Economic Case for E85 Flunks the Test


Detroit News - October 8, 2012

With gasoline prices hovering near record highs, millions of motorists who drive “flex fuel” vehicles are wondering if it makes sense to switch to ethanol.

Find out if there is a savings, and worth the switch.

While the price of ethanol, or E85, is lower than the price of regular unleaded — the average price in Michigan at the end of last week was $3.45 per gallon for E85 vs. $3.82 for regular gas — it provides less energy and, therefore, worse mileage than gas.

“Typically, it’s hard to make an economic case for using E85,” acknowledged Coleman Jones, head of alternative fuels for General Motors Co.

While they are not required to provide mileage numbers for ethanol to consumers, automakers are required to provide them to the federal government. And the Department of Energy posts those figures on its website,

A 2013 Chevrolet Tahoe, for example, gets a combined fuel economy rating of 17 miles per gallon with regular gasoline, but just 13 miles per gallon with E85.