Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Tank #2

4.029 gallons E85 @ $1.37/ gallon

9.522 gallons 87 octane @ 1.47/ gallon

Premium priced at $1.91

Octane of tank: 80.5
Ethanol content of tank: 25%

Savings over full tank of premium: $6.38
% savings over full tank of premium: 25%

Not a bad savings!

The last tank ran fine, no driveability or reliability issues at this time.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Ethanol blends greater than E10

You probably know that most gasoline sold has 10% ethanol (i.e. E10).  You might not know that there is a federal mandate for gasoline blenders to use a certain amount (gallons) of ethanol per year, and that only blending 10% ethanol into gasoline does not use enough total gallons of ethanol to meet that mandate.  This is called "the blend wall".

Because of this, ethanol producers are very motivated to increase the amount of ethanol in gasoline, and have pushed through a law making E15 available.

Here is an article about the effect of E15 on your car:>

What is E15 and why should I care?
E15 is shorthand for gasoline blended with 15 percent ethanol. The reason it's a big deal is that ethanol is fairly corrosive to rubber and certain metals, so it can cause damage to vital components. Ethanol also attracts and bonds with water from the air, and that water can separate out inside the tank due to phase separation. If your vehicle sits for long periods between use, the moisture settles to the bottom of the tank and can potentially clog in-tank pumps and filters. Damage is also possible in fuel lines, injectors, seals, gaskets, and valve seats as well as carburetors on older engines.
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Is it really okay for my car?
This is a tricky question and the subject of a lot of hand-wringing right now. The gas you use now is often 10 percent ethanol, but some industry groups believe the higher concentration of E15 will cause problems. All cars 2007 and newer should be compatible with E15 because automakers have changed the formulation of the affected components. The EPA has certified vehicles in the U.S. fleet made in 2001 or newer, and all Flex Fuel–capable vehicles (able to use up to an 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline mix) as E15 compatible. One study conducted at Kettering University found no remarkable degradation in fuel systems all the way back to 1995 model years. But the main issue is whether or not your vehicle will be covered under warranty for any damage caused by E15 usage, and in many cases the answer is no. GM and Ford have certified their own vehicles starting with the 2012 and 2013 model years, respectively, so some brand-new cars will have no trouble at all.
My car is older than 2001. What should I do?
Don't fill your fuel tank with E15, simple as that. Even though the new fuel is coming to market, the gasoline or E10 you fill your tank with now will still be available. There is a twist, though. At gas stations that use blender pumps (a single spout that dispenses all octanes) you'll have to purchase at least 4 gallons of E10 to insure any E15 in the hose is diluted to safe levels in your fuel tank. Fuel pumps will be required to have a 4-inch-square label warning motorists not to use the fuel for uncertified engines. With that in mind, the best advice if you have an older car is to stick to stations that have not switched over.
Will this damage my lawnmower, boat, jet ski, snowmobile, or four-wheeler?
It sure will if you don't pay attention. Generally, small engines are not designed to deal with the more corrosive E15 blend. And, as we mentioned in 2010, ethanol forms a brown goo when left in a fuel tank too long, which can clog fuel-system components. Two-stroke engines run hotter with an ethanol blend, which accelerates the potential damage. And ethanol can wreak havoc on fiberglass fuel tanks in older boats. Groups like the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Outdoor Power Equipment Institute have issued strong warnings to consumers to pay attention to their fuels or risk severe engine damage. Use a fuel stabilizer if the engine will sit for more than a few weeks without use; this will reduce the ethanol–water separation and potential gumming issues. Be careful to avoid using E15 in uncertified engines like these, at least until the subject is studied more thoroughly, and the engineering catches up to the fuel.
 
The bottom line is that higher blends of ethanol (e15, E20, E25) are probably no big deal for a modern, fuel injected car, certainly one made since 2001.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Tank #1

17.1 gallon tank

2 gallons E85 @ $1.73/ gallon

11 gallons 87 octane @ $1.83/ gallon

I'm assuming the last tank was 87 octane, I don't know because I didn't ask the guy I bought the car from.

% ethanol: 17%

Octane: 88.5

Compared to buying mid grade at $2.07/ gallon, I saved $3.38 cents on the fillup, a 12% savings

Of course, it's not a pure savings because I'll lose a mpg or two on the tank.  Ethanol doesn't contain as much energy as gasoline.

Why does premium gas cost so much in Chicago?

