Corn-feed your car at Norwalk service station

NORWALK There may be a solution to buying cheaper fuel. All you need is a flexible-fuel car. And you may alread
May 24, 2010



There may be a solution to buying cheaper fuel.

All you need is a flexible-fuel car.

And you may already own one.

Tom Szilagyi Sr., an energy specialist with Sunrise Cooperative, said the best way to find out is to take your car to a dealer.

The difference between a flex-fuel vehicle and an everyday, regular vehicle?

Other than a few engine and fuel system modifications, flex-fuel vehicles are designed to run on gasoline or E85, a blend of ethanol and gasoline. The Sunrise Fuel Plus gas station in Norwalk is selling E85 for 50 cents a gallon less than regular unleaded.

E85 is a homegrown alternative to gasoline that is made up of 85 percent ethanol with 15 percent gasoline.

"It's been slow, but it has been growing," Szilagyi said about E85 sales.

On Tuesday, unleaded gasoline was priced at $2.95 a gallon and E85 was priced at $2.45 a gallon.

Dwight Gessner, energy division manager for Sunrise, estimates that the gas station sells about 200 gallons of E85 a day.

Gessner said he hopes that number increases in the future. He attributes the low sales to the number of flex-fuel vehicles on the road.

But many people don't know flex-fuel vehicles have been manufactured since the 1980s. There are more than 200,000 flex-fuel vehicles on the road nationwide, Gessner said.

There are many benefits to E85.

The blended fuel burns cleaner than gasoline and reduces greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide.

"It's good for the USA," said Gessner about the using homegrown products instead of foreign crude oil. "It's good for you and I."

The flex-fuel vehicles also experience no loss when it comes to performance. But a gallon of ethanol contains less energy than a gallon of gasoline. Flex-fuel vehicles get about 15 percent less miles per gallon when they are fueled with E85, said Szilagyi, who drives a flex-fuel vehicle himself. Smaller vehicles may experience a 10 percent loss.

Most E85 fueling stations are located in the Midwest, but infrastructure is growing nationwide, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

There are two gas stations in Norwalk that sell E85 -- Sunrise at 211 Cleveland Road and Schild's IGA Supercenter at 171 Milan Ave.

Since corn is a commodity whose price is subject to market fluctuations, E85 prices may not always be 50 cents a gallon cheaper than regular unleaded, but Szilagyi said E85 needs to sell for less to make up for the mileage lost.

Ethanol Benefits

* E85 is easy to use and handle -- E85 fueling equipment is slightly different and of similar cost to equipment used to store and dispense petroleum fuels. In some cases, it may be possible to convert your existing petroleum equipment to handle E85.

* Using E85 reduces petroleum consumption -- Use of E85 will reduce a fleet's overall use of petroleum and replace it with a renewable-based fuel produced (grown) in the United States.

* E85 is good for the environment -- Beyond operational ease, E85 offers considerable environmental benefits.

* Flexible Fuel Vehicles (FFVs) are available and affordable -- FFVs specifically designed to run on E85 are becoming more common each model year, and FFVs are typically available as standard equipment with little or no incremental cost.

* FFVs have flexible fueling options -- FFVs may operate on gasoline and, in fact, most of the four million FFVs on U.S. roadways do today. Although that is not a positive from an E85 use standpoint, it does underscore the flexibility FFVs offer fleets. When E85 is not available, or an FFV travels outside the fueling network, a driver may simply fuel with either fuel as the situation dictates.

SOURCE-- U.S. Department of Energy