Ethanol worth mileage drop?

Discussion in 'Emissions' started by wannabeclean, Oct 25, 2006.

  1. wannabeclean

    wannabeclean Well-Known Member

    EDIT : I totally support altenative fuels, and don't want to come off wrong. I just don't want to be the duped into supporting something which is really a political ploy to sell more oil.

    I recently began filling up with gasoline with a 10% mixture of Ethonol ( or so it says at the pump. )

    My mileage has dropped from around 35- 38 MPG, to somewhere around the mid to high twenties.

    I had thought something was wrong with the car and gave it a tune up to no avail.

    Then I remembered the label at the gas pump that stated " This gas contains a 10% Ethonol mix "
    I knew that my mileage would take a hit from having ethonol in the gas, but not something as drastic as this.

    My question is this : Since I now travel less miles on a tank of gas, I am also burning more toxic gasoline per mile traveled.
    So ..... isn't this really defeating the purpose of the emissions argument ?

    I just had my emissions tested and the car is cleaner - but at what point will this outweigh the fact that more fuel is used ( thereby creating [I]more [/I]of those cleaner emissions ! )

    By the way : Consumer Reports has a magazine out now with the headlines reading " The Ethonol Myth "
    Previously, I had noticed reviews in CR of hybrids not getting the touted MPG figures and bad reviews of hybrids due to the fact that the few thousand dollar premium that is paid for a hybrid is not made up in fuel savings for years to come.
    Nowhere in the CR article were emissions reductions an issue.
    I therefore thought that the ethonol article in the current issue was yet another write up which counts pennies instead of emissions.
    As I read the article, this was indeed an issue which was brought up ( Your mileage drops so you use more gas ...paying more pennies per gallon traveled. ) ... BUT, I was also glad to see that CR had shown how that todays auto manufacturers and politicians are bedfellows when it comes to ethonol and pulling the wool over the publics eyes.
    What CR basically said, was that , as I have seen, more fuel used means more pollution - even if it is 'cleaner' pollution. Add to this the fact that most flex-fuel vehicles made today are gas hogs anyways and the emissions problem gets even worse ... and certain people get rich off of it while getting a 'clean' image to boot .
    A good read.
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2006
  2. Mr. Kite

    Mr. Kite Well-Known Member

    Re: Ethonol worth mileage drop ?

    E10 shouldn't make that much of a difference. Are you also experiencing much colder weather? The difference between 100% gas and E10 has hardly been noticable in my experience.

    A gallon of ethanol releases less CO2 than a gallon of gasoline. Although it does require more ethanol (E85) to drive the same distance, the net effect is less CO2 per mile driven.
  3. wannabeclean

    wannabeclean Well-Known Member

    Re: Ethonol worth mileage drop ?

    At what point does the reduction in certain emissions make up for the excess gasoline pollution ?

    I am guessing that my mileage drop is largely due in part to the ethonol, due to the fact that my emissions are actually cleaner, while getting half as many miles per gallon as before ( A high of 48 MPG )

    If I have mechanical problems with the car wouldn't this cause an increase in emissions ?

    Don't get me wrong, I could care less if I get 15 or 150 MPG. I just want a valid decrease in emissions and I'd like to know if I am actually burning more gasoline as well while using E10.

    I live near Houston Texas ... so no real temperature drop.
  4. wannabeclean

    wannabeclean Well-Known Member

    Re: Ethonol worth mileage drop ?

    I do see your point - and totally agree - I have had a huge mileage drop for just using E10 .
    I just can't explain the cleaner emissions .

    Do you think the emissions test was botched ?
  5. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Re: Ethonol worth mileage drop ?

    Hi Wannabeclean:

    ___The E10 you are using will usually cause a 2 - 3% mileage hit but your TLEV emissions are still intact while using winter blend RFG with E10. If I had the choice of not using E10 in the Chicagoland area, I would not but if we (the entire US population) lose 2 - 3% in FE, our emissions spec’s are still intact while using E10 laced fuels, we have reduced our total imports by ~ 7% for every gallon of E10 consumed, and maybe a 5% reduction in total GHG emissions for every gallon of E10 consumed (my own guesstimate here), I have to believe it is a worthwhile endeavor for all of us.

