A couple of things I’ve been meaning to comment on but never got around to:

On the passing of Midnight

I’d like to give a belated thank you to those who gave their sympathy on the recent death of my cat Midnight. It was appreciated.

As a bit of a surprise, a few days after that, I received a sympathy card from the vet. Now, I suspect there are many veterinary clinics that will send such cards, but what was really surprising was that this one had a very nice and personalized hand written note from the veterinarian that actually attended us that night.

Sometimes it’s the little touches that can make such events bearable.

The Great Gas Experiment – a hiccup

Due to a combination of bad timing and the fact that there is only one gas station in my area that has alcohol-free gas, I had to put $5 of alcoholic gas in the car yesterday. I’ll run it close to dry before filling up again to try and minimize the impact. Before I left for the gun show, my car was reporting an average mileage of 24.8 mpg, up from the previous 24.5 mpg. After the gun show, which involved driving on the interstate, it shot up to 25.3 mpg, but that’s not really useful data here because of the difference in driving styles.


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 Edmunds.com 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.


The Great Gas Experiment – Update 1 (2013-03-15)

Update 2013-03-15: Edited to correct a math error I noticed that was due to a typo when calculating the cost per mile.

Today marked the second filling of the car with alcohol-free gasoline, and the end of the first tank.

  • 12.17 gal @ $3.699 / gal = $45.01
  • Distance traveled = 279 miles

Preliminary results?

According to my car’s trip computer, there’s a definite improvement. For the last couple of tanks of adulterated gas, the car’s computer has calculated that I’m getting an average of 23.8 mpg. Today, when I went to fill up, it said 24.5 mpg. The caveat? I don’t know what time frame / mileage range it calculates that over, so it could be reading low due to including data from adulterated gas.

According to the Fuel Log app on my phone, I got 22.93 mpg on this tank, which is lower than my previous two fill-ups. However, I also think I “stuffed” a little more gas in than usual trying to get up to an even dollar amount (which, of course, I overshot by one frelling cent), which would make it look like it took more gas than it did to go that distance. (FYI, it is, according to the owner’s manual, an 11.9 gallon tank.)

At this point, I think my car’s calculation is probably more accurate than my phone’s calculation, so it looks like I may be getting a noticeable benefit from the alcohol-free gas.

Like last time, the cost at this station is more expensive than at my usual Kroger station – $3.699 / gal compared to $3.489 / gal at Kroger. However, today I noticed that there is a full service lane at this station, and they charge the same for full or self-serve. That adds a little convenience to offset the additional cost, if I want to take advantage of it.

The cost analysis, based off my car’s mileage estimates:

  • 23.8 mpg = 0.0420 gal/mile * $3.489 / gal = $0.1465 / mile
  • 24.5 mpg = 0.0408 gal/mile * $3.699 / gal = $0.1509 / mile

That works out to a difference in cost of $0.0044 / mile in favour of the alcoholic gas. But remember that this is a very preliminary conclusion, since my “sample size” is so small. And I would again point out that my car’s computer may still be using some data from before the switch, so the actual mileage for alcohol-free gas may be even higher, which would probably put it ahead of the regular gas.

Distance per tank and cost per tank estimates:

  • With alcohol: 11.9 gal * 23.8 mpg = 283.22 miles | 283.22 miles * $0.1465 / mile = $41.49 / tank
  • Sans alcohol: 11.9 gal * 24.5 mpg = 291.55 miles | 291.55 miles * $0.1509 / mile = $43.99 / tank

Notice that, despite the ~$0.20 / gal difference in cost, it’s only about a $2.50 difference in cost per tank. Not enough that I would really consider it to be significant, especially when the added wear and tear on the car from the alcohol is considered – yes, as a 2008 model my car is supposedly designed to handle it, but I strongly suspect that it’s still going to have a negative effect on the life of some parts.

If you see any errors in my methodology, or in my math, please mention it in the comments. However, note that this is not a truly scientific experiment. My “control” consists of not making any deliberate changes in my driving habits, which does not equal driving exactly the same for every tank of gas.

I have not made any conscious effort to change my driving habits or style in any way, but minor changes in schedule, weather, etc., may mean that this one tank is not representative of any true change in fuel consumption. I’ll have another update after my next fill-up.


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