The one problem is that currently E-85 sites are a little difficult to find, but the more of it we use the more available it will become.
The folks backing E-85 production are pushing as hard as they can to get stations to make it available, but its a slow process. They need customers to start asking station owners if they plan on carrying it to motivate stations to add a pump/tank.
There are currently dozens of FFV's out there that are designed to run on the stuff if folks can find a place to buy it. Simple way to drastically reduce oil demand as well, and put money in our economy instead of some other countries coffers.
I currently drive 20 miles each way to get to the nearest E-85 stations, but it is still a good deal as I am paying $1.59.9 / gal for the E-85, vs about $2.05.9 / gal for premium. ( some E-85 vendors charge at a premium fuel rate of about $2.00/gal)
With the added octane of the E-85 you can actually splash blend it with mid grade gasoline with out problems.
When I suspect it will be difficult to locate E-85 from the pump I just make a point of topping off the tank before it drops below 3/4 full. This keeps the ethanol blend up to a high enough level to avoid any drivability issues with my oversize injectors.
I think it is important to note that they don't recommend greater than 10% ethanol, ie they warrantee the car will run fine with up to 10% ethanol but greater than that your on your own. But they do not say you should avoid higher blends of ethanol and other tests have shown modern cars can run on upto about 30% blends with no problem.
They do specifically mention that methanol is not to be used over 5% concentration, and that is due to corrosion issues with methanol, which is Much Much more prone to corrosion than ethanol.
As mentioned above any "damage" should be easily remedied, ie replacing a hose, or some O rings, possibly changing to a different fuel pump. It is very difficult to predict long term corrosion, or materials compatibility so I've decided to bite the bullet and be the test dummy and see what if anything breaks.
Based on my tests, the short term conclusion is you can run concentrations of >10% fuel ethanol for periods in excess of 1 year with no detectable damage. We'll just have to see how things go in another year or so.
What is the history of large scale conversions to high ethanol fuels
When Brazil began making a wholesale conversion to high ethanol fuels back in the late 70's following the energy crisis, they made several studies on the ability of normal cars to run ethanol blends. They found that the cars of that period could run up to about 22% blends on the stock system with no problems, which is why they settled on a 20% blend as one of the fuels available. The issue was one of control authority of the ECU to compensate for the leaner mixture. Some could handle more than others.
During the 70's and 80's when oxygenated fuels and "gasahol" first saw wide use here in the U.S. there WERE fuel component compatibility problems. My 1969 VW fuel lines really didn't like the ethanol and began to leak like a sieve, some carburetor needle valves softened, some carburetor floats would soak up the ethanol and get too heavy to function as a float. There were lots of problems with clogged fuel filters on cars that had been running on gasoline only for decades and had lots of varnish build up in the fuel system. The ethanol in gasohol was a very efficient fuel system cleaner and all that crud got carried to the fuel filters. Once the fuel filters were replaced those problems disappeared.
At that time All the auto manufactures moved to ethanol compatible fuel line components, ie. o rings, rubber hose etc. They warrantee that they are good to 10% but my experience shows they are satisfactory to much higher concentrations. The VW showed its compatibility problem in a matter of months after we went to ethanol blended oxygenated fuel here in Denver. Engineers typically don't solve a compatibility problem by making the new component "sorta compatible" they change compounds to materials that are not effected by the chemical in question.
The Denver area has been using ethanol oxygenated fuels (ranging from 5% - 10%) concentration for over 30 years. Every modern car works just fine with these low ethanol blended fuels. Rubber hoses and O rings last for the life of the car.
The electrical conductivity issue is not significant in the case of ethanol. It is detectable with a dialectic constant tester. It DOES become a significant issue with methanol blends which is why methanol blended fuel is so aggressively corrosive. The main issue with methanol is it aggressively attacks certain metals like magnesium and zinc. One of the reasons everyone is looking at ethanol is the 30+ years of successful use of high ethanol fuel blends in Brazil and low ethanol blends here in the U.S. with essentially zero problems after they changed fuel line and O ring and seal materials in the fuel system.
Water 48 - 88
Keep in mind that absolutely pure water is a good enough insulator it is used to cool electronic components. It does not become an effective conductor until is dissolves minerals that act as charge carriers (electrolytes).
Will my O2 sensor work with E85 and high ethanol blends?
The O2 sensor is not an issue, all it cares about is if your at stoich combustion at low throttle settings, it doesn't much care how you get there, so no need to change it.
What about the evaporative emissions system in my car
The higher vapor pressure of ethanol gasoline blends is not ideal for the evaporative emissions system and the vapor recovery canister. For full emissions compliance these will need to be modified. Currently there are no kits available to upgrade this part of the emissions system. At very high ethanol blends you may see CEL warnings because the evaporative emissions system is not happy with some of its sensor readings. This does not appear to effect the cars performance, or fuel mileage in any way and is mostly a nusince CEL.
Last edited by speedin; 11-06-2011 at 10:32 PM.