The Price Of Using E-85

Monday, April 28th 2008, 6:45 pm
By: News On 6

Vehicles that use E-85 are getting more and more common.  That's the fuel that's 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline.  But, stations that sell E-85 are few and far between.  The News On 6's Steve Berg reports that could be starting to change.

A new Kum-N-Go store in Owasso is selling E-85.  It is one of only about six gas stations in the entire state that do.  But Kum-N-Go could be adding more.

Mark Harper has had his Flex-Fuel pickup truck for about six months, but this is the first chance he's had to use E-85 on a regular basis.

"About the last three weeks, this is my second thankful," said Mark Harper.  "Before this, I never used it."

The E-85 pump has a bright yellow hose to set it apart, because E-85 can damage engines that aren't designed for it.  But, what really gets people's attention is the price.

There's no question that you save money in the short term using E-85, but over the course of a year, you might be surprised.  The catch is that ethanol has less energy per gallon than gasoline, so your mileage drops about 25%.

"In fact, recently I just took a trip down to Oklahoma City and went with a full tank of E-85 and I got about 14 miles to the gallon.  And, while I was down there, I filled up with regular and I got 18 to the gallon coming back," said Mark Harper.

Even at $2.64 a gallon, Harper will actually spend $160 more per year using E-85 than he would using gasoline.  But, it wouldn't take much to balance it out.  Just a 13 cent drop in ethanol or an 18 cent rise in gasoline, which could be right around the corner with the way gas is going could even the numbers.

Over the long term, Harper thinks if more stations sell E-85, then economies of scale will take over.

"If we could get this to be a long term thing where everybody is using it, I think we could bring the cost of everything down," said Mark Harper.

In the meantime, he says energy independence is worth more to him than prices.

"Trying to do my little part of getting away from foreign oil," said Mark Harper.  "I don't want to pay Venezuela any more money than I have to."