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Touring on E-85

Agriculture.com Staff 02/06/2016 @ 1:13am

When Greg Pawlowski pulled into a service station in Ankeny, Iowa, Sunday evening in his Ford F-150 pickup truck, he was relieved to find an E-85 pump.

Pawlowski is driving the flex-fuel vehicle to 20 cities as part of a Ford Motor Company promotional tour for vehicles that can run on 85% ethanol. Although the truck runs on regular gasoline, too, he's trying to burn E-85 on most of the route. And it can be a long stretch from one E-85 pump to the next.

Pawlowski says he hasn't noticed any difference in engine performance using E-85.

"There is no reason to consider what type of fuel you put in it. The performance is the same," he says. In fact, with higher octane, the performance might be slightly better although most drivers wouldn't notice.

"I actually think you'd have to be a skilled race car driver to tell," Pawlowski adds.

Cars and truck will go about 20% to 25% less far on a gallon of E-85 compared to gasoline, he says, because ethanol has fewer BTUs than gasoline. He says he has talked to owners of some flex-fuel vehicles who say the disadvantage in mileage is only about 5% less.

At the right price, that won't matter with consumers, either. When Pawlowski filled up, he paid $2.19 per gallon, well under central Iowa gasoline prices of about $2.50 a gallon.

"I think that's an indication that things are moving in the right direction in terms of availability and getting the price in line to ease anyone's concerns on fuel economy," Pawlowski says.

And the fuel has other advantages, too. It burns cleaner and adds fewer greenhouse gases. "And it doesn’t require aircraft carriers" to defend the supply lines, he adds.

Trips like the E-85-driven one Pawlowski is taking this week will become easier, at least when stopping at one fuel retailer's many Midwestern locations, thanks to an E-85 infrastructure grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin on Monday announced the $1.5 million grant, which will go toward installing E-85 pumps at 24 Kum & Go fuel retail locations in Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota. Nineteen of the 24 affected stations are in Iowa.

"I am pleased that these funds will help increase the availability of E-85 throughout Iowa," Harkin said Monday. "Increasing E-85 usage will give a boost to the state's rural economy and help reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil."

When Greg Pawlowski pulled into a service station in Ankeny, Iowa, Sunday evening in his Ford F-150 pickup truck, he was relieved to find an E-85 pump.

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