E85 vs. Gasoline – Which one should I choose?

E85 Vs Gasoline

Carbon emissions are contributing to an increase in the number of greenhouse gases. As petrol prices rise, many motorists are looking for alternative fuel sources.

One of them is ethanol. Internal combustion engines running on petrol emit carbon dioxide as a by-product. Ethanol, on the other hand, is clean energy. E85 consists of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline.

Ethanol is produced by the fermentation of sugar cane, molasses, or corn. A lot of land is needed for corn production to produce enough ethanol to fuel all cars in the United States. Gasoline production has to last for many years, but prices fluctuate due to a number of policies. There are moments when there is a crisis in the Middle East that leads to a shortage of gasoline.

Many people have questioned the idea that ethanol helps reduce greenhouse gases. A close observation of ethanol production shows that it takes a lot of energy to produce a gallon of ethanol. Corn, which is used to produce ethanol, requires large areas of land to grow it.

Enormous amounts of ethanol are needed to run cars in America alone. These crops are in active competition with corn for food production. In the long term, it was feared that ethanol production would lead to a food shortage.

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Gasoline vs E85 Comparison

There are many differences between E85 and gasoline. Here you will find the biggest things to consider before making your choice. My personal recommendation is to choose gasoline, due to the more expensive repair costs when using E85 in many cars. This includes failed fuel injectors, fuel pumps, etc.

Decreased mileage

The first thing you will notice when replacing gasoline with E85 is that you have driven fewer miles. It’s equivalent to 8 miles per gallon. The price difference between gasoline and ethanol is not very significant at around $0.50. This makes no sense to many drivers, as they get less mileage for almost the same cost.

Furthermore, there are not many ethanol filling stations across the country compared to gasoline, where you have a filling station every few miles. If you can drive fewer miles on ethanol, this means that you could be stranded without a fuel alternative.


Another complaint about the use of ethanol is that it does not decompose easily. One of the by-products of using ethanol is water. Water does not work well with engine components due to rust. Another by-product of E85 is rust flakes. These often clog the fuel filter and reduce the efficiency of the rings and seals. Eventually, this will be damaged and you will spend more on repairs.

In addition, alcohol vapors cause what we call a vapor barrier in the carburetor. In small cars, ethanol reduces the life of the engine. It is assumed that ethanol begins to break down after three weeks in the engine. By that time it will have formed lumps that clog the engine parts. Repairs become increasingly expensive. However, this problem does not occur frequently in larger cars.

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Gasoline price fluctuations

Discounted E85

The reason why governments promote the use of ethanol for cars is that it is not exposed to political extremes as is gasoline. Gasoline is a limited resource, and some of the largest oil producers are in the Middle East. Every time political instability increases in these countries, gasoline production is affected and you have fuel shortages.

This leads to a rise in prices, which ultimately has a negative impact on the country’s economy. Ethanol production, on the other hand, requires a lot of land to grow corn. This is in direct competition with corn, which is produced for internal consumption. Putting more arable land under production means buying more land. This is also expensive. Critics have also questioned the amount of energy used for ethanol production and its contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.

Job opportunities

Ethanol production will lead to job creation in this sector. This will help to improve the livelihoods of many people. Individuals can now produce ethanol and sell it to manufacturers.

Alcohol does not freeze

In areas with severe winters, it is advantageous to use ethanol in the gas pipelines. Alcohol, unlike petrol, has a low freezing point, which makes it ideal for use in extremely cold temperatures. Countries that try to import ethanol do not need to build transport infrastructure, as they can use the existing petrol pipelines.

Tax breaks

The Federal Highway Trust Fund has offered a $0.15 tax break for the production of one gallon of ethanol. However, there is not enough data to support the argument that more farmers are getting into ethanol production.

However, it is much cheaper to produce ethanol through sugar cane. Countries like Brazil can produce ethanol more cheaply than the US, where corn is used, because of their large sugar cane acreage. The tax break could have a negative impact because although the subsidy is given to farmers, more energy is still needed to produce a gallon of ethanol.

It is estimated that 328 gallons of fuel ethanol is produced from one hectare of land. The total acreage used to produce ethanol can only be used by cars for 70 days.


Ethanol is an excellent alternative fuel. As petrol prices fluctuate, consumers are looking for alternatives to power their fuel-thirsty vehicles. However, the production of ethanol presents many challenges.

First, many hectares must be brought under corn production to meet the countries’ demand for the substance. This brings ethanol production into direct conflict with corn for domestic consumption. In addition, the land is expensive and there is not much incentive to encourage farmers to produce ethanol.

The other disadvantage of using ethanol is that it produces water as a by-product in engines.

Water reacts with metal components in engines and produces rust. The rust contaminates the air filters, which leads to further engine problems. There are many arguments for using ethanol as a cheaper fuel than gasoline, and research has shown that it is only $0.50 cheaper in the U.S. However, at a rate of 8 miles per gallon, it offers lower mileage.

This means that a car that runs on E85 as opposed to gasoline will require more fuel. With few ethanol filling stations, drivers can get stuck on long distance journeys. To make ethanol widely available, a way must be found to reduce the energy costs of its production.

Written by: Magnus Sellén

Founder, owner & main author of Mechanic Base. I have been repairing cars for more than 10 years, specialized in advanced diagnostics & troubleshooting. I have also been a drifting driver and mechanic for over 7 years.