Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from corn and other plant materials. The use of ethanol is widespreadâ€”almost all gasoline in the U.S. contains some ethanol. Ethanol is available as E85â€”a high-level ethanol blend containing 51%-83% ethanol depending on season and geographyâ€”for use in flexible fuel vehicles. E15 is defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as a blend of 10%-15% ethanol with gasoline. It is an approved ethanol blend for model year vehicles 2001 and newer.
Ethanol is a renewable fuel made from various plant materials collectively known as "biomass." More than 95% of U.S. gasoline contains ethanol, typically E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline), to oxygenate the fuel and reduce air pollution.
Ethanol is also available as E85, or high-level ethanol blends. This fuel can be used in flexible fuel vehicles, which can run on high-level ethanol blends, gasoline, or any blend of these. Another blend, E15, has been approved for use in newer vehicles, and is slowing becoming available.
There are several steps involved in making ethanol available as a vehicle fuel:
- Biomass feedstocks are grown, collected and transported to an ethanol production facility
- Ethanol is produced from feedstocks at a production facility and then transported to a blender/fuel supplier
- Ethanol is mixed with gasoline by the blender/fuel supplier to make E10, E15 or E85, and distributed to fueling stations
Ethanol as a vehicle fuel is not a new concept. Henry Ford and other early automakers suspected it would be the world's primary fuel before gasoline became so readily available. Today, researchers agree ethanol could substantially offset our nation's petroleum use. In fact, studies have estimated that ethanol and other biofuels could replace 30% or more of U.S. gasoline demand by 2030.
The use of ethanol is required by the federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS).
Ethanol is a renewable, domestically produced transportation fuel. Whether used in low-level blends, such as E10 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline), or in E85 (a gasoline-ethanol blend containing 51% to 83% ethanol, depending on geography and season), ethanol helps reduce imported oil and greenhouse gas emissions. Like any alternative fuel, there are some considerations to take into account when contemplating the use of ethanol.
Thousands of ethanol fueling stations are available in the United States. Fuel providers can offer E85 and other ethanol-gasoline blends using the equipment that is UL listed for the fuel.
Find ethanol fueling stations by location or along a route.
Flexible Fuel Vehicles
Flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) have an internal combustion engine and are capable of operating on gasoline, E85 (a gasoline-ethanol blend containing 51% to 83% ethanol, depending on geography and season), or a mixture of the two. According to Polk, there are more than 17.4 million FFVs on U.S. roads today. However, many flexible fuel vehicle owners don't realize their car is an FFV and that they have a choice of fuels.
Other than employing an ethanol-compatible fuel system and powertrain calibration, FFVs are similar to their conventional gasoline counterparts. The only perceivable difference is that the fuel economy is lower when FFVs run on blends above E10.
For fleets that have to comply with federal acquisition regulations, flexible fuel vehicles are considered alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs) under the Energy Policy Act of 1992.
Laws and Incentives
State and federal governments enact laws and provide incentives to help build and maintain a market for ethanol fuel and vehicles. The use of ethanol is required by the federal Renewable Fuel Standard.
Find laws and incentives in your area.