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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Gas prices are high, and to make matters worse you may not be getting all you’re paying for. Some folks say the increasing amount of ethanol in gasoline is affecting their vehicle’s fuel efficiency. Right now most gas you buy has 10% ethanol. Although this helps deflate the rising gas prices, fuel efficiency is taking a back seat.

Driver Timothy Chestnutt says he gets regular maintenance on his 2003 Chevy and the only thing he thinks could be affecting his fuel economy is the ethanol in the gas.

“I’m trying to watch my money just like everyone else is and I’m trying to cut corners and save the money the best I can and I’ve noticed the last six months that gas mileage is getting worse, and I don’t know why that is..”

Car Doctor owner Val Boudreau says the 10% ethanol that is in gas does affect the way the vehicle operates. Because the way it combusts, Boudreau says your car’s performance may suffer.

“The combustibility of the alcohol is less than blended gasoline and as a result, you won’t see the same amount of power so you could very well see a decrease in mileage as well as power.”

Boudreau says gas mileage may be affected by close to three percent and the decreasing efficiency will only increase as more ethanol is added. UNCW chemistry professor Robert Kieber says he thinks the use of ethanol in gas is sure to increase, especially as gas prices rise.

“As the price of gasoline gets more expensive, the use of ethanol increases for economic reasons. As the price of gas goes up, the use of ethanol goes up. As the price of gasoline goes down, the use of ethanol does as well because it’s not economically viable.”

Chestnutt says he thinks if that is the case, then something should be done to help the cars keep up.

“I think it’s gonna hurt the vehicle unless they start making vehicles that can handle the ethanol and the older vehicles, there should be something done as far as converting them to better handle the ethanol as well.”

Boudreau says it’s hard to pin point the exact affects of ethanol on cars and because of this, its also difficult to combat the effects. He suggests keeping up with routine maintenance in order to avoid other issues.

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8 Comments on "Ethanol in gas may affect fuel efficiency"

2015 years 8 months ago

Bravo, this is exactly what I was researching when I came across this article, it would be CHEAPER to use 100 gas than to use any Ethanol/Gas blend. The EPA, and the Corn industry in the US is taxing the middle class just to fill their pockets with money for something we don’t want to buy!

2015 years 8 months ago

From what I have seen on the relative prices of higher ethanol blends and regular gasoline, the higher ethanol blends usually cost MORE than regular gasoline on an energy content or mileage basis. Many unsuspecting and trusting consumers buy the higher blends because of the lower price per gallon thinking they are getting a better deal when the truth is just the opposite. The ethanol industry likes this misconception just fine and seems to make every effort to perpetuate it and no effort to counteract it. The ethanol price is higher even before considering the 45 cents per gallon of ethanol paid by taxpayers in the form of a tax credit to blenders. I find this absolutely disgusting. I find it even more disgusting that the Federal government seems to be betting the whole ranch on biofuels rather than putting serious effort into really solving our energy problems.

2015 years 8 months ago

I recently moved from Phoenix to San Diego, and have noticed a 9 MPG decrease in the mileage I’m getting from my 2005 Ford Ranger (approx. 26 MPG in Arizona and now 17 MPG in Calif.). A local Ford dealership checked my truck and told me there’s nothing wrong with it, and my driving style hasn’t changed either. So the only thing I can figure out is that there are additives in the California gas that is adversely affecting my mileage. Any comments?

San Diego

2015 years 8 months ago


I pretty much agree with everything you wrote, but I would posit that state governments (particularly California’s) are more likely to benefit from ethanol additives than the so-called “fat cats” on Wall Street. For one thing, state governments can legally mandate — under the guise of pollution control — which additives must be put into gasoline. Their benefit comes in the form of additional tax revenue, of course.

San Diego, CA

2015 years 8 months ago

…instead of writing a book as some have done below. The simple fact is that ethanol based fuels are not efficient in automobiles. The ethanol fuels are wreaking total havok in the marine industry by ruining everything from fuel injectors, to hoses to fiberglass fuel tanks. Millions upon millions of dollars in damage so far.

Try this “novel” approach: Save the corn and sell it to the Arab nations for $150.00 per bushel as fast as we can get it there. Corn and other grains do not grow in sand and desert heat. Deliver Obama with that corn (for free) since he has totally neglected his promise to “…rid the United States from the dependence on foreign oil…”

If the Arabs and their children want to eat, we have the food. It’ll just cost as much as their oil, maybe a little more. We should be able to work a deal here and use the corn for what it is supposed to be used for, Food not gasoline additives.

