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bucketmouth64

E-85

Question

bucketmouth64

Has anyone tried to use E-85 in their vehicle even though it is not designed for it? I have a co-worker who is trying this to take advantage of the lower gas price. Can this harm the engine or lower the performance with the higher ethanol content?

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stmichael

I personally do not know what the ramifications are on using this gas if it is not intended for his vehicle, I am interested to find out what will happen. I do not have the seeds to try it myself.

What type of vehicle is he doing this to?

Please keep us posted on how it turns out.

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McGurk

My boss (who's wife happens to be on the Minnesota Corngrower's Commitee) is using a process he calls "splashing." He will pull up to pumps with both reg and E85 hoses close together, and put equal amounts of E85 and reg unleaded into his non-E85 car. Essentially he is running 2 pumps at the same time and just alternates filling back and forth to get, I suppose, an E-42 mixture grin.gif.

He is a HUGE proponent of ethanol, so I will never hear a bad thing about it from him, other than the fact that he says that it is harder to start a non-E85 car on it in winter. Apparently the mixture needs to be a little different than a normal gas car uses to start cold. He also says he gets better mileage, but I'd like to see proof of that.

He and I get into "discussions" about the impact and ramifications of E85. It is fun to play Devil's Advocate to his brainwashed views on it. I will admit, he is firey about it and is informed (at least as much as he can get informed by attending meetings at the MN Corngrowers Association, a group that lives and dies by ethanol use).

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Jeremy airjer W

I'd also like to know what kind of vehicle he is driving. It may be a vehicle that is already equipped to handle E-85.

I was not aware that an average vehicle could run on this stuff? E-85 is around 104 octane making it extremely hard to burn. Add cold temps to the mix and I really can't see how it could start.

Most manufacturers also reccommend special E-85 compatible oils. Because this is so hard to burn some of it doesn't. It eventually makes it way into the crank case where it mixes with condensation and becomes corrossive (I forget the acid it actually creates).

A vehicles mileage will drop when using E-85. Some more than others. Our minivan, for instance, will break even if E-85 is 40 - 45 cents less than regular unleaded.

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Fishbreath1

I am a scientist of sorts and my buddy big musk asked me to chime in here. E-85 will burn in almost any piston engine designed to run on gasoline. High octane ratings are for cars that have high compression ratios. I can see where a low compression car, like one that has high miles or one that was built in the early nineties, for example, would have trouble burning E-85. The real design difference between E-85 compatible engines and conventional engines are the materials used in the fuel system. Ethanol has solvent properties on some organic materials, like rubber hoses, seals, ect. So E-85 engines simply use different materials in the fuel system and may also have modified emissions control systems or ECUs.

E-85 is really only available in the Midwest. In other parts of the country ethanol for fuel is scarce or non-existant. When looking at the big picture, E-85 is not the answer to our fuel problems. It is a way for us to reduce emissions and provide some alternate fuel, basically patting ourselves in the back. The Bush administration supports it, but also supports fuel cell development, our real long term answer. Ethanol gives local economies a chance to grow, in the raising of corn and manufacture of the ethanol itself. But if we devoted all our corn harvest to fuel, it would supplant only a very small part of our total gasoline and diesel (corn oil biodiesel) demand, perhaps less than 5%.

E-85 has many other shortfalls but I don't want to start some epic internet debate so google it and read both sides to teach yourself what its about.

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Whoaru99

A friend of mine filled his vehicle with E-85 and, while he did make it home, it was just barely. He ended up siphoning out about half and refilling with regular just so his car would run half-decent again.

The biggest problem with using E-85 is that the engine must burn more of it because of the lower BTU per gallon. The computer and fuel system of a non E-85 vehicle likely cannot compensate enough and almost certainly will run like crap.

My boss has an E-85 vehicle and he does not even use it (E-85) because the price difference isn't enough to justify the lesser MPG. At most, it's break even and ususally a net loss - according to him.

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MuskieJunkie

A freind of mine ran one tank full of E85 in his mid 90s Buick with high miles. I told him he was crazy but it ran fine and there were no negative effects on the vehicle during or after.

