The Great Gas Experiment – Interlude and Side Note

I have once again filled my tank with non-alcoholic gas. I used the full-service lane this time (it doesn’t cost extra, so why not?), so there wasn’t any “topping up” to the nearest dollar from where the pump cut off on its own. I’m calling this an interlude because I want to do at least one more refill that way before running the numbers again, to make things a little more consistent. I will say that my car’s computer is currently holding steady at 24.5 mpg, and my FuelLog app showed a more realistic 24.29 mpg this time around.

On a side note, McThag pointed out an article on detailing a road test they did comparing E85 to regular gas. The results?

Gas Result:From San Diego to Las Vegas and back, we used 36.5 gallons of regular gasoline and achieved an average fuel economy of 18.3 mpg.

Gas Cost: We spent $124.66 for gasoline for the trip. The average pump price was $3.42 per gallon.

E85 Result: From San Diego to Las Vegas and back we used 50 gallons of E85 and achieved an average fuel economy of 13.5 mpg.

E85 Cost: We spent $154.29 on E85 for the trip. The average pump price was $3.09 per gallon

Gas/E85 difference: The fuel economy of our Tahoe on E85, under these conditions, was 26.5 percent worse than it was when running on gas. [Emphasis mine – Jake]

Another interesting point with this test:

The drive from San Diego to Las Vegas (a popular destination for many Southern Californians) was just over 333 miles one-way — within easy reach for the Tahoe running on gasoline with its 24-gallon tank. […]

Our preliminary E85 fuel economy estimates came out 20-25 percent lower than the Tahoe’s 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway rating on gasoline. Reaching Las Vegas on a single tank of E85 looked doubtful. To avoid being stranded in the desert, we took along six gallons of E85 in plastic gas cans.

They ended up having to use some of that extra gasohol to finish the trip, too.

Bottom line? Alcohol is simply not a good enough substitute for gasoline to be economically or practically feasible. But then, we knew that already, because if it was a viable substitute the government wouldn’t need to force the fuel companies to foist it off on us. Economics would do the job for them, no force required.


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  1. dave w

     /  April 2, 2013

    This is nothing i didn’t know (or thought i did) already, but good to see it in print. Large diesel engines have for a decade now been forced to meet EPA standards, even on farm equipment. They build the engine to get through the test and then you are left with an engine that pollutes less, per gallon, but has to burn more gallons to do the same work, which usually makes it a wash or worse than the original.

  2. dave w

     /  April 4, 2013

    Whoa, i dont know why this took me so long to notice. If the 15% ethanol was just wasted filler it should have taken only 42 gallons. So they actually used 6.8 extra gallons of real gas. (+15% ethanol). I might have to look into this.


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