    ___When I mentioned the E10 hit above, I know some FEH drivers (Gary G for one) say they have seen upwards of a 15 + % hit themselves. I drove a recently fueled with RFG based E10 FEH to some stupidly high numbers so the hit you take is usually so small you will never be able to distinguish it from the colder temperature FE hit we always take in most cases. Remember some of the FEH drivers own experiences using E10 however. There may be a larger hit for some in a specific area of the country while using it or at least transitioning to E10 and then from E10 on the next refuel.

    ___Good Luck

  6. brick

    brick Answers to "that guy."

    I don't have access to anything but E10 fuels in my state and in the summer I haven't noticed a whole lot of difference on the rare occasion that I'm out of state and get a tank without ethanol. That said, something is obviously up if your FE dropped suddenly by 25-30%.

    I have been scratching my head over a sudden 15-20% loss, which is at least partially due to the much colder temps. The rest, I think, has more to do with the winterized properties of the fuel than the ethanol content. (Higher vapor pressure, possibly some anticoagulants?) Gary suggested that the long term fuel trim may have been affected by the fuel, causing the car to run richer than it had been.
  7. GaryG

    GaryG Well-Known Member

    There must be alot of factors at play here. Compression ratio is one thing that comes to mind because higher compression require the need to adjust timing for pre-ignition. My guess is ethanol adds in preventing pre-ignition and reduces the need to adjust timing in the higher compression engine. I was a little shocked at the Civic higher compression rating without the required use of 91 - 93 octane. My guess is that the Civic would have less of an effect with ethanol for this reason.

    The other factor is fuel trim adjustments if you don't get ethanol mixed fuel normally. This is my problem and I think this is why I take such a big hit. The combination of a low compression engine and the ratio of weight to engine size in the FEH takes away more FE. In addition, the FEH has a larger generator to turn than the Honda or Prius Hybrid. Because I depend on EV more than the average FEH owner, the constant use of the generator may be another reason I take a big hit. I view ethanol as a serious problem with FE in my FEH with my conditions. It may not effect other FEH owners already getting ~30mpg on average and don't care to drive EV 60 - 70% of the time in city driving.

    The other thing is, I don't have the cold weather and the need to run a richer fuel mixture much at all throughout the year.

  8. Chuck

    Chuck just the messenger

    Good News from MIT

    At MIT, they have rigged an engine that gets 30% better fuel economy, injecting ethanol and gasoline separtely. In other words, this vehicle would need two gas tanks, but it would cost only $1000 more than a conventional engine and get hybrid FE.

    Basically, the engine is designed to slow the detonation.
  9. wannabeclean

    wannabeclean Well-Known Member

    I'm just puzzled by the emissions drop.

    Hmm....I didn't even think to consider the possibility that the engine is running poorly, but yet the E10 emissions are so clean that even with a bad engine the emissions still outdo an non ethonol gasoline mixture.

    I really doubt this ... but I'm really hoping it to be true !

    There is a very slight decrease, so nothing drastic, but a decrease never the less.

    The numbers are as follows - the first numbers being last years, when the car was getting an average of 42 MPG - the second being the current figures - and getting less than 30 MPG.
    High Speed Test :
    HC ( PPM ) 26 last year vs. 19 now
    CO (%) 0.16 vs 0.06 now
    CO2 (%) 14.3 vs. 14.6 now
    Nox(ppm) 139 vs. 118 now
    DILUTION 14.46 vs. 14.7

    Low Speed Test :

    HC(PPM) 40 vs. 27 now
    CO ( %) 0.11 vs. 0.08 now
    CO2( %) 14.3 vs. 14.6 now
    O2 (%) 0.8 vs 0.7now
    Nox (ppm) 142 vs.104 now
    DILLUTION 14.41 vs. 14.7 now

    I'm ashamed of these numbers and try my best to drive as little as possible with the car.
    I wish that there were a way to decrease the emissions to current standards.

    I called a couple of places to see if there were any emissions parts that I could have installed on the car from a newer model Civic.
    What I was told is that the engine is completely different er than the block.
    Have the engine really changed all that much ?
    I'd love to upgrade to a ULEV emissions standard.

    Back to the ethonol topic.
  10. psyshack

    psyshack He who posts articles

    I know back in the early 80's we had ethanol blended fuels around here and it was awful stuff in standard cars with lower compression ratios. They would drink the stuff like water. At that time I also owned a old Hemi Mopar. It like the fuel. With the hemis higher compression ratio.

