Does Ethanol Gas Get Less in Fuel Economy?


Dear Driving for Dollars,

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I heard the Environmental Protection Agency, or EPA, has raised the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline. There are still a few stations in my area offering 100% gas (with no ethanol), but most have some ethanol. Isn't gas with ethanol costing me more because of decreased fuel economy?


Dear Tony,

It's true a car's fuel economy decreases with ethanol when compared to gasoline. However, this is most noticeable when comparing E85, which is a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline (generally referred to as simply ethanol), and regular unleaded gasoline that has been blended with a small amount of ethanol of as much as 10%. Most gasoline stations today are pumping a blend of gasoline with 5% or 10% ethanol. These stations are required to put labels on their pumps stating the percentage of ethanol the fuel contains.

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You are right that late last year the EPA raised the amount of ethanol that can be blended into gasoline to 15%, but as of press time the so-called E15 has not received its final approval. When the EPA does grant approval, any pump dispensing E15 will have a sticker stating the fuel contains 15% ethanol. The sticker will also state that the fuel should only be dispensed in passenger vehicles made in 2001 or later or flex-fuel vehicles, which can run on a higher percentage of ethanol.

Since you still have gas stations that are dispensing 100% gasoline in your area, it is possible you would notice a difference in fuel economy in your vehicle when comparing 100% gasoline to the new E15. Consumers who are typically putting gasoline that contains 10% ethanol in their cars are not likely to see much of a difference in fuel economy by using E15.

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