What Cars Can Use E85 Fuel?by Amrita ChuasiripornUpdated August 16, 2023
E85 is an alternative fuel that has gained a foothold in the U.S., particularly in the Midwest, but not every vehicle is a flex fuel car. As of August 2009, most of the new cars that can use it are American —-but some other makes have gotten aboard the ethanol train as well. Here are some answers to FAQs about cars that take E85.
E85 is an ethanol blend biofuel comprising of up to 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent or more pure gasoline. Ethanol is a grain alcohol that is most often made from corn but that can be made from sugar cane and other starches, including agricultural waste products.
In the 1880s, Henry Ford built the first ethanol-powered car. Later, a 1908 Model-T was built to run on either regular gas or ethanol fuel. More than 100 years later, this technology is still in use and undergoing refinement.
What Vehicles Can Use E85 Gas?
The brand with the most E85-friendly vehicles on the market is General Motors. Most of these are large trucks and SUVs, though the Chevy Monte Carlo, Impala and HHR are also on this list. Other GM E85-compatible cars include the Buick Lucerne and Pontiac G6. GM's offerings feature yellow gas caps or badges that advertise their flex-fuel system, meaning they can use regular gasoline or E85. However, a GM survey found that almost 70 percent of owners of GM flex-fuel vehicles were unaware that their cars had this capability. If you think your car is an FFV, check your owner’s manual for clarification.
Other automakers offering E85-friendly vehicles of various model years include Audi, Ford, Chrysler, Dodge, Toyota, Nissan, Volkswagen, Honda, Isuzu, Mazda, Hyundai, Ram and Mercedes-Benz. It’s worth noting that many manufacturers introduced flex-fuel models in countries like Brazil, which produce massive amounts of ethanol. Thus, some of the brand names mentioned will not have these models available in the states.
E85 flex fuel is not yet widely available in the U.S. Most E85 gas stations are concentrated in corn-producing states in the Midwest, such as Illinois and Iowa. As of August 2009, vehicles running E85 fuel produce an estimated 27 percent less energy than when fueled with the equivalent amount of gasoline. More trips to the E85 station are necessary, making their fuel economy worse.
Though they get fewer MPG, a main incentive of E85 vehicles is that they are priced the same as traditionally fueled vehicles, unlike electric vehicles or other vehicles that run on alternative energies. It also has an octane rating of 100 to 105, while traditional gas only has a rating of 87.
Not all environmentalists are fans of this fuel type. In 2001, Cornell University scientist David Pimentel published a study that lambasted ethanol production as "subsidized food burning." He analyzed production of ethanol from both an economic and an environmental standpoint and found it severely lacking in both arenas. See Resources for more details of the study. Some companies are focusing on ethanol produced from switchgrass and other sources that would make production more energy-efficient. The U.S. Department of Energy says corn-based ethanol produces 20 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions than traditional gasoline.
Amrita Chuasiriporn is a professional cook, baker and writer who has written for several online publications, including Chef's Blade, CraftyCrafty and others. Additionally, Chuasiriporn is a regular contributor to online automotive enthusiast publication CarEnvy.ca. Chuasiriporn holds an A.A.S. in culinary arts, as well as a B.A. in Spanish language and literature.