You’ve heard all about gas-powered cars and electric cars. But what you might not be as familiar with are flex-fuel vehicles, which are designed to run on either gas or a blend of ethanol and gas.

While 98% of gasoline sold in the United States contain some ethanol, it’s typically only 10% or less. To qualify as “flex-fuel,” the gas must contain between 51% and 83% ethanol, depending on the season and geography. This type of fuel is known as “E85” and it can be found at select stations.

There are several benefits to driving flex-fuel vehicles. Check out 6 reasons why you might want to consider them when shopping for a new car.

1. They can save you money

Saving money on fuel is always a good thing. And E85 typically costs less than gasoline, although as with any type of fuel, there are fluctuations depending on when and where you buy. While flex fuel vehicles don’t get better gas mileage, per se, the fuel savings can still make them a rock star in the budget department.

2. They’re more environmentally friendly

Ethanol can help you reduce your carbon footprint. It’s considered a “renewable resource” since it’s made from plant materials, like trees, grasses, agricultural residue, algae, and other biological materials. In addition, flex-fuel vehicles have lower emissions. As the Environmental Protection Agency explains, “The carbon dioxide released when ethanol is burned by a vehicle is offset by the carbon dioxide captured when the feedstock crops are grown to produce ethanol.”

3. They offer better performance

When it comes to vehicle performance, it’s all about the octane. Higher octane helps increase acceleration. And ethanol has a higher octane level than gasoline — which explains why it’s the ingredient of choice for Indy 500 drivers who seek out E85 fuel blends to rocket their performance.

4. Flex-fuel vehicles help promote energy security

In 2018, the United States imported about 11% of the petroleum it consumes from foreign countries. That means a product that’s largely derived from domestic material can offer an alternative to relying on another country for an important commodity. And since ethanol is created right here in the good ol’ US of A, you can feel good about the purchase.

5. Flex-fuel vehicles come in all types

From sedans to SUVs, it’s possible to find a flex-fuel vehicle that meets your needs, unlike electric cars which currently come in fewer models. 

6. Flex-fuel vehicles aren’t picky

Flex-fuel vehicles can use regular gas or E85 — hence the “flex,” as in “flexible.” That’s important since not all stations have E85. But this handy map can help you find one near you that does. You’ll also notice a larger concentration of outlets in the Midwest, where corn is plentiful. Why? Well, in the United States, 95% of ethanol is produced from the starch in corn grain.

Smart technology | Car tech


about Cathie

Cathie Ericson writes about personal finance, real estate, health, lifestyle, and business topics. When she's not writing she loves to read, hike, and run. Find her @CathieEricson.