a 56 cent spread is historically very, very good for Meijer. During all the craziness last summer, the spread was fixed at 50 cents.

I'll probably be filling up in a day or two, and I'll be back on the hooch.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The best pricing I've ever seen!

The last two days, Meijer has had E85 priced at $1.90, and 87 octane gas at $2.60. This 70 cent spread is the largest that I've ever seen for E85.

I have not been running E85 for the last tank or two. I've literally been too busy at work to take the time to fill from two stations.

I'm over with my busy period at work, and will be filling up with E85 from now on, especially if these spreads hold up.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Check engine light.

I guess I pushed the ethanol levels a little too far. I got a check engine light the other day.

This is pretty consistant. I got CEL's at 40% before, that's where I think that I am now.

On the positive side, depsite the CEL, the car drives great. No hesitation whatsoever.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Nice ride at the E85 pump!

A guy with a Chrysler Aspen filled up after me. It's a flex fuel vehicle.

tank # 38

I filled up with 7 gallons of E85 (@$1.90) and 6.4 gallons of 87 octane (@$1.94). I'm running about 40.35% ethanol in the tank.

It came pretty close to throwing a code. I saw 25 on long term fuel trim a couple of times. But I'm pretty sure that, if I was going to get a code, I'd have gotten it by now.

Seeing as how the price of E85 hasn't changed in over a month, I'm pretty sure that they're still selling winter blend E85 (at 70% ethanol content). Based on my LTFT, I think that there's no question that it is winter blend.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I meet a Drunken Kraut at Meijer

First of all, I had to wait for the E85 pump. A lady was filling up a flex fuel Impala. Haven't seen ANYONE at the E85 pump in awhile. Now that there's a 25 cent per gallon difference in prices, maybe demand is picking up.

Then, as I'm pumping, a guy in a late model BMW 330i pulls up behind me. As I finish and drive over to the gas pump, he slides in and puts a couple gallons in. Then he too drives over to a regular pump and fills the rest of the way up.

He came over and asked, "are you doing the same thing I'm doing"? Turns out that he has a new 335i on order, and is messing around with E85 because of the turbos. He said that he puts about 25% ethanol in there. No problems thus far.

And to make things stranger... he works at the same place I do. With a couple thousand employees, it's hard to know everybody.

Tank # 37

I filled up at Meijer yesterday. I pusjed it to 7.000 gallons of E85 and 6.73 gallons of 87 octane. I had 2.67 gallons left from the last tank. It works out to 39.82% ethanol, and 95 octane. E85 was $1.90 a gallon, and 87 skyrocketed to $2.16.

I got 25.8 mpg on the last tank at 36 average mph. I drove to Midway once, I had a lot of highway miles on there. That's why I went through the tank so fast. I'm also working Saturday's, and I'm driving a little longer to work, to hit Duncan Donuts in the morning.

tank #36

I filled up with 14.914 gallons of premium at Meijer on the 1st of April. My tank was 12.29% ethanol, and octane was 93 on the dot.

I was running really late, and didn't have time to mess with two pumps.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


I filled up at Meijer yesterday. The E85 pump speed issue has been fixed. I put in 6.008 gallons of E85 at $1.90 a gallon, and 8.344 gallons of regular at $1.90 a gallon. With the 2.048 gallons of 10.18% ethanol gas left in the tank, that makes an ethanol content of 35.29%.

It's interesting, almost as soon as I pulled away from Meijer, my throttle response was soft. I don't know what it is, but high-mid grades of ethanol just kill my throttle response. It could be increased turbo lag, or have something to do with the electric throttle. Maybe the ECU is confused by the fuel trims that it is seeing.

Tank #34

I filled up on March 9th with 12.888 gallons of regular gas at $2.10 a gallon. My tank is down to almost exactly 10% ethanol content (10.18% to be exact).

There was a nice spread between regular and E85 (at $1.90 a gallon), but I was too rushed to do two fillups.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

E85 sales are non-existant

The Times of Northwest Indiana has an article about how sales of E85 are non-existant, which is something I've noticed at Meijer. I NEVER see anybody filling up with E85 at Meijer these days. Hell, even I haven't been filling up!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Tank #33

I ran out of gas nowhere near Meijer, so I just filled up with 87 octane gas on the 26th of Feb. I got 13.517 gallons, and my tank is now back down to 10.63% ethanol.

Next tank will be back to ethanol with a vengance! Now that the weather is warmer, I'm going to crank up the content to 40% or so.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tank #32

Because of the Meijer pump situation, and because I was close, I went to Gas City in Hammond to fill up.

E85 was $1.90 a gallon, as was 87 octane. This was about 10 cents a gallon more than Meijer. Such is the cost of conveinance.

I bumped up the E85 to 5.020 gallons. I got 8.99 gallons of 87.

It looks like I've got 32.21% ethanol in the tank. The last tank finished at 22.6 mpg at 32 mph average speed.

Thus far, the weather has been A LOT warmer, and I'm getting about 25 mpg at 35 mph average speed.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Meijer's pump sucks.

My biggest beef with Meijer is the dilapidated condition of its E85 pump. It's a continuing problem.

The last 2 times I've gone there, the pump has been EXTREMELY SLOW. So slow that I just put 4 gallons in, when I was actually planning on 5.

Considering how they price E85 (currently 10 cents a gallon MORE than 87), I'm the only one using the pump. I don't expect them to fix it.

Tank #31

Because the oil workers may have been going on strike, and gas prices were still not reflecting that possibility, I went ahead and filled up a little early, on Friday.

4.018 gallons of ethanol at $1.80 a gallon.

9.082 gallons of 87 octane at $1.70 a gallon.

Works out to be 27.99% ethanol and 91.9 octane.

The last tank finished at 22.5 mpg at 28 mph average speed.

Once again, there were some really frigid temps during this tank. It started a number of times after siting at work all day at temps in the low teens. Started without a problem every time.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tank #30

I filled up at Meijer last night.

I got 4.008 gallons of E85 at $1.80 a gallon.

I got 10.512 gallons of 87 at $1.90 a gallon.

My new tank is 26.37% ethanol and 91.57 octane.

The last tank finished at 21.5 mpg at 25 mph average speed. The awful weather is reflected in that awful mileage!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Minus 8 degrees, she still starts on E25!

Getting off work last Thursday, the thermometer read minus 8 degrees!

The car really didn't want to turn over. It turned over very slowly and reluctantly.

But she fired right up! Probably no more revolutions than normal.

I think that E25 is a beautiful fuel. Cheap, high octane, and no startability issues whatsoever. As the ethanol industry starts pushing for mid-grade blends, E20 or E25 shouldn't be an issue to anyone.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

10 Degrees, starts right up on E25

It was 10 degrees yesterday when I came out from work and started the car. Even on E25, it started right up.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

What should E85 cost? 1/10/09 edition

By my calculations, $1.69 a gallon! That's what I just paid!

For once, we're not being gouged by Meijer. Cool!

tank #29

I filled up at Meijer yesterday.

E85 waw $1.70, and regular was $1.96.

I got 4 gallons even of E85 and 10.004 gallons of regular, with 2.396 gallons left from the last tank at 11.54% ethanol.

That makes this tank 24.86% ethanol and 91.8 octane.

The last tank finished up at 23.5 mpg at 27 mph average speed.

It's nice to have a positive spread again, and a pretty big one at 26 cents.