Episode 171: What are the true prices of alternative fuels?

Stephanie Seki, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University’s Engineering and Public Policy Department, discusses how one can make the right decision on whether a particular fuel is actually the cheapest option.

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Alternative Fuels Data Center by the Department of Energy

EPAct Transportation Regulation Activities by the Department of Energy

Is you car a flex-fuel vehicle? by Fuel Freedom Foundation

Transcript

HOST: What are the true prices of alternative fuels? On this week’s Energy Bite, Stephanie Seki, a recent PhD graduate of Carnegie Mellon University, has some answers.

STEPH: You might think buying a flex fuel vehicles that runs on E85, a fuel with 15% gasoline and 85% ethanol, is a good idea because E85 appears to cost less than gasoline.  However, although you may think that is the case, this is in reality an apples to oranges comparison. Similarly to how tea and coffee have different caffeine content, not all fuels contain the same quantity of energy. This means to travel the same distance the amount of fuel, ad the cost per mile, may differ between a gasoline and E85 fueled vehicle. These differences influence whether or not purchasing a flex fuel difference makes sense from an economic perspective.

HOST: How can a driver make the right decision on whether a fuel is actually the cheapest option?

STEPH: To determine if fueling a flex fuel car will cost less, you need to calculate the gallon of gasoline equivalent price by considering the energy content of E85. For example, in 2016, the average price of E85 was $1.85 per gallon, but when you take into account the energy content, it is actually $2.40 per gasoline gallon equivalentDuring this same time period, the cost of gasoline was YYY, so the price difference is not that great. Visit the Energy Bite website to find out how to do the calculation if you’re curious.

HOST: Would you consider buying a flex fuel vehicle based on its fuel price? Take our poll, see the results, and ask your energy questions at Energy Bite dot org.

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