I also don't want to start a huge debate but I would like to get my 2 cents in. I think it would be great to get away from foreign oil but my understanding is that it takes more fossil fuel to create E85 than if you were to just burn regular old gas in your vehicle. The only reason it costs less is the government subsidies. So it is not a solution to our oil problem. Also the drop in MPG does not offset the lower price at the pump for the average Joe. I wish the whole E85 thing worked but it appears it does not.

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Capt. Don*

I have seen results ranging from running terrible, check engine lights, to having to be towed in. Ford was one of the first manufacturers to market flex fuel vehicles and our special service messages specifically warn against the use of E-85 in a vehicle that is not flex-fuel capable. Special oil was needed only on the 1994 models in the Ford line, it was synthetic. Our PCM system has special inputs from a sensor that determines alchohol content and ignition and fuel timing are adjusted accordingly. I have never seen an engine damaged from the use, but I've not seen them run well enough or long enough to do any harm. I do know that other components like fuel pumps can be affected by E-85, and even flex-fuel cars seem to have higher fuel pump failures. I have a flex-fuel Taurus and I can tell you that from what I've seen working on these things since there inception in 1994, mine never has nor never will see a drop of it in the tank. Some people are happy with it and thats fine, I just don't see the value of it. MPG reported to be 30-50% less than with 87 octane regular by owners who use it, minimal if any performance benefit, numerous cold weather starting and driveability issues and PCM updates galore over the years. I think they need to stay at the drawing board for a while yet before the claim of an alternate for gasoline is valid.

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Fishbreath1

One alternative to using fossil fuels to manufacture E-85 would be to burn dried corn husks and other dry field material. But the fact remains that it takes more energy to produce ethanol in the current methods than it gives back, due to the distillation of fermented material to extract the ethanol from the remaining sugars, water, and other organic materials. Alternative methods are out there, but the ethanol you use only seems economical becuase of the subsidies. Simply put, its a band-aid on a problem that needs stitches.

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IFallsRon

I've read that Underwriter's Lab hasn't approved the hardware used at most stations because the mixture is so corosive. The story also noted that most stations are pumping E85 with retrofit equipment that could fail due to corosion.

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Whoaru99

Quote:

A freind of mine ran one tank full of E85 in his mid 90s Buick with high miles. I told him he was crazy but it ran fine and there were no negative effects on the vehicle during or after.


I don't want to make a pi$$in' match of it either, but it's impossible to not have at least one negative effect, and that is significantly less gas mileage.

On a side note, with more states mandating ethanol blends, the price of corn is sure to rise. Good for farmers, but pretty much sucks for everyone else. Pay taxes for the ethanol subsidy and pay higher prices for staple foods.

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Ufatz

Years from now historians will look back on these years and write of The Great American Scam.

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theoilman

AMEN!

We are paying a tax subsidy to the distillers making the ethanol, then at the pump pay nearly as much as 87 octante (the lowest price I have seen is 5 cents under) to get a fuel that is between 20% and 25% less energy - that means 20% to 25% less fuel economy and power!

E85 is a real ripoff!

As to running it in a car not designed for it: If it is new enough to have a complete fuel management computer you may not see a short term problem. But you will see a long term problem. Higher than 10% ethanol may cause chemical incompatabilities with the fuel tank, fuel lines, internal corrosion even inside the fuel filter, o-ring compatability problems in the fuel system, AND MORE!

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Pherris

I can not add much to the conversation because I have never burned ethanol or know anyone that has, but I do believe ethanol is here to stay. Because of the push for alternative energy, I look at it from an investment perspective there are some very undervalued ethanol stocks and some start ups that I feel could provide substantial returns over time(3-5 years min). Especially with all the government subsidies and tax breaks that will be put into place. I do buy ethanol stocks. US Bio Energy is a MN based company that just went public a few months back it looks positioned well with solid management. I am not trying to get into any debates or a stock discussion, just offering another way to look at ethanol and possibly get some of the money we as tax payers will be burdened with back.

