Skip to main content
eBay
  • Daily Deals
  • Sell
  • Customer Support

Green Driving

  • Electric

    Electric

    Avoid gas stations altogether. Electricity is cheap and ubiquitous. EVs are the greenest vehicles you can buy. But limited range means mostly local driving.

  • Hybrid

    Hybrid

    Gas-electric hybrids are the most efficient cars that don’t have a plug. There are nearly 40 available models—ranging from compact to full-size SUV.

  • Diesel

    Diesel

    Diesel vehicles have exceptional fuel efficiency and are fun to drive. Today's diesels are much cleaner and quieter than those from previous generations.

  • High MPG Gas

    High MPG Gas

    Great fuel efficiency is possible with conventional gas engines. There's a growing list of reasonably priced models getting 35 mpg or higher.

  • CNG

    Natural Gas

    Research is required to find a local station that pumps CNG (Compressed Natural Gas), and choice of models is limited. But the payoff is low-cost fuel that burns clean.

  • Ethanol

    Ethanol

    If you live near an E85 pump, a flex-fuel car utilizes a domestic source of farm-grown fuel.

Green Driving news & articles

Find green cars

Browse by category

Find Parts

Ethanol Vehicle Buying Guide

By Brad Berman
Posted on Dec 13, 2012
Ethanol Vehicle Buying Guide

Is an Ethanol Vehicle Right for You?

There are approximately nine million “flex-fuel” vehicles on U.S. roads capable of burning high blends of ethanol, such as E85 (an 85 percent blend of ethanol to gasoline).   The reason that E85 ethanol cars are called flex-fuel is because they can run on ethanol blends or regular ol’ gasoline.  In fact, most of these vehicles never see a drop of E85. 

The consideration to purchase any specific E85 vehicle usually has little to do with its capability of using strong blends of ethanol.  Consumers should consider the flex-fuel option like one of many other engine or trim features of a vehicle.

The ability of vehicles to run on E85 is not dependent on space-age technology. Instead, the capability is created via a set of relatively low-tech modifications—such as changing fuel lines and injectors with less corrosive materials, similarly swapping out valves and piston rings, and modifying some engine controls—all at a cost of a few hundred dollars.  Other than that, you’re driving the same vehicle in the same way.

Are There Drawbacks To Consider?

If you have the option to swap out 100-percent gasoline for E85, why wouldn’t you?  The first reason is price.  Ethanol prices fluctuate on a different cycle than gasoline, meaning that ethanol is sometimes cheaper but sometimes more expensive. And even when E85 is nominally cheaper, the blended fuel has less energy than petroleum—so a gallon will not take you as far.  Expect your fuel efficiency to drop by 20 to 30 percent.

For example, the most efficient new flex-fuel vehicle on the market is the E85-capable version of the Ford Focus.  When running on gasoline, the car is rated by the EPA at 33 mpg in combined city-highway driving.  But when using E85, that rating drops to 23 mpg.

Where Do I Get Fuel?

The answer to this question raises another critical issue regarding ethanol fuel.  It’s only widely available in the Midwest. The DOE lists a couple thousand E85 stations in the United States—compared to nearly 200,000 gas stations.  But the vast majority of the locations are in Minnesota, Illinois, and surrounding states. Other areas, even populous ones, have little E85 infrastructure. For example, there are fewer than 100 E85 stations in states such as California and Florida. Wider distribution is needed before E85 can even begin to displace gasoline sales.

What Are the Top Models?

Dozens of new models are flex-fuel capable. But if you're looking for small, fuel-efficient vehicles that use E85, you may be disappointed.  eBay’s listings of flexible-fuel vehicles are dominated by full-sized pickups or SUVs.

Automakers focus E85 capability on their largest vehicles because since 1988, manufacturers can assign higher fuel economy ratings to flexible-fuel vehicles—kind of like a bonus credit—under the government's CAFE fuel economy regulations. A large vehicle that averages 13 mpg is assigned a bonus to about 23 mpg for CAFE purposes, even if owners never fuel it with E85.  The market of E85 vehicles is likely to change in 2016 when stricter rules on how those credits are given are expected to change.

How Much Does the Fuel Cost?

Throughout 2012, the national average price for a gallon of E85 Ethanol ran between $0.25 and $0.50 less than a gallon of gasoline.  In January 2012, the price for E85 was $3.00—when gasoline was running above $3.25. 

As with gasoline, the price spiked in the spring, rising to about $3.30, then dipped in the summer before a bigger jump in the fall, reaching about $3.40 before settling down to $3.10 or so by the end of the year.

Remember, there’s less energy in a gallon of E85—so the effective price per mile for flex-fuel cars using E85 tracks closely to gasoline cars.  There are also regional differences in prices to consider.  In mid-December, when the cheapest E85 in Minnesota was $2.67 a gallon, the least expensive E85 you could find in California was $3.09.

Is It Green?

The environmental benefits of ethanol have been debated for years. (And the broader topic of using grown crops to power cars—the so-called “food versus fuel” argument—is also controversial.)

