The E85 Puzzle: Double Credit for Half the Work

 

If you’re looking for small, fuel-efficient vehicles that use E85, you may be disappointed. Half of the 2006 flexible-fuel vehicles are full-sized pickups or SUVs, including the Dodge Durango (rated at 12 mpg in the city and 15 mpg on the highway).

Automakers’ tendency to make their largest vehicles E85 compatible is rooted in America’s fuel economy rules. Since 1988, automakers have been allowed to assign flexible-fuel vehicles higher fuel economy ratings under the government’s CAFE fuel economy regulations. This means that a vehicle like the Durango, which averages 13 mpg would be rated at roughly 23 mpg for CAFE purposes, even if its owner never fueled it with E85.

Current E85 Vehicles
Make and Model
Conventional MPG
City / Highway
E85 MPG
City / Highway
Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 2WD
14 / 19
11 / 14
Chevrolet Avalanche 1500 4WD
14 / 18
11 / 14
Chevrolet Monte Carlo
21 / 31
16 / 24
Chevrolet Impala
21 / 31
16 / 23
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 2WD
16 / 20
12 / 16
Chevrolet Silverado 1500 4WD
15 / 19
11 / 14
Chevrolet Suburban 1500 2WD
14 / 19
11 / 14
Chevrolet Suburban 1500 4WD
14 / 18
11 / 14
Chevrolet Tahoe 1500 2WD
15 / 20
11 / 15
Chevrolet Tahoe 1500 4WD
14 / 18
11 / 14
Chrysler Sebring
21 / 28
15 / 20
Dodge Caravan 2WD
19 / 26
13 / 17
Dodge Durango 2WD/4WD
12 / 15
9 / 11
Dodge Ram 1500 Pickup 2WD/4WD
12 / 15
9 / 11
Dodge Stratus 4 Door
21 / 28
15 / 20
Ford Crown Victoria
17 / 25
12 / 18
Ford F150 Pickup FFV 2WD
14 / 19
11 / 14
Ford F150 Pickup FFV 4WD
14 / 18
10 / 13
Ford Taurus
19 / 27
15 / 20
GMC Sierra 1500 2WD
16 / 20
12 / 16
GMC Sierra 1500 4WD
15 / 19
11 / 14
GMC Yukon 1500 2WD
15 / 20
11 / 15
GMC Yukon 1500 4WD
14 / 18
11 / 14
GMC Yukon XL 1500 2WD
14 / 19
11 / 14
GMC Yukon XL 1500 4WD
14 / 18
11 / 14
Lincoln Town Car
17 / 25
12 / 18
Mercury Grand Marquis
17 / 25
12 / 18
Nissan Titan 2WD
14 / 19
10 / 14
Nissan Titan 4WD
14 / 18
10 / 13

While the CAFE credit for flexible-fuel vehicles has been opposed by many environmental groups, it is largely responsible for motivating automakers to produce vehicles that use E85. The National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition estimates that five million E-85 compatible vehicles have been sold in the United States, with roughly 3.5 million of those cars and trucks on the road in 2004.

Making a car E85-compatible requires changes to the fuel system since ethanol is more corrosive than gasoline and has different combustion characteristics. However, these changes are relatively minor, and add little (if any) additional cost to the buyer. Unfortunately, making the changes yourself to make a existing gasoline vehicle run on E85 is prohibited by the EPA, and no licensed aftermarket conversion companies exist to perform the service. If you want to use E85, you’ll have to buy a flexible-fuel vehicle that was built to be ethanol-compatible at the factory.


  • Jim

    This article is actually incorrect in how it calculates the ethanol credit. There is a 1.2mpg credit which moved to .9mpg credit in 2005. The NHTSA article that explains this is http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/CAFE/Rulemaking/AMFAFinalRule2004.htm

    Read the summary part.

  • Rob Podrebarac

    Gasoline should be sold at a price 40% higher than that of E85 while reducing taxes on profits from the sale of E85; flex fuel vehicles should not count in the fleet when determining CAFE standards

  • Rob Podrebarac

    After further review of the above list of vehicles, gasoline should be sold at a price 50% higher than that of E85 in order to compensate for less efficiency (i.e. 12:18 mpg, E85: gasoline)