The lack of press around this alternative fuel is both profoundly predictable and profoundly baffling. Have you checked your car out recently? Perhaps you’ve spotted a flex fuel sticker on your vehicle, and now you’ve finally gotten around to googling it. As it so happens, flex fuel is the green fuel secret we should all know about.
What Is Flex Fuel?
Flex fuel, also called E85, is an alternative fuel that is 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.
This blend of ethanol and gasoline creates a new fuel that’s more sustainable and eco-friendly than gasoline alone. Flex fuel burns cleaner than gas, so it releases fewer carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Because ethanol comes from plants, the manufacturing process creates significantly less pollution than extracting gasoline.
Flex fuel vehicles can run on E85 or gasoline, making them a great choice to cut fossil fuel consumption if you’re not quite ready for an electric vehicle.
How Is E85 Made?
Ethanol is made from fermented starch, most commonly corn — but it can also be created from barley, wheat, and potatoes. Unlike the process of mining gasoline, which destroys the Earth, ethanol production requires no invasive drilling or pollution.
With an almost unlimited domestic supply of corn, switching to E85 means we can power our cars with American-made fuel. To get more bang for your buck, E85 also keeps your engine in better condition than gas.
In addition to being sustainably sourced, ethanol burns cleanly compared to gasoline. E85 releases zero carbon dioxide emissions into the air, and it actually lessens carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is one of the leading causes of global warming and climate change.
On a more sobering note, cutting back on our foreign fuel supply reduces our need to broker unsavory political deals or potentially fund terrorists abroad to secure gasoline.
What do oil and politics have in common? Oil money has contributed to the rise of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. It also funds terror through complex financial transactions and vague connections between states, international institutions, and illegal organizations, according to the Middle East Policy Council.
Flex Fuel Cars
Here's how to tell if you have a flex fuel vehicle:
- Your car has a yellow cap that says E85
- A capless fuel filler has a yellow rim that says E85
- Check the owner’s manual to see if your car is flex fuel compatible
- There’s a badge on your car that says Flex fuel, FFV, or E85
- Look for a sticker on the fuel door that refers to flex fuel
Flex Fuel Pros And Cons
While flex fuel is great for the planet, it’s not without its drawbacks. Here are the pros and cons of flex fuel.
- It’s better for the environment
- Flex fuel uses leftover corn and other agricultural waste
- More ethanol production means more domestic jobs
- E85 takes funding away from terrorists
- Flex fuel is cheaper than gas
- E85 diminishes carbon dioxide in the air
- It’s better for the engine of your car
- Ethanol is less fuel efficient than gasoline
- Your gas mileage will drop between 25% to 30%
- It can be hard to find a flex fuel station
Flex Fuel: The Verdict
If you have a flex fuel car, there’s no reason not to fill up the tank with ethanol when you come across a gas station that sells E85. But with less than 2% of gas stations in America carrying ethanol-based fuels, finding E85 will be the hardest part.
Unfortunately, the gas companies that own many of these big gas stations aren’t exactly thrilled about the prospect of a gas alternative, so don’t expect E85 to pop up in every gas station anytime soon.
When it comes to solving the environmental crisis surrounding transportation, electric cars are evolving far faster than green fuel. By the time the mass-market Tesla goes on sale next year, the automotive world can expect the first major shake-up in a seismic shift toward electric vehicles. But in the meantime, if you see ethanol fuel for sale — and you have a flex fuel vehicle — load up your tank and drive around guilt free.