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An E-85 station finally has arrived in Peoria County. The Phillips 66 Apollo Mart, located at 2136 Airport Road on the northwest edge of Bartonville, began offering the corn-based fuel May 2.

E-85, as the name implies, is 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline. Ethanol is a clean burning, renewable fuel produced by the fermentation of sugars; corn is the main farm commodity used for ethanol production. Millions of bushels of corn are processed into ethanol each year by Peoria area corn processors. One bushel of corn produces 2.7 gallons of ethanol, in addition to several valuable livestock feed co-products.

On June 24, the Peoria County Corn/Soy Promoters, Illinois Corn Growers Association, and the American Lung Association sponsored an ethanol promotion at the Bartonville station. Owners of flexible fuel vehicles were able to stop by the station and fill up with E-85 for only 85 cents per gallon. Although the E-85 was subsidized for the promotion, E-85 has typically been running 40 to 60 cents less per gallon than regular gasoline. On June 24, E-85 was 55 cents less than regular gasoline, and 469 gallons were pumped during the four-hour promotion.

Is your vehicle a flexible fuel vehicle? You can either check the owner’s manual or look under the gas cap; it’ll indicate if it’s a flexible fuel vehicle. You also can go to some Web sites that outline specific flex fuel vehicles and E-85 station locations: www.E85Fuel.com, www.illinoisgreenfleets.org, and www.ilcorn.org. There are thousands of flexible fuel vehicles operating on Illinois roads and highways today.

Flexible fuel vehicles are specially designed to run on regular unleaded or any ethanol fuel blend up to 85 percent. Special onboard diagnostics “read” the fuel blend, enabling drivers to fuel with E-85—or regular unleaded if E-85 isn’t available. Therefore, any part of the engine that comes in contact with the fuel has been upgraded to be tolerant to alcohol. Normally, these parts include a stainless steel fuel tank and Teflon lined fuel hoses.

Today, Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and DaimlerChrysler Corporation all offer E-85 engines as standard equipment in certain vehicles at little to no additional cost. The vehicles are proven reliable and come with the same factory warranties as gasoline vehicles. There were a couple of GMC representatives at the promotion on June 24. They indicated that a couple of mainstream GMC vehicles will be E-85 compatible in 2006 and 2007.

How does E-85 perform? Its high performance benefits include a 100+ octane rating, compared to the 87-octane rating for regular gasoline. The high ethanol content of E-85 actually can boost engine horsepower an estimated 5 percent. Some drivers have found there’s a slight decrease in fuel economy. This is due to the lower energy content of the fuel. But with gasoline prices at more than $2 per gallon, it’s still more economical if your vehicle will burn E-85. IBI

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