What is Flex-Fuel? What are the Benefits and Disadvantages of Flex-Fuel?

Flex fuel vehicles are becoming more and more common as people look to cut down on fuel costs and find alternative transportation options. What's a flex fuel vehicle? How can you benefit from it?

We will be discussing the use of flexfuel and revealing which vehicles are compatible with E85. The benefits and drawbacks of E85 are also discussed. At the end of our guide, we talk about different blends that contain ethanol and what each one’s purpose is. 

Índice de Contenido
  1. What's Flex Fuel?
  2. Are All Cars able to Use Flex Fuel?
  3. Flex Fuel E85 Benefits
    1. 1. A cleaner burn
    2. 2. Sustainability in Production
    3. 3. Flexibility
    4. 4. Modern Technology
    5. 5. Tax Breaks
    6. 6. Potential Performance Boost
  4. There are some disadvantages to Flex Fuel E85
    1. 1. Crops are the best option
    2. 2. Motors that are less reliable
    3. 3. Poor Fuel Economy
    4. 4. Fuel Station Compatibility
  5. Additional Ethanol Ratings
    1. 1. E10
    2. 2. E15
    3. 3. E25
    4. 4. E98

What's Flex Fuel?

Flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) are often referred to as Flex Fuel. It is an engine which can be used on multiple fuels. E85 and gasoline are the most popular fuels. E85 is a form of gasoline that’s blended with ethanol.

The ethanol comes from various plants like corn. Although most gasoline used in the United States contains some ethanol by volume, E85 is made up of a much higher proportion. 

While most people assume that E85 always contains 85% ethanol, that’s not the case. E85, an ethanol-and-gasoline blend, is made up of 51 to 85 percent ethanol. The formula can vary depending on the season and the location of the distributor. E85 that’s sold during winter months usually has lower ethanol levels because of the crops. 

READ MORE: Ethanol (E85) vs Gasoline – Differences (Pros & Cons)

Are All Cars able to Use Flex Fuel?

E85 is only allowed in cars that are specifically designed for flex fuel. The vehicles have an internal combustion engine which can run on either conventional gasoline or E85. The car will contain a special badge on it stating it is a “Flex-Fuel,” “E85” or “FFV.” Without this badge, you wouldn’t want to put E85 in the gas tank.

A yellow-colored cap on your vehicle that is filled with flex fuel is another sign. Some capless fuel fillers have a yellow band around the edges, which indicates that E85 can be added to your tank. This vehicle allows you to use any amount of ethanol blend. The flex-fuel vehicle has sensors that detect what fuel is being used, so you can make adjustments automatically. It calculates the exact timing of fuel injection for perfect combustion.

If you are still unsure, you can check your owner’s manual to see what fuel is needed. It should indicate what’s best and what can be used. If that fails, you can call the dealer where your vehicle was purchased or contact the manufacturer online. 

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Flex Fuel E85 Benefits

1. A cleaner burn

There are many people concerned about the impact of gasoline on the environment. Ethanol burns cleaner for the environment. Ethanol is cleaner burning for the environment.

Flex fuel is a low-carbon alternative to traditional gasoline. This environmentally-friendly variant is one that is going to become more popular in the coming years as we all try to do our part to make the world a cleaner home for everyone. 

RELATED : Ethanol Fuel: What Are the Pros And Cons?

2. Sustainability in Production

Ethanol can be made from crops grown in the United States. Although most ethanol is produced from corn, it can also come from cane sugar. 

It’s far better to purchase crops that are grown at home versus purchasing oil from foreign countries. All that’s needed to keep making ethanol is more crops. 

3. Flexibility

Flexibility is the key to the flexible-fuel vehicle's name. If you are at a gas station that’s offering E85, you can choose to fill up the tank with it.

Otherwise, if the fuel station doesn’t carry E85, you aren’t left without gas. Fill up instead with conventional fuel. To run one, the setup of your vehicle may adjust both the timing or fuel injection. 

4. Modern Technology

Electronic sensors are used to verify that the flex-fuel vehicle has the most recent technology. The vehicle can quickly adapt to the fuel it is using thanks to these high-tech innovations. 

The flex-fuel car can be used with any ethanol mixture, starting from 10-85%. This will allow you to choose the right fuel for your car to achieve optimal performance. 

5. Tax Breaks

You get tax benefits if you buy an electric car. However, it isn’t just an EV that provides some tax breaks.

Flex-fuel vehicles can be used to make tax savings. A small decrease in tax obligations will make you happy. 

6. Potential Performance Boost

Both sides have their arguments, and it is important to consider both. Automotive enthusiasts believe that alternative fuels can improve performance. 

There’s no documented loss of performance when filling the tank with E85. Because of the advanced sensors and sophisticated technology, it’s quite possible that you might notice more horsepower and torque as a result. 

There are some disadvantages to Flex Fuel E85

1. Crops are the best option

The flex-fuel car uses renewable fuel as it's made from sugar or corn crops. We also discussed this. But, it is not perfect. However, there are issues in producing enough sugar or corn to supply the demands.

Crops aren’t just used in one way. As an example, take corn. It can be used to produce ethanol, food and animal feed. Therefore, all of the corn production can’t be allocated to ethanol manufacturing. Additionally, as more corn is used for ethanol production it will cause an increase in the price of animal feed and food. 

Moreover, diseases can affect corn crops. Bad weather may also have an impact on the production of crops. This will affect the availability of crops as well as how expensive they are to produce. 

2. Motors that are less reliable

Although the Flex Fuel Engine is more sophisticated, it still has some issues. The engine will wear more if you increase the ethanol content.

Ethanol absorbs dirt. This dirt will cause more damage and corrosion to the engine. This is why you should expect it to last a lot less than your car's engine. 

3. Poor Fuel Economy

The performance of a flex-fuel car was mentioned earlier. It’s true that you might get more horsepower and torque, but at what cost? You can lose fuel economy by gaining more power.

The difference isn’t going to be extremely noticeable. Furthermore, E85 is still cheaper than conventional gasoline so you will likely be ahead. 

4. Fuel Station Compatibility

Flex fuel still hasn’t made its way to every gas station in the country. There are many regions and stations that don’t carry it at all. You might not see an E85 station unless you live in the Midwest. This should change over time, however, as this requires significant investments in fuel stations and infrastructure. 

Additional Ethanol Ratings

1. E10

While this number might not look familiar to you, it’s what is commonly used. A majority of the gasoline that is sold in this country has some ethanol. 

Most fuel stations have a 90% gasoline to 10% ratio. That’s what the E10 is and it’s used in more than 95% of gas-powered vehicles on the road. 

2. E15

The EPA approved the blend. The blend can be used with 15% ethanol or 85% gasoline. It can be used in light-duty vehicles that were manufactured after 2001.

Nearly all manufacturers will allow E15 to be used if you ask them. You can get more specifications if you read the owner’s manual, but the majority of 2021 and newer models often recommend using this formulation. 

3. E25

You won’t find E25 as readily as some of the others. The blend includes 25% ethanol, 75% gasoline. 

E25 has been approved for use by a few manufacturers at the moment. It can, however, be used in certain MINI- and BMW-models.

4. E98

E98 is the highest-ranking blend. The E98 blend contains 98% ethanol but virtually no gasoline.

Obviously, this blend isn’t meant for on-road use in today’s cars. Some race cars use it as their preferred fuel because of its performance.

READ MORE: Diesel Fuel Gelling: (& How to Prevent it)

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