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What are Ethanol Cars?

Malcolm Tatum
Updated May 17, 2024
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Ethanol cars are motor vehicles that make use of ethanol as their sole or main source of fuel. Cars of this type offer an alternative to traditional vehicles that operate with the use of fossil-based fuels, or cars that are configured with an engine capable of running off more two or more different sources of fuel. Because the cars run off fuel produced from grains rather than fossil fuels, they are considered to be more environmentally friendly.

Many vehicles today are capable of running on fuel mixtures that consist of 90% fossil fuel and 10% ethanol. The grain-based alcohol, at least in this limited amount, combines very well with traditional gasoline. A number of suppliers now use this combination fuel, since it tends to burn cleaner and is said to minimize wear and tear on gasoline engines.

However, newer vehicles that are usually referred to as ethanol cars require the use of a fuel combination that consists of 15% gasoline with 85% ethanol. Known in most parts of the world as E85, cars that can operate with this type of fuel tend to be less expensive than vehicles with hybrid engines. In comparison to vehicles that run on gasoline alone, ethanol cars are rarely any more expensive.

At present, there are some liabilities associated with the operation of ethanol cars. One has to do with a lower rate of fuel economy with cars that use ethanol, in comparison to traditional vehicles. In times past, the low cost of ethanol offset this difference, but as E85 has gained more attention, the price per unit has increased in many of the communities where the fuel is currently available. This has drawn more attention to the issue of fuel economy. In addition, many locations do not currently have ethanol fuel for sale; this can lead to situations where the owner of the vehicle must either take along a supply of fuel in order to complete a trip, or use some other form of transportation.

As the interest in ethanol cars has continued to increase, research into new and better ways to produce the ethanol for use as engine fuel has grown considerably. The fuel is available in more areas than even a few years ago, which makes it easier for people to consider an ethanol fueled vehicle when the time comes for a new car. As more automakers introduce new makes and models that utilize ethanol as the fuel of choice, there is a good chance that additional fuel outlets will make this alternative to gasoline available to their customers.

WiseGEEK is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Malcolm Tatum
By Malcolm Tatum , Writer
Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing to become a full-time freelance writer. He has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including WiseGEEK, and his work has also been featured in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and newspapers. When not writing, Malcolm enjoys collecting vinyl records, following minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Malcolm Tatum

Malcolm Tatum


Malcolm Tatum, a former teleconferencing industry professional, followed his passion for trivia, research, and writing...
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