In addition to stopping at scenic campgrounds and picturesque national parks, RVers also make frequent stops at gas pumps to fill their tanks and keep their travels going. But as any budget-conscious RVer will tell you, keeping an eye on the price of fuel is important to ensuring that you get the most distance for your money. Unfortunately not all fuel types are created equally. So if you’re wondering if ethanol fuel is really worth the lower price per gallon, we’ve got some insights that will hopefully make the answer clear to you!
What is Ethanol Fuel?
Ethanol is an alcohol produced from biomass like corn, wheat, and sugar cane. Well over 90% of the gasoline sold in America contains ethanol, but it’s typically sold as a 90% gasoline-10% ethanol blend known as E10. Conversely, another type of fuel is ethanol based and is called E85 (85% ethanol-15% gasoline). It is most often approved for flex-fuel vehicles.
Benefits of Ethanol Fuel
Ethanol burns cleaner than pure gas, so the main advantage to using an ethanol-based or blended fuel is purely environmental. Filling your tank with ethanol will reduce greenhouse gas emissions which helps to reduce the risk of ongoing climate change.
Drawbacks of Ethanol Fuel
Gasoline is a more dense fuel than ethanol, so there is more energy in it. Estimates suggest that a gallon of gasoline provides one-third more energy than a gallon of ethanol, so while you are initially saving money at the pump by choosing ethanol, in the long run gasoline is the more cost-effective option. Basically, the more ethanol in the fuel, the worse the fuel economy.
Making the Right Choice
While the mileage difference between pure gas and E-10 blended fuel isn’t all that substantial, there can be costly consequences depending on the age and design of your tow vehicle or RV engine. Older vehicles aren’t designed to run off ethanol, so when their tanks are filled with it, damage to the engine and fuel systems can arise. Because ethanol is an alcohol, it attracts and absorbs water which can contaminate your gas tank by allowing moisture into your fuel lines. This contamination promotes corrosion and rusting, which can cost you a significant amount of money to repair.
In closing, if you have a newer vehicle or a flex-fuel vehicle, you can safely use ethanol without it damaging your systems, and you’ll be helping out the environment in the process. Just don’t expect to save money by choosing the cheaper option at the pump.
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