    I also think my Current Civic would work well with ethanol blend fuel. With its 9.5:1 ratio.


    No parts from a new civic will go on a old one under the hood. Totaly diff. engine. There are alot of high compression piston kits and such out there for older Civics. One could raise it to high compression and go to straight ethanol I would think. It would run alot!!!! cleaner. But would drink fuel something awful.
  11. wannabeclean

    wannabeclean Well-Known Member

    A Hemi Mopar eh ? Bet you wish you still had it with Hemi Mopars going for hundreds of thousands now.
    What kind was it ?
    I never had a Hemi, but at one time owned a '72 RoadRunner with a 400-4
    The car had more Bondo than sheetmetal !
    I love the stle of the old Mopars, but the gas mileage was horrendous !

    I guess part of me is trying to attone for all of the pollution that I put into the air with that car.
  12. xcel

    xcel PZEV, there's nothing like it :) Staff Member

    Hi Wannabeclean:

    ___Try not to look back for atonement or even worry about the past, look to the future as that is where you can make a difference today, tomorrow, and far into the future.

    ___Good Luck

  13. psyshack

    psyshack He who posts articles

    Dont worry about making up for the past. And dont go to hard into the future. You will get burned out. Nice and easy.

    As for the old Mopars. Mine was a 64 Satilite. I also had a 383 newport I really liked. It got great mpg for a huge sled. Wasnt hard to get 28 mpg on the hwy at all, once you got it moving and loafing along.
  14. muhkuh

    muhkuh Member

    I'm rather skeptical about ethanol as fuel. Of course I don't know the statistics, but I figure that intensive agriculture (to produce the corn) uses excessive amounts of oil. Together with the energy loss during the corn->ethanol conversion this could lead to increased total emissions.
  15. Blake

    Blake Well-Known Member

    I know if I tried to make up for my past wastefulness I'd be spending the rest of my life walking. Its not about trying to make up for past mistakes, its about seeing the err in our ways and making changes in our lives for not only our future, but our children and grandchildren.

    As for ethanol, the more reading on the subject I do, the more I'm ok with using it... IF we come up with some other way of producing it. Right now its so grossly inefficent it doesn't make sense sadly :(
  16. koreberg

    koreberg Junior Member

    I just don't see the point in finding those way, when we would be better served with more EV and hybrids, even if they run on dino fuel, and get their electricity from coal fired plants.
  17. Blake

    Blake Well-Known Member

    While I tend to agree with you on a personal vehicle scale. It will be sometime before we completely replace the use of liquid fuels all together. There are still many things that need liquid fuel to run on (Trains, Planes, Semi's)

    Now we can covert Trains to run solely on electricity but Planes and Semi's will always need some sort of liquid/gas fuel unless they come up with a big leap in electricity storage/production (for Semi's)

    I have no issues with cellousitic ethanol and some of the other idea's getting test sound very intresting. Some are even taking genetically modified bacteria that "eat" CO2 out of the atmosphere and make hydrogen or gasoline as a "waste" product.

    The only thing is these things will take research to develop. While I don't think ethanol is a good choice for the everyday consumer (BEV's will suit 99% of everyday users) I think it could play a role in eliminating our use of non-renewable resources.
  18. pdk

    pdk Beacon of Sanity

    I think well-to-wheels emissions of the *current* state of ethanol production are no worse than gasoline. The problem is that corn ethanol isn't very sustainable (not enough farmland), and it's driving up prices of lots of food.

    I've said before that sustainable ethanol (waste wood, switchgrass, etc.) used very sparingly can be part of the solution. It is most certainly not the great panacea that many people would like to believe it is, especially since only giant vehicles are E85 compatible.
  19. Blake

    Blake Well-Known Member

    Exactly! Infact, currect research says that E20 or E30 is more efficent of a blend than E85 to begin with. There is some people trying to get E20 certified for use in normal cars, but obviously they will not benifit from it like cars designed to run solely on E20/E30.

    But for someone to think that ethanol could be used to power the entire auto fleet in america is being blinded by misinformation. There needs to be improvements made before it can even be considered for serious use.
  20. koreberg

    koreberg Junior Member


    When you throw in the other types of pollution caused by ethanol production, (pesticides, furtilizer run off etc) it is worse in its current form.

    I would much rather see biodiesel than ethanol. Especially when talking about designing cars for a fuel.

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