Long term E85 usage - '09 Mercedes C300

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Mar 27, 2004
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Atlanta, GA
Hey all! Did not see really any posts regarding E85 usage in E85 compatible vehicles, just mainly those looking to find fuels with 0% ethanol. I bought my used '09 C300 August last year with ~62k miles on it and had relegated myself to having to bite the bullet for 93 octane moving forward. Noticed the yellow gas cap my first fill up but because I had never been exposed to E85 just figured it was a non-starter for me as I had never seen an E85 pump. My 3rd tank in my work brought me to Tennessee and low and behold I go to fill up and find an E85 station where it was running a good $1.30/gal less than premium so I figure I would give it a whirl, that was September last year and I have used E85 ~90% of the time since. Pros: - After the car adjusts to the fuel the performance feels better on E85 vs 93. Will warn you it may take a full tank of E85 for the car to adjust to the fuel or at least felt as so in my car. In my experience switching back and forth between fuels you will have a neutered car (at least with MB C300) until the car can adjust. - Better cold start exhaust smell. We all know that pungent cold start exhaust smell before the emissions equipment wakes up and is fully functional. That is gone with E85, I would equate the scent now to the smell of frying funnel cakes. The heavy sulfur smell after a bout of hard driving does not seem to be there, I typically don't drive behind myself so cannot comment if this has been reduced or eliminated on WOT runs. - Eliminated rear end soot buildup. Prior to E85 (well and after a few tanks of E85) my white car would have a coating of soot all over the rear end after just 1 tank after a car wash, this has all been eliminated and there is no notable soot even after multiple tanks of E85. Cons: - Fuel economy. 18/25 on Premium, 13/19 on E85 per window sticker. Premium I can get ~27MPG on a long road trip at ~75MPH, E85 I can hit ~20MPG in similar conditions. My city commute I usually see ~17MPG on Premium and ~13MPG on E85. Typically its a total wash between the two fuels but sometimes will err on the side of premium and sometimes on E85 depending on the price spread. Found on long highway road trips it is easier to just pump in the 91/93 for the extended range so that accounts for majority of my non-E85 usage. - Cold starting. Starting is noticeably harder in colder weather (low 30's - high 20's) on E85, I am sure it is blended down in climates colder than Atlanta. - Sustainable ?. Yeah even I am not even sure about this aspect of how 'good' E85 is so I don't even try to argue for or against it as I honestly don't have an opinion on whether it is better or worse than gasoline/diesel/whatever. The only thing I can talk about on this is that our process needs quite a bit of work if you compare to where Brazil sources their stock and their production process. Summary: 1) There is no financial benefit for me for using E85 as it really may end up in a few $/year difference if I use E85 vs 93 so for me this is more of a using what I consider a fuel that is cleaner to my car as well as supporting a farmer somewhere in Iowa. 2) Fuel economy sucks - expect to visit the pump quite a bit more often. If your car takes 87 it is not worth the fuel economy hit, if it requires premium it will sometimes be more cost effective to run E85 but can go either way depending on the spread. 3) E85 seems pretty popular due to limited stations. I typically have to line up with a bunch of GM's (Suburban and Impala seem most popular E85 cars) to get to the few pumps in metro ATL. Don't see many Ford or Chrysler flex cars at the pumps. 4) Funnel cake fryer exhaust. I just want to put out there I don't want this to end up in some political debate over fuel, I just wanted to share my ~9 month/10k mile E85 experience and the pros and cons of using it on a regular basis. There is quite a bit of mis-information out there on the +/- of using E85 in a flex car so wanted to share some real world experience. E85 will be my fuel of choice for my regular commute which is the majority of my driving, long road trips will be nothing but 91/93 for convenience as E85 stations are difficult to find in certain areas of the country. I will say if E85 were at every filling station even that would change. Any other E85 users out there?
 
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I don't even know that you can get E85 in Western Australia. There are a few pumps with E10; but I'm not interested in it unless the octane is higher than the 98RON I already use. Price is only a couple of cents per litre less, so given the economy loss wouldn't make much, if any, difference. A 25% loss in economy is on-par with primitive LPG (i.e. Liquid Petroleum Gas; Butane/Propane) mixer (i.e. carburettor / throttle body) setups once popular on Australian domestics. What made up for that was the LPG was roughly half the price of regular-grade petrol, and is usually higher octane then the Premium fuel. These days, a good quality injected LPG system comes with a sub-15% loss in economy; and a liquid-injection system with zero economy loss. The price at present is around 25% less than petrol; so its really only an economical conversion if you have a thirsty car requiring premium. Regarding sustainability; I wouldn't be entirely convinced. Not only do you seem to burn through 25% more fuel (so you create 25% more exhaust emissions, even if E85 is cleaner for a give volume of emissions, the fact you use more probably outweighs that), but there are also the associated issues with transporting 25% more fuel, using scarce fertile lands for fuel, rather than food. Overall it seems there is much to be done before Ethanol becomes the miracle fuel people make it out to be.
 

