Growing E85 Infrastructure Expands Ethanol’s Possibilities

According to a new report from the US Energy Information Administration, the number of gas stations offering E85 ethanol has more than doubled in the last seven years.  Last year, the EIA counted a total 2,625 flex-fuel stations in the United States, up from just 1,229 in 2007.  The growth in available E85 pumps means that millions of Americans who previously lacked access can now easily buy the fuel.

If you drive a car, chances are you’re already an ethanol user.  Due to a federal mandate, corn-based ethanol makes up at least 10 percent of the gasoline you likely put in your vehicle on a regular basis.

Many drivers also have the option to replace even more of their car’s petroleum usage with ethanol, by driving a flexible fuel vehicle.  Flex-fuel cars and trucks run on an E85 blend of ethanol and gasoline (which, as its name suggests, is 85 percent ethanol.)

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, there were more than 15 million flex-fuel vehicles on the road in the United States at the end of 2012.  That number has considerably grown in just the last year, as domestic automakers continue to make good on their pledge to incorporate the capability further in their lineups.

But according to at least one study, less than half of the drivers of flex-fuel cars and trucks are aware of the fuel or the fact that they can use it in their vehicles.  Part of the reason is that for a long time E85 was hard to come by outside of the Midwest, where corn is king and ethanol is somewhat cheaper than other parts of the country.

That’s what’s so encouraging for ethanol devotees about the new EIA findings: the Midwest now accounts for just 36 percent of E85 filling stations nationwide, down from 54 percent in 2007.

Today, there are more than three dozen flex-fuel vehicle models available in the U.S., including the Buick LaCrosse (shown above).  Most are from “Big Three” carmakers Ford, GM and Chrysler, who five years ago pledged to bring flex-fuel to half of their lineups by 2012.

Article by Brad Berman, appearing courtesy ebay Green Driving.

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