I’ve been touting the advantages of E85 Ethanol-compatible “flexible fuel” vehicles for many months. I recently put my money where my mouth is, and bought a flexible fuel 2003 Ford Explorer 4WD for us here at the ranch. The Explorer replaced our not-so-gracefully aging 1989 Suburban. (It had 205,000 miles on the clock, lots of non-functional subsystems, and it was starting to lose compression on the grades.)
Assuming that you buy a Flexible Fuel Vehicle (FFV), where do you find fuel? If you live in Brazil or Sweden, no sweat. E85 is found at the majority of gas stations. But here in the States, E85 is just starting to catch on. (In 10 years it is anticipated that the majority of vehicles sold in the U.S. will be built to burn it, but for now, the ethanol distribution infrastructure is spotty.) Here are two different web sites that it will help you find E85: http://e85vehicles.com/e85-stations.htm and http://afdcmap.nrel.gov/locator/LocatePane.asp
Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa have the highest concentrations of gas stations with an E85 pump, but Colorado is catching up quickly. For those of you with no E85 station nearby, don’t despair. Odds are that there will be within the next few years.
If you want to store E85 (85% ethanol) at your retreat, remember that it is best to buy your storage fuel in mid-winter, when stations will have a the winter blend variety in their tanks. (The winter blend is actually 70% ethanol and 30% gasoline (“E70”), whereas the summer blend is an 85/15 mix.) The winter blend is designed to prevent hard starting during very cold weather. (And the gasoline itself in the E85 blend will be a winter blend, with more butane–again to help with cold weather starting.)
E70 has a longer storage life than E85. Be absolutely certain that your storage tanks are well sealed to prevent the fuel drawing moisture. Ethanol has a strong affinity for moisture (“hygroscopic”), and once it has been contaminated by water, it will make engines run rough and cause excessive mechanical wear, particularly when engines are warming up.