pezzy669

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Mar 27, 2004
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Atlanta, GA
Originally Posted By: B320i
There are a few pumps with E10; but I'm not interested in it unless the octane is higher than the 98RON I already use.
E85 (If a full 85/15 blend) is reportedly 103-104 octane. Ethanol boosts octane.
Originally Posted By: B320i
Regarding sustainability; I wouldn't be entirely convinced. Not only do you seem to burn through 25% more fuel (so you create 25% more exhaust emissions, even if E85 is cleaner for a give volume of emissions, the fact you use more probably outweighs that), but there are also the associated issues with transporting 25% more fuel, using scarce fertile lands for fuel, rather than food.
My emissions were generated by a crop (corn) which were previously absorbing quite a few things out of the air and generating oxygen in the mean time, tell me what your dinosaurs thousands of feet under ground did to generate your fuel? Corn has remained flat since the ethanol mandate, it is pretty much same price now it was 8 years ago. Google "corn price" and look at the graph, food prices have not gone up due to corn looking at that graph. If they have it is simply corporate greed and nothing more. E85 is absorbing excess capacity, do you suggest they just throw that corn away and call it a day?
 
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Originally Posted By: pezzy669
My emissions were generated by a crop (corn) which were previously absorbing quite a few things out of the air and generating oxygen in the mean time, tell me what your dinosaurs thousands of feet under ground did to generate your fuel?
Whoa, whoa, whoa. I wasn't making any personal attacks - I was merely pointing out the fact the reduced economy increases not only the emissions of your own vehicle, but in the entire supply chain that must supply a greater quantity of fuel for the same number of vehicles, given the inefficiency of ethanol. Do the corn crops absorb the same level of emissions as you create with the car? I can't say. What I can say, is the corn itself must be watered, fertilised, transported and so on. This creates emissions too.
Originally Posted By: pezzy669
E85 is absorbing excess capacity, do you suggest they just throw that corn away and call it a day?
You example of the stable corn price explains exactly why there is an oversupply of corn - subsidies. Thus, there is an incentive to produce far beyond the quantity demanded by the market. The land being used to make all this excess corn could be better used for other crops. I don't agree with "throwing things away," but this is exactly what happens when subsidies are introduced. Dairy subsidies in Europe are a great example - "butter mountains" and "milk irrigation" being the result.
 
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Well, last I checked the corn fields around me, nature did a pretty good job of watering them. Only 15% of all crop land in the U.S. is irrigated, and only part of that has field corn for the crop. And of that which has corn for the crop, some of that is seed corn production or sweet corn production which has nothing to do with #2 yellow dent field corn that is used for ethanol production. Lots of produce for human consumption, hay fields, etc get the bulk of the irrigation in this country. And ethanol production has gotten water use down to where is almost matches the same water amounts used to make petroleum based fuels. Subsidies were eliminated in 2011. There are no subsidies for either ethanol or corn production. There are corn price supports still in place, but the market price for corn hasn't hit a low enough level for them to kick in. There are crop insurance subsidies that are still in place for crop losses, but that also includes every type of crop raised in the country, not just corn. They are the same type of thing as homeowner flood insurance subsidies. There is land set aside subsidies that are still in place, but that is to set aside land for no crop production for several years to allow the land to set idle. If there was so much more corn being produced due to subsidies, as you suggest, then prices would be so low as to make it not profitable and corn price subsidies would kick in. But that hasn't happened in a long time. And what other crops would be best grown on the available farm land? What part of the food chain is so lacking that prices are in the stratosphere and would make growing another crop cost effective? Is the market hurting for more peas, green beans, broccoli, spinach, lettuce, etc? What crops grow well on, say, Iowa hilly farm ground with a high loam or clay content? Most cropland that is used for corn production is crop rotated with different a different crop each year anyway. It doesn't just grow corn year after year, though there is some of that going on by a few idiots who don't understand benefits of crop rotation. And there are many products that come from ethanol production that still demand that ethanol production be done. High protein feed supplements, polymers, etc that are made from the distilled grain left over from ethanol production. Even the insulators on your spark plugs used corn byproducts from ethanol production, as well as baby diapers and a host of other products. Ethanol is not the only thing that comes from ethanol production. Every bushel of corn that is used for ethanol production also produces 17 lb of other products as well.
 

blupupher

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The cost vs mpg is the biggest issue with e85 (and e-10) that I have. I have no vehicles that take e-85, and don't think I would use it. Around me, e-85 is about $0.02-0.10/gallon cheaper than e-10 (no e-0 around here). Makes no sense to run it with such a huge drop in mpg. Now as you said, if you are running premium unleaded, and there was a big enough price difference (there is not here, premium is around $0.60/gallon more than regular)then it may be about a wash. If performance was better with e-85, and the price was right, I probably would, but I have no plans to own a vehicle that requires premium fuel. My brother had a similar experience to you, he tried it in his Suburban. Said it cost $22 less to fill it, but had to fill it more often, and when he sat and figured actual cost per mile, e-10 won by a long shot.
 
