In spite of all the promotion from General Motors
of E85 as an alternative fuel
, the reality for most people has been that is simply doesn't make sense from an economic perspective. As the West Lafayette, Indiana police department found out last summer, the numbers didn't add up. There is of course the issue of fuel consumption. Due to its lower energy content, a normally aspirated flex-fuel engine gets about 10-20 percent worse fuel efficiency
on E85 than on gasoline. Much of this differential can actually be made up with an engine optimized for E85, particularly if it's turbocharged, but most current engines don't fall into this category.
The West Lafayette Police also had to go to the one station in the area that offered up E85, meaning they wasted time and fuel driving out of their way to get ethanol
. Even with the $1 per gallon difference between E85 and gas, there just weren't any savings to be had. Now that gasoline is substantially cheaper than it was last summer, the problem is even worse. Until we have flex-fuel vehicles optimized for ethanol and greater biofuel
availability, it simply won't make a lot of sense. Then there is the whole issue of well-to-wheel emissions, but that's another story.
[Source: JC Online