I will also add that before you invest in anything you should do your own research and draw your own conclusions. In the interest of discloser I do own shares in USBE as well as other ethanol and alternative energy companies. I think alternative energy is critical to the future of our country and most importantly our children. As far as cost for a gallon I saw last night at the local Holiday station E-85 was $1.79 vs. $2.03 for 87 octane. Good fishing!!!!

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vitalshot5

tax subsidys in minnesota were dropped off a couple of months ago...this is why the price has stayed close to the price of gasoline.....it is meant as an alternative fuel to take off some of the market weight of gasoline...it's not meant to be a huge savings be at the pump....it is meant to be a more environmentally safe alternative fuel.

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MnIceman

The biggest problem that I know of is the corrosiveness of the stuff. All the vehicles that are made to use it have stainless steel tanks and fuel lines. Also the seals have to be compatible with the alcohol or they fail. Vehicles that do no have this equipment will have long term problems like fuel leaks . We all know that is not a good thing .

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Ufatz

Just one more comment fellas and then I'll bow out.

What is being missed here is that the BIG winners are going to be Cargill, Archer Daniels Midland and all the people who will benefit from the crazy increase in corn prices. And that includes all the politicians in DC who are invested up to their eyeballs in BIG agri-business.

Small growers will benefit for a while and then the bottom is gonna drop out of this chimera and a lot of good people are going to lose their assets.

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Valv

Guys, let's keep this thread on right track.

It has been started with a question about E-85 use on non E-85 cars, let's keep it that way, the debate and political, and economical discussions are not intended for this forum, there is a dedicated section for it.

Thank you.

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Jeremy airjer W

Quote:

The biggest problem that I know of is the corrosiveness of the stuff. All the vehicles that are made to use it have stainless steel tanks and fuel lines. Also the seals have to be compatible with the alcohol or they fail. Vehicles that do no have this equipment will have long term problems like fuel leaks . We all know that is not a good thing .


I haven't seen a vehicle yet that has a stainless fuel tank or fuel lines. Every E-85 taurus and caravan I have put a pump in have had the same plastic tank and lines as its non E-85 counterpart. You would have an almost impossible task trying to tell the difference between the E-85 and non E-85 vehicles.

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Eric Wettschreck

Valv, thanks. Being employed in the ethanol industry I rely on it for a paycheck.

What Airjer said about stainless steel tanks and hoses holds true at the production facility also. Actually, alcohol and certian stainless alloys do not play well with each other at all. Understand there are about a million different stainless steel alloys.

Guys, it's alcohol. Alcohol is dry. It adsorbs moisture. It also evaporates much quicker than gasoline. It's also corrosive, slightly, to certain metals. However, a few years ago we started adding corrosion inhibitor to the final 200 proof product to not only limit, but eliminate it's corrosiveness. If you are seeing actual corrosion and not erosion, and you're burning E-85 in a newer flex fuel vehicle, it's from the gasoline in the E-85 and not the alcohol.

There are older motors out there that can burn E-85 just fine and there are motors that do not like it at all and there are motors that kinda like it and kinda hate it and so on and so on. I've used it in my 89 chev and it ran ok at best. My advice is if it's not a flex fuel vehicle then you shouldn't burn E-85 in it. Qualified auto techs and engineers would know more than I do, however.

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john.wells

To put it bluntly, unless you are willing to destroy a perfectly good engine, DO NOT USE E-85 UNLESS YOUR OWNERS MANUAL SAYS YOU CAN!!! Everything that has been talked about with corrosion, octane and material disintegration is true. Even if your engines seems to run ok with it, give it time. Don't confuse higher octane with better performance. Your vehicle is designed with a specific octane rating in mind, and there is no need to deviate from this. If 87 octane is what your owners manual says to run, then by all means, use 87 octane. Factors such as compression and timing of spark dictate optimal performance. Alcohol burns cooler than gasoline, so it needs higher compression and different timing in order burn effeciently. There is a myriad of problems that can occur by using the wrong fuel grade in any engine. Bottom line- don't use e-85 unless your vehicle was designed for it.

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bucketmouth64

I stand corrected by my co-worker. My original post I thought what was said to me that she was using e-85 in her vehicle that was not designed for it. Her vehicle is designed for it. All this information though has been helpful learning about e-85.

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