Flex Fuel Vehicles and E85
Flex fuel vehicles are cars, trucks, and SUVS that can run either on gasoline or E85. As time passes E85 is becoming more popular and demand has driven domestic automakers in particular to develop and produce more vehicles that fit this description. The flex fuel designation is an important one because although more stations are popping up all the time, not every gas station sells E85 fuel. For this reason, at least for now it is essential that automakers come out with these cars with this flexible fueling ability.
E85 is the latest and greatest alternative automotive fuel idea, one which domestic automakers like the new Jeep under Fiat control have really bought into in recent years, spending billions of dollars in development and production. E85 is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. It is being touted as a great solution to reduce our country's dependence on foreign oil, and there is some truth to this statement, since every gallon of this type of fuel poured into a tank is a gallon of gasoline that is left at the pump.
E85 is also welcomed by many because it is much cleaner burning than gasoline. The alcohol based ethanol does not produce nearly as many emissions as straight gas, making its use much better for the environment. But the advantages of flex fuel are also balanced out by some disadvantages. In most vehicles, fuel economy is much better with gasoline than it is with E85. This means that drivers have to go to the pump a lot more often if they wish to burn their flex fuel of choice.
Prices for E85
And while these was a time when ethanol based fuel was much cheaper than gasoline, its prices seem to have caught up substantially. What this means is that making the choice to use this alternative fuel source equates to deciding to pay more per mile or per trip. Drivers who log a lot of miles, like commuters who go long distances to and from work each day or those who work out of their vehicles all day long, would spend a lot more money using the ethanol based product.
Of course, this discussion of price has to also take into account the fact that there are certain tax advantages that are available for purchase of some of these vehicles. But there is another side even to this advantage, as these tax breaks could end at any time, and only serve to level the field since flex fuel vehicles cost more than their gas powered counterparts, usually to the tune of several thousand dollars.
Future of Alternative Fuels
There surely will continue to be debate and discussion as technology continues to develop and efficiency comes up in the motors of cars and trucks that can run on ethanol. One other thing that is also hotly debated is the actual production of E85, which some say is worse for the environment than gasoline production, potentially offsetting any gain in the cars themselves.
Alternative fuels are just one more way the auto industry is exploring as a method of getting away from the need to depend so much on fossil fuels and specifically foreign oil. Drivers who choose these cars pay more for them although in many cases national auto insurance companies actually offer discounts on their policies. Financially it is a mixed bag making the choice to drive these flex fuel and E85 vehicles. It seems as though the choice has to come from other areas of motivation besides financial ones because overall there doesn't seem to be much to gain.