22 May 2007 - 09:23
  • News Code: 105229

Last week, gas prices reached record highs, sending motorists searching for relief from the pain at the pump.

Some are turning to E-85, an alternative source of fuel.

In fact, vehicles with the Flex-Fuel technology are popping up in showrooms around the country.

The goal for United States automakers is to have half of yearly production be E-85 capable by 2012. But do the short-term savings really pay off down the road?

There seems to be a direct connection between the price at the pump and drivers. The more money they shell out for gas, the more frustrated they become.

“My salary is slowly being eaten away,“ said Jodi Gebstadt.

But some drivers have another alternative: E-85. It’s fuel that’s 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. It’s always just a few cents cheaper than regular gas. But do you really get the best value for your money?

Over a period of three days, we put the alternative fuel to an unscientific test. We filled up a 2007 Chevy Impala with Flex Fuel capabilities with E-85.

According to the monitor in the car, the car had traveled about 430 miles until the tank was back on empty. At the time, E-85 was at $2.97 a gallon.

We spent just under $48 for 15 gallons of E-85. A fill-up with regular gasoline at $3.19 cents at the time would have cost about $50.

Shortly after that it was time to head down I-75 to the Detroit area to visit family and run a few errands.

By day two, after burning up 180 miles, we were just under a half tank of E-85, averaging 23 miles to the gallon.

Normally the car gets between 25 to 27 miles to the gallon with regular gasoline. We then headed back to the Detroit area for an early Mother’s Day.

But by Sunday--almost exactly 48 hours after the first fill-up and using roughly 420 miles--we were right back at the pump filling up-- again.

Dr. Craig Hoff of Kettering University says multiple trips to the gas station are not uncommon with E-85.

“Nominally about 30 percent more often,“ he said.

Meaning if you stop at the gas station seven times for gasoline, Hoff says it would take and additional three stops with E-85 to get the same mileage as gasoline.

Those extra fill-ups basically cancel the cost savings of E-85.

“If your goal is to save money, then you’re not going to fill up with ethanol,“ Hoff said. “If your goal is to help save the world and help the country from being energy independent, then the ethanol is your choice.“

But some drivers say they are willing to make more trips to the pump and endure poor gas mileage to save a few cents at each fill up, such as Ruth Walder, who recently found out that her 2006 vehicle takes E-85.

“It’s cleaner to burn, so it’s not screwing up the atmosphere as much,“ she said. “And (you can replenish it).“

The bottom line is, it all boils down to personal preference. In a time when so many have no choice on how much to pay for a fill-up, Flex-Fuel drivers say it’s nice to at least have an option.

 

PIN/ ABCLOCAL.GO.COM

News Code 105229

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