Driving on E85
If you’re buying an Avalanche for its flexible fuel engine, think twice: E85 is scarcely available and significantly less efficient that regular gasoline.
At the time, it seemed like a good idea: locate the nearest E85 fueling station, climb into the 2007 Chevrolet Avalanche, and fill it up with some lovely, starchy corn fuel. You know – the stuff that’s gonna beat Osama Bin Laden and the rest of those ill-tempered Middle Eastern buggers by lowering our dependence on foreign oil. Shoot, we’d even feel good about ourselves, driving around town and burning that sweet, clean burning ethanol, doing our part to save the polar ice caps. But that was before we found out that the nearest station was 90 miles away. Our office is located smack dab in the middle of metro Southern California, one of the most populous regions on the planet let alone the U.S., and the closest E85 station was far south of us – about 100 miles – in El Cajon, just outside of San Diego. Next to a Ford dealership.
That failed to shake our resolve. We’d simply drive on down there anyway, get a tank of the yellow stuff and report back on how amazing E85 is, and why America should immediately start retrofitting all stations with E85 pumps.
Hold on for just a second.
It turns out that E85 is pretty much like filling up with regular gasoline, only worse. First, it smells kind of starchy – which is better – but the numbers on the fuel pump fly by just as quickly as a regular gasoline pump. Still, we got a little “look at us” buzz while at the station, proudly pointing to the E85 pump as if to say that, yes, we were doing our duty as true blue patriots.
When the tank was full, we got behind the wheel, stepped on it and hit the freeway for home. When we really paid close attention, we could even feel the mighty octane upgrade running through the Chevy’s veins. What a rush. But that rush disappeared quickly when we looked at the fuel gauge and saw that driving with E85 fuel was like driving with a trailer hooked up to the back. The needle was spinning downward even faster than with the regular stuff, and it took only a few minutes of mental number-crunching to realize that using E85 would cost more than using regular gasoline, and that if someone were to buy an Chevrolet Avalanche in Southern California and run it on E85, why they’d better live near El Cajon.
That’s not very realistic, of course. And neither is E85. Simply put, this flex-fuel vehicle using E85 got three miles per gallon WORSE fuel mileage. We clocked an average fuel economy of 13.4 miles per gallon using regular grade unleaded – not so hot, but much better than E85 that registered just 10.4 miles per gallon under virtually identical driving conditions. This shorter range and virtually identical price per gallon makes the use of E85 more expensive by around $20 more per tank.
So much for global warming – and war. If we Americans are anything, it’s selfish, and nobody’s gonna pay an extra grand every year to run E85 for each tank.