The answer:>

The premium paid for higher-octane gas in Chicago is a byproduct of several factors, but analysts attribute it mostly to a fracking problem. Shale production has created a glut of crude oil in the U.S. But that source offers a lower-octane base for refining gasoline. Most Midwestern refineries use shale crude, according to Green.
Now, I've never heard this explanation before, but it does make some sense to me.  Fracked crude is very "light", perhaps there are not as many of the hydrocarbon species needed for high octane gasoline?

So, if this is the problem, what is the answer?

Mixing in E85, which itself has large amounts of ethanol in it, as much as 83%.  Ethanol has an octane of 120!

That is the focus of this blog going forward, how does mixing ethanol into gasoline at the pump impact the performance and reliability of a 2004 Acura TL with 153k miles on it?

The Experiment is restarted! E85 as octane booster!

Man, I can't believe this blog is still around.  I haven't posted in 6 years!

So the Saab is long gone.  Since then I've driven a flexfuel Buick Regal, using E85 when it was economical to do so, or when I felt that a tank or two of E85 would clean out the fuel system.

Just recently, I got a 2004 Acura TL with 153k miles on it.  The TL requires premium fuel, and as you may have noticed, premium fuel is very expensive these days.

When I was a young man, premium was always 10 cents more than mid grade, which was always 10 cents more than regular.

No longer.  It seems that stations are using a more cost based market price for their fuels.  Today premium was 40 cents more than regular.  I have noticed that the premium for premium varies.

I read that US refineries are using a lot of oil recovered from fracking, which evidently doesn't have an much higher octane hydrocarbons as non-fracked oil does.  Thus, it costs more to make higher octane fuels, and they're priced accordingly.

Well, what's the best octane booster around?  E85, of course!

Now, it's not easy to determine what the octane of E85 really is.  Meijer's sign says that it's 105 octane.  I have read that E85 is between 96 and 97 octane, but I also don't think that is correct.  I also have read that straight ethanol is 120 octane.

Looking through my notes, I see that when calculating octane, I assumed 100 octane for winter blend E85 (E70, really).  So my calculations will reflect that, until we switch to summer blend.  I think I assumed that summer blend is 105 octane and derated based on ethanol content as a percentage.

So... I put 2 gallons of E85 in with 11 gallons of 87 octane gasoline.  I'm running roughly E17 and have roughly 89 octane.

I want to ease into the higher ethanol contents so as not to clean the fuel system too aggressively.  I intend to limit the ethanol content from going TOO high, there is no advantage to going much over 91 octane on this engine, and with so many miles there is the risk of killing a fuel pump or some fuel system component.  I'm going to be very interested to see how well things last and if I kill something quickly or not.  We know from this blog that long term use of higher grades of ethanol doesn't hurt a modern vehicle, but that was on a relatively new vehicle, this is one that may have end of life components even without higher grades of ethanol.  We will see what happens.

I intend the next tank to be 3 gallons of E85, which will take me to roughly E23, and maybe 90 octane.  I won't go much over that.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Autoweek finds that E85 now makes sense

Autoweek takes a road trip and finds ample E85 outlets with low prices.

I am SO jealous of what some of you guys are paying for E85. If it was $2.15 a gallon at Meijer, I'd be continuing my experiment.

Friday, December 11, 2009

E85 experiment going on hiatus

I've put about 15,000 miles on the car using various amounts of E85. I've had absolutely no ill effects. The car has yet to go to the dealer for any warranty work whatsoever. Nothing but oil changes so far!

But Meijer has been having really crappy E85 prices (currently $2.49 when gas is $2.50). And I'm losing the motivation to use 2 pumps to pump the gas.

So the experiment is going on hiatus. I may start it up again at some point, but as of now, I'm done.

Are there any conclusions I can make?

1) E85 will not mess up your car, at least in the medium term. A year and a half of ethanol mixing and 15,000 miles did not result in the gas tank leaking or any of the other BS you often hear about when it comes to ethanol.

2) Mileage does decrease with ethanol use. In my case, I lost a few mpg. Not a big deal, but a decrease nonetheless.

3) Performance is the same on gas and E85. If you didn't know that there was 40% ethanol in the tank, you wouldn't be able to tell by just driving the car.

4) E85 prices at Meijer suck. They overcharge for it. But I appreciate them having it available. I wouldn't have done this experiment if they didn't carry it.

5) Non-flex fuel cars can handle up to about 40% ethanol without throwing a check engine light. Modern fuel injected cars have a lot of built in flexibility to burn mid-grades of ethanol.

Thanks to the few of you actively following the blog. I hope others find the blog as a resource against the anti-ethanol naysayers.