Menno Memo: Ethanol

Robert Farago
by Robert Farago
menno memo ethanol

“I found real gasoline again. So my days of 33 to 37 mpg in the Prius during winter SHOULD be over soon, and hopefully I’ll see my typical winter time 44 mpg overall average return soon. On the current tank of E10, as the trip meter passed the 120 mile mark, the fuel gage went to 4 bars used up (4 gallons roughly). When you’ve seen the car doing 58 mpg, you KNOW damned well that it’s more than a little frustrating to see this. Computer claims about 37 mpg, but with E10 that seems to be off when it used to match the measured MPG pretty closely ON AVERAGE over say 10 tankfuls (which evens out the topping-up variations).

Hell, I wouldn’t bitch at 42 mpg at this point, well, okay, not loudly, anyhow. Alas, we still have two months of hard winter up here in the Michigan northwest before I get back to 48-50 mpg (after removing the snow tires; not needing “winter” fuel mix; not having to constantly push slush; and not having the car battle the cold temperatures). Cheap gas is $1.96.9 in town (Traverse City) while the Long Lake Grocery sells real 100 percent gasoline at $2.09.9. It’s even on my side of town, unlike my previous Last Stand for Real Gas which was a BP station.

So for 6.2 percent more money, I’ll get six percent better mileage in my wife’s car and oh, 20 to 30 percent better mileage in my Prius, I hope. I’ll buy all my gas there as an incentive for him to keep up the good work, even if the Sonata is a wash for costs. Hey, every little bit helps, right? Plus I am now really truly tempted to get the 1974 Mercedes 280C I found….. now that I can actually fuel it properly.

If the MPG doesn’t come up as it should, then I’ll be taking the car to Toyota (then if I get the usual Detroit-esque run around about there being nothing wrong, I’ll be selling it as soon as gas prices spike/people’s interest in high MPG vehicles is again piqued). But as you know, I’m 99 percent sure it’s the ethanol.

A colleague of mine swears by GM, SUVs, ethanol (E85) and I generally swear AT GM, SUVs and ethanol; he claims he prefers E85 (one pump in town) and knows when it saves him money, and that he “only” loses about 20 percent MPG while running it. Yeah, right; pull the other one. I happened to glance on the way home yesterday, and E85 was $1.89.9 vs. $1.96.9 for unleaded (E10).

Let’s assume he’s right, though. In his world, it makes sense to run E85 because the ethanol is from America and oil (mostly) is not. Knowing what I do about the MPG losses on E10 as seen in literally dozens of cars tested since 1979 on the damndable stuff (-6% to -35% MPG, usually -10% to -15%), I’d say that if his statements are true, then the Obama Nation should declare that all E85 vehicles “must” tank up with the stuff and let the rest of us have real gasoline, since E85 is obviously much better suited to flex-fuel vehicles!

I mean, if the MPG losses are similar when E85 is used in a flex fuel vehicle or E10 is used in a gasoline vehicle (each compared to gasoline), it only makes common sense to run 85% ethanol in cars intended for it instead of totally wasting any ethanol by running it through cars which apparently not only totally waste it, But sometimes apparently also drag extra gasoline through the engine for the same results. (Of course, anyone with a lick of sense realizes that the real losses in efficiency for flex-fuel vehicles is more like 35% when running E85; even the “gummint” admits it).

I want to run the E10 out of the Prius obviously, then start with a nearly empty tank with real gas and run a couple of tanks through. It might take the computer awhile to readjust. The E10 “plummet” in MPG was only “nearly” instantaneous. I’ll report it to you honestly; you do run The TRUTH About Cars, after all.

BTW, due to the economy, the state of Michigan is doing a VERY poor job of road-clearing, and I’ve just about broken my back on the roads since either I’ve aged about 20 years in one year, OR the road conditions have severely deteriorated (yeah, it’s the latter). On Wednesday, the traction control light blinked on in the Prius because the car is literally leaving the ground due to the extreme heaving of US31 west of Traverse City Michigan. I wasn’t even speeding; I was doing 45 in a 55 zone.

This is a road which we’d been promised would be fixed, oh, I believe it was 6 or 7 years ago. Neverhappened dot com. Perhaps I should apply for an off road license by way of sarcasm, but then bureaucrats don’t really have a sense of humor, do they?

How much do northern and mountainous states “save” when they cut back on road repairs and especially cut back on road clearing, compared to the overall cost to the nation in increased accidents, injuries, loss of work, loss of taxes, increased insurance rates, and deaths? Additionally, how much extra fuel is wasted by people who throw in the towel and buy all wheel drive vehicles, because of the conditions of the roads?”

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2 of 22 comments
  • Robert Farago Robert Farago on Jan 26, 2009

    @ menno My bad. Headline amended.

  • Ricky Spanish Ricky Spanish on Jan 26, 2009

    did this guy consider that the cold weather kills his battery efficiency? everyone I know with a Prius reports high 30s in the winter and high 40s in the summer due to this factor.

  • ToolGuy Nice writeup.
  • Jamie Electric cars and their planet stripping unsustainable mineral needs. Nothing is perfect.....
  • Tom Kenney Wondering the same. It's getting late for 2024....I should scoop up a 2023 3.3t now.
  • Ja-GTI My father bought one of these new in '75, when I was an inquisitive lad of six with a younger sister of four. I showed her how to open the rear hatch, and then I noticed a convenient pull-down handle on the bottom of the rear parcel shelf. I couldn't reach it from the ground, so I climbed in the back, pulled on the handle, and quite suddenly shut the hatch on top of me. The four year-old sister couldn't follow my frantic instruction on how to open the hatch - she eventually left to go to our neighbor's house to "get some cookies", and I spent the next several hours having a very bad time.Finally, the older nine year-old sister came home from school and was showing the new car to a friend when she heard me yelling and freed me from my VW prison. Thankfully, I overcame my childhood PTSD and ended up owning an '07 GTI for fourteen years - which gave me another type of PTSD. And my VW circle of life is now complete. Well, except for the '15 Jetta TDI manual I bought for my son...
  • Inside Looking Out In America non-violent crime is legalized in 2020 but in England not. That guy in America would be considered as the pillar of society. Wild west you know,