Of course, there is likely a bunch of FAT CATS on Wall St. milking this for every penny and getting very wealthy off the burden of the American people…..again. There is another easy solution for that one!

2015 years 8 months ago

While it may be good for the fuel crisis, ethanol is not going to be good for consumers. When you combust ethanol, you get more water out of the reaction. What good is MORE water in the engine? Can we say more mechanical troubles? Maybe all the car makers are in cahoots to make mechanical money
Not ditching the program, but more study or changes need to be made. Maybe relax the environmental standards since we are going broke anyway.

2015 years 8 months ago

Ethanol in our gas tanks is a window dressing scam. A friend of mine used to call the alcohol you drink “stupid juice.” Is the alcohol you burn in your engine “smart juice”?
Ethanol is a pretty good fuel. For the same volume, it’s got about 62 percent of the energy of gasoline. Said another way, it takes 1.6 gallons of ethanol to do the same work as a gallon of gas. Of course, we don’t use pure ethanol; we mix it with gasoline in various ratios. E10 is 90% gas and 10% ethanol. In parts of the country they are going to a new standard, E15, and there is some controversy there.
The problem is for a hundred years we’ve designed our bikes and cars to run on gasoline. It’s only relatively recently that we’ve included ethanol, and there’s a lot of infrastructure to change. New vehicles don’t (or shouldn’t) have problems, but on older vehicles ethanol can soften or degrade some non-metallic parts like O-rings, gaskets, hoses, plastic fittings and even gas tanks. The more ethanol in the gasoline, the more we’ll see these problems.
Ethanol is usually produced by fermenting the sugars in plant materials and then using fractional distillation to separate the ethanol released in the fermenting process from the other materials. This introduces another variable, as the ethanol that results from fractional distillation is actually 95% ethanol and 5% water. It’s possible to refine ethanol to very near 100% purity, but that’s too expensive for fuel use.
That water presents additional problems. Ethanol can’t be stored and moved through the same equipment as petroleum products because water causes corrosion and oxidation (rust). Similarly, the internal parts on some carburetors, fuel-injection systems and fuel pumps can become corroded.
So ethanol is a useful fuel that can replace some of the petroleum fuels we’re used to. Its problems have more to do with our gasoline-oriented infrastructure than with ethanol itself. But there’s a deeper problem with the ethanol we use in the U.S.
Almost all of our ethanol is produced from corn. We know how to grow corn, and we grow an amazing amount of it-enough to feed ourselves and our livestock, and to make a lot of our fuel. But is it the best crop for making ethanol? To determine that, there’s a useful scale called EROEI: Energy Returned On Energy Invested.
In the case of corn, we know that it takes energy (in the form of liquid fuels, electricity or natural gas) to plow and harvest, to pump water for irrigation, to make the mash that will be fermented, to distill the ethanol from the result, to ship the ethanol, to blend it with gasoline and, finally, to get it to the gas stations. And there are other energy inputs: Many fertilizers and insecticides are produced from petroleum. It takes energy to build and maintain the plants and equipment, storage and transportation facilities for the ethanol industry.
We know how much corn ethanol we produce, and we add up all the energy used in producing it. Put in the form of a fraction it looks like this: Energy Returned/Energy Invested. What’s the result? In study after study going back to the 1980s, the EROEI for corn ethanol is very close to 1/1. That means that it takes approximately one unit of energy (from various sources) to make one unit of (corn ethanol) energy.
In Brazil, most ethanol is made from sugar cane, which is easy to grow and yields a lot of sugar-much more than corn does. EROEI for Brazilian sugar cane ethanol is about 8/1, meaning it yields 8 times the energy that goes into making it.
If corn ethanol yields only as much energy as goes into it, how can the industry survive, or justify itself financially? It survives because it’s subsidized. There are government subsidies to grow the corn and to make the ethanol. We (the taxpayers) also pay the oil companies a 45-cent-per-gallon subsidy to add it to gasoline. That subsidy may expire soon, but don’t bet on it.
The corn ethanol industry can make a lot of money from subsidies. What it can’t do is make net energy-make more energy than it uses. Maybe corn ethanol as fuel is indeed “stupid juice.” It certainly doesn’t seem smart to produce a fuel that doesn’t provide net energy.

2015 years 8 months ago

And this is not a typo. My Nissan Titan 2007 can run on Ethenol or gas. The last few months my fuel milage has decreased considerbly. Only for me to find out they are adding the ethenol to the gas and and the fact that the ethenol IS less productive. So as for the above, I’m not getting Miles per gallon, I’m using gallons per mile. Why the hell change some thing that was working with something that doesn’t and charge us more for it???


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