Gasoline Vs. E85

So I was just reading the section on Premium Vs. Regular gas. I knew most of the stuff explained, just trying to kill time, but then I began to wonder about something. I am the proud owner of a new used 2002 s10 pickup, the 4cl flex fuel model. Now I already know that E85 is a money loser in terms of how many units of energy it takes to produce one unit of energy in the form of ethanol (at least from corn), also that one gallon of E85 contains less energy than one gallon of gasoline. My question is, assuming they can devise a way of producing ethanol in a net energy positive fashion, What effects would this have on your run of the mill engine (flex fuel or otherwise.) I.E.: oil contamination (my s10 says you should use more frequent service schedule if using E85), long term engine damage (from pining/knocking, or otherwise.) Also, just curious, anyone know what makes some engines flex fuel and some not? Is it just a difference in the software of the PCM?

Note: I have yet to try E85 in my vehicle.

Note: I forgot to mention that Brazil already has a sustainable ethanol production system. They are major producers of sugar and molasses, and subsequently have discovered that after refining out these products ethanol can be produced from the leftover sugar rich waste. This is the only reason that they have been able develop a sustainable ethanol production capabilities.

There’s a simple thing called physics. And it states:You cannot get more energy out of something than the energy that is put in.


Exactly my point. The only reason Brazil is able to do it is that the crop used for the ethanol is also used for sugar and molasses, the ethanol is fermented from what amounts to garbage. Therefore, the energy required to grow said crop is depreciated in the production of the sugar and molasses. However one cannot forget the energy required to distill it. It is, however, my understanding that because no energy is required for for the fermentation (Fermented from waste) that the energy required for distillation is less than that acquired from the final product (ethanol.)

Note: This is the only ethanol production system I know about with a net gain.

Still curious about engine ramifications as stated in OP.

The engine will run on either just fine. The service schedule worries about the increased water that your car may burn. Water from the air will possibly contaminate e85 much more than regular gas. But your gas tank is supposed to be well sealed from the air so…
At this point we do not produce oil in a net positive fashion we are mining it and it will be gone.
Ethanol we can make easier than gasoline from crops or waste. We can make gasoline from AG sources it is a lot easier to make ethanol. The net positive is a poor way to look at it.
The engine should not ping/knock more under e85, if it does get that fixed. Ethanol engines are old tech and 70 years tested, they work period. Its more a problem for flex engines that the sensors consistently know which fuel they are burning.
The PCM and the fuel lines are different. Ethanol hardens some rubber hoses. Some rubber seals or gaskets need to be changed but thats all. You can retrofit any engine to e85 or e100. The pcm needs to anticipate a different ignition advance for e85, thats it.

It’s a real waste to burn E-85 or pure ethanol in a 9 to 1 compression engine…Ethanol is very high octane and can support very high compression ratios that produce very high power outputs. That’s why it’s used in racing engines. The increased combustion efficiency more than makes up for the lower energy content of the fuel…“Flex-Fuel” engines waste this potential. To get what you paid for out of ethanol, you need an engine specifically designed to run on pure ethanol.

I agree with you in that oil will have to be replaced in the near future, but presently there exists no one bio-fuel that has sufficient resources to produce on the scale we use oil. Another solution is to make many different vehicles designed to run on many different fuels, or one vehicle designed to run on many different fuels. I don’t know which is more viable, but presently “burning 29% more fossil energy than the fuel produced” (Cornell Cited below) doesn’t make sense either.

Thank you for the info on the engine. It appears from below that engines designed specifically for ethanol may provide somewhat more efficiency, but I don’t know if it enough to makeup for the expenditure in the manufacturing process.