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Real World: the E85 Hunt

E85 stations in the greater Chicago area.

MPH Magazine has decided to explore the real world ease of use (and cost) of using a flexible fuel vehicle. The week-long testing will feature a new Flex Fuel Chevy Tahoe, dropped off by General Motors at the MPH office with a full tank—of gasoline, not E85.

MPH’s offices are in Chicago, right in the middle of the “Ethanol Corridor”. Unfortunately, there appear to only be two E85 stations in the actual City of Chicago—the rest being in the suburbs.

Each American car company has claimed that they are the leader in Flex Fuel vehicles either by way of press releases or major media campaigns like GM’s “Live Green, Go Yellow.” Most people probably couldn’t care less about these claims or who builds the most FFVs. They just want to know how easy it is to use E85 on a daily basis.



In Seattle-Tacoma we have biodiesel all over but not one public e85 station in the entire State of WA. Why?


Until it makes economic sense. People will only buy E85 for moral or political reasons (which they will, just look at the Toyota Prius). These E85 stations are best built out in the country where people have a reason to support the American farmer. Any environmentalists in Chicago are already taking public transport.

tom deplume

The E85 situation in Grand Rapids has recently improved. The nearest retailer is now only 45 miles away.

Joseph Willemssen

Pretty easy to find E85 here in Minnesota:

It may have something to do with half the state being made of corn. :)


The whole "live green, go yellow" thing seems to be just a cop-out by GM. Nobody will open e85 stations unless it's legislated (which won't happen), so GM can say "Look! We're trying to be green! It's not our fault there aren't any stations to refill your SUV!"


With the recent articles about coal fired ethanol, I still have to wonder how prudent it is to put so much emphasis on ethanol.

Kaz Joseph

How ethanol -- or any portable energy source -- is produced should be considered. But a lot of R&D is going into biotech solutions to produce ethanol, from waste products no less. Given the obvious environmental and national security benefits, I have a feeling that plug-in ethanol hybrids will be the future.

Rafael Seidl

This just underlines the folly of trying to set up a distribution system for a new fuel grade when there is no need for one just yet.

The EPA no longer endorses the use of MTBE as a gasoline oxygenate (octane improver) because it has recognized it as a carcinogen. The only other viable option is ethanol, which regular vehicles can accept in blends as high as 10% without risk of damage to elastomer components in the fuel system.

The farmers in the Midwest are paid regardless of how the ethanol is used. It remains to be seen if US companies can deliver enough ethanol this summer for basic oxygenation of all gasoline nationwide. There is plenty of headroom left for simply increasing the ethanol content of all gasoline leaving US refineries.

GM and Ford are touting the flex-fuel capabilities only because they have been exploiting a loophole in CAFE so they could keep on building gas guzzling SUVs and pickups.

E85 will not make macroeconomic or environmental sense until there is actually more ethanol on the market than 10% of the total gasoline volume. That could happen within a decade - more likely two - if there is continued bipartisan support for it in Congress and, a breakthrough on cellulosic ethanol production.


DOE has this locator, don't know about the quality of the data.

Joseph Willemssen

"In Seattle-Tacoma we have biodiesel all over but not one public e85 station in the entire State of WA. Why?"

Not a corn state.

Dave. T

Hey guys.
Part 1 is up from the actual station.

I think the drastic price difference will entice a lot of people into thinking about it. and if you drive something as big as this Tahoe it will take away that gas guzzling guilt.


I've converted my Saturn L100 to e85 even though there are only two viable pumps in my state... OK, it's a long shot... also, I see that it's running 3.85 a gallon, when unleaded is around 3.00.

I don't mind paying a little more, but other than a complete lack of competition, there is no reason for e85 to be almost a dollar over unleaded.

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