Ethanol proponents say that crops used to make the ethanol absorb CO2 from the atmosphere during their growth—and then put back into the atmosphere when the ethanol is burned in an automobile engine.  This argument fails to recognize greenhouse gas emissions that occur during the cultivation and production of ethanol. Modern farming, for example, relies heavily on diesel-powered equipment that emits greenhouse gases. Distilling ethanol is also an energy-intensive process that often uses electricity generated from coal, another source of greenhouse emissions.

Nonetheless, researchers at the University of California at Berkeley examined six major studies of ethanol production and concluded that using corn-based ethanol leads to a moderate 13 percent reduction in greenhouse emissions. However, the researchers note that more dramatic reductions are possible with ethanol from cellulosic materials such as switchgrass.  (Large-scale cellulosic ethanol production has not been commercialized as quickly as first forecast.)

Another common criticism is that ethanol made from corn has a negative "net energy balance," meaning that the production process requires more energy to produce than you are able to create.  Expect these debates to continue. 


eBay Green Machines

  • Review: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4X4 EcoDiesel

    Review: 2014 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4X4 EcoDiesel

    Likes: Diesel engine is smooth, quiet, powerful, efficient Impressive fuel economy for a luxury SUV Refined, upscale, comfortable interior Off-road capability and adjustability Dislikes: Upper trim levels are expensive Diesel engine option adds $4,500 to price over gas V6 Automatic transmission selector makes you double check Soft suspension means soft cornering Drivers who want an […]
  • Green Ways to Save on St. Patrick’s Day

    Green Ways to Save on St. Patrick’s Day

    Hard to believe spring is just around the corner, even though old man winter refuses to loosen his grip in some parts of the country. To avoid getting stuck on the side of the road in good or bad weather, our friends at Car Care Council recommend a few easy tips to keep you happily […]
  • Early Bird Gull-Wing Bradley GT Electric Car

    Early Bird Gull-Wing Bradley GT Electric Car

    eBay Listing: 1980 Bradley GT II EV There’s a dearth of information available about the seriously cool Bradley GT fiberglass two-seat gull-wing kit car from the 1960s and 1970s. Web reports indicate that about 6,000 of the original Bradley GT cars were sold to kit builders, before the more refined but short-lived GT II was […]
  • BMW 3 Series Diesel, First Impressions

    BMW 3 Series Diesel, First Impressions

    The all-new BMW 328 Diesel will change the way you view diesel. Watch actor Lamman Rucker’s first impressions as he gets behind the wheel to feel the diesel difference. BMW has introduced the 328d, powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo-diesel developing 180 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque. While EPA estimates declare the new 3 […]
  • 2014 Toyota Highlander Preview

    2014 Toyota Highlander Preview

    Pros: Sharp, athletic new exterior style Roomy interior is also quite luxurious Excellent road manners for a large vehicle Lots of available tech features Cons: Powertrain options are largely unchanged High priced Hybrid model lacks a good value proposition Mid-sized crossovers have fast become one of the bread and butter automotive segments. Folks looking for […]
  • Audi Innovation Demonstrated at CES

    Audi Innovation Demonstrated at CES

    Audi Sport Quattro Laserlight Concept Dressed to impress in Plasma Red paint, the Audi Sport quattro Laserlight concept was the grand closer at the 2014 International CES Audi keynote. The keynote was hosted by Big Bang Theory cast member, Kunal Nayyar, but even the CBS sitcom star was upstaged when the Laserlight concept rolled onto […]
  • Chevy Spark EV Charges onto the Electric Highway

    Chevy Spark EV Charges onto the Electric Highway

    Review: 2014 Chevrolet Spark EV Likes: DC fast charging capability Sprinter-class acceleration Guiltless around-town driving Lots of information and displays to monitor energy usage Dislikes: 6-speaker sound system Non-perforated leatherette seats don’t breathe Minimal cabin insulation makes it difficult to converse on the phone using the hands-free Bluetooth system Range anxiety More zero-emission, electric-only powered […]
  • Air In, Water Out. Toyota Near Ready with Fuel Cell Car

    Air In, Water Out. Toyota Near Ready with Fuel Cell Car

    Last November at the 2013 LA Auto Show, Toyota announced its commitment to building cars with a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain along with other big carmakers such as Honda and Hyundai. Today at the International CES show in Las Vegas, Toyota released more details behind its fuel cell development program and told us that we […]
  • eBay Collection: Green Machines

    eBay Collection: Green Machines

    eBay Collection: Green Machines Alternative fuel vehicles date back to the early 1800s, with the first electric carriage appearing about 30 years after the first gas-powered vehicle. Electric cars made up about thirty percent of all cars on the road in 1900, but demand waned after Charles Kettering invented the electric starter, eliminating the need […]
  • 2014 BMW i3 Snags Green Car Nomination

    2014 BMW i3 Snags Green Car Nomination

    The new BMW i3 is the boldest model to come out of the BMW brand in quite some time now. Green Car Reports is praising this new model and has even put it on its short list of their Best Car to Buy as a nominee amongst 2014 models. Why the Love From Green Car […]

Green Driving Poll

What alternative fuel are you the most likely to try?

45.8%
26.4%
14.3%
9.8%
3.7%