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I would like to see a UOA on a vehicle running E85 as compared to one running E0 or E10. I think one on the domestic manufacturers was going to require severe service oil change intervals if run on E85, but the government would not allow it.
 
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Originally Posted By: blupupher
Around me, e-85 is about $0.02-0.10/gallon cheaper than e-10 (no e-0 around here). Makes no sense to run it with such a huge drop in mpg.
H-E-B gas stations in Texas "fix" the price of E-85 at $0.30 per gallon less than 87 unleaded. Valero stations won't do that, and I have seen E-85 priced HIGHER than 87 at times
 

blupupher

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Originally Posted By: Linctex
Originally Posted By: blupupher
Around me, e-85 is about $0.02-0.10/gallon cheaper than e-10 (no e-0 around here). Makes no sense to run it with such a huge drop in mpg.
H-E-B gas stations in Texas "fix" the price of E-85 at $0.30 per gallon less than 87 unleaded. Valero stations won't do that, and I have seen E-85 priced HIGHER than 87 at times
HEB around here does not have e-85, neither do the Valero's around me. Kroger and Sunoco around Katy are the ones that have it. I have seen the price at Sunoco the same price for e-10 and e-85, usually the e-85 is $0.02 cheaper. The old Kroger was usually up to $0.20/gallon cheaper, but the new one I have not paid attention to, so it may be more, but no where near at a price that would make it worthwhile, even for someone using premium. For me to even consider e-85 it would need to be 1/2 the price of regular, and that is not going to happen around here. With regular selling for $2/gallon right now, no way will e-85 sell for $1/gallon. But they you would have people with non-e85 vehicles getting it thinking "gas is gas", at least for a tank or so and the car starts having issues.
 
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It's impossible to have technical conversations because the same old people come in with the same old tired talking points. For me it's the cheapest performance mod to play with. Simple and quick jetting changes on my old cars. I'd rather not have that taken away from me. That's a "mandate" too. Communists tend to have no alternatives either.
 
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I generally factor that a 50 cent spread (lower) for E85 is what it takes for me to use the stuff. Back when we had the high gas prices several years ago, I used E85 almost exclusively for almost 2 years. It had a $1 or more lower price than E10 at the time. For 30 cent or less spread, not interested. Actually, I have used more E15 recently. Virtually the same mpg as with E10, yet it has hovered around 10 cents a gallon cheaper. I am fortunate, in that I can get E0, E10, E15, E20, E30, E50, and E85 around my area. I can track fuel price spreads seasonally and go with what gives me the lowest cost per mile. I know the average mpg I get from the various blends so I can take the prevailing price and figure the cost per mile to me on each fuel. That is why I prefer flex fuel vehicles. I can have a smorgasbord of fuels I can use to give the best overall value.
 
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Originally Posted By: B320i
Regarding sustainability; I wouldn't be entirely convinced. Not only do you seem to burn through 25% more fuel (so you create 25% more exhaust emissions, even if E85 is cleaner for a give volume of emissions, the fact you use more probably outweighs that), but there are also the associated issues with transporting 25% more fuel, using scarce fertile lands for fuel, rather than food.
It seems you don't quite understand how E85 is burned, nor why you get less mileage. In research often it is found E85 reduces emissions, and one paper shows them to be about the same. Either way, I have not found a paper that says emissions are increased at all. Total CO2, NOx and THC are usually reduced when switching to E85...although some testing has shown CO is slightly higher for E85 but still within federal regulations. https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=13&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjEr4f4q73UAhUI_4MKHas1CXMQFghjMAw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cleanairchoice.org%2Ffuels%2FE85C02Report2004.PDF&usg=AFQjCNF9aaDIXXiEAZpfTotarQ73lfgRTA&sig2=DXTnLHRYT-BBsTBZeCW8dw https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=15&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjEr4f4q73UAhUI_4MKHas1CXMQFghxMA4&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.fuelfreedom.org%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2FEffect-of-E85-on-Tailpipe-Emissions-from-Light-Duty-Vehicles.pdf&usg=AFQjCNGdh9OSVoAA1uk0_tL_-x3gzlVw1Q&sig2=kmsYlVvx8cNvjE0QNpGe6w Take some time and do some reading.
 
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I run E85 in my 2002 Silverado with the 5.3. It isn't a flex fuel vehicle so I don't run it straight. Computer can't compensate and it will run lean at WOT. So I have found that a 50/50 mix works well.
 
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