Can You Use Regular Gas in a Flex Fuel Vehicle?

November 11th, 2022 by

Car technology has come a long way in the last few decades. We have electric, autonomous, and even prototype flying cars. Still, with fuel prices at an all-time high and the EPA cracking down on emissions, automakers are scrambling to find new ways to power our vehicles. And ethanol-blended gasoline is one way they’re doing it.

But what happens if you accidentally fill up your flex fuel car with regular gas or can’t find an E85 station? Well, there’s a lot of confusion about flexible-fuel vehicles (FFVs) and whether or not you can use regular gasoline in them. In this informative guide, we’ll clear that up and answer the question once and for all. We’ll also discuss the benefits of using flex-fuel vehicles and how they can help reduce your carbon footprint.

Flex Fuel and FFVs Explained

85% ethanol orange fuel pumpFlex fuel, or flexible fuel, is an alternative fuel made from a mixture of ethanol and gasoline. The most common ratio is E85 (85% ethanol to 15% gasoline). However, there are other ratios, such as E25 (25% ethanol, 75% gasoline) and E30 (30% ethanol, 70% gasoline).

Flex-fuel vehicles are specially designed to run on this alternative fuel. Other than a few modifications to the fuel system, they are very similar to regular gasoline cars. Although this tech has just started to catch on in the last decade, it has a long history dating back to the early 1990s. Today, there are over 17 million FFVs in the United States alone, including models from Chevrolet.

Flex Fuel vs. Regular Gasoline

Let’s take a closer look at each to help you understand the difference between flex fuel and regular unleaded gasoline.

Gasoline is a petroleum-based fuel made from crude oil. It’s the most common type found at almost any fuel station. The majority of cars on the road today run on unleaded fuel. And while gasoline is a convenient and efficient fuel, it’s also the leading cause of air pollution.

Flex fuel is a blend of ethanol and gasoline. Ethanol is a renewable resource from plant materials, like corn or sugarcane. It’s often called “grain alcohol” because it’s made from grains, such as wheat or barley. So, flex fuel is a cleaner burning alternative to regular gasoline.

Can You Use Regular Unleaded Gasoline in an FFV?

Now that we know a bit more about flex fuel and regular gasoline, you might wonder if you can use unleaded gas in a flex-fuel vehicle. After all, gas pumps are much more abundant than flex-fuel pumps. So, filling up your FFV with regular gas would make sense if you can’t find an E85 pump at a station.

Yes, you can use regular gasoline in an FFV without any problems or causing damage to your engine. In fact, most FFVs will run just fine on unleaded gas. They automatically adjust the fuel mixture accordingly, regardless of the proportions and the combination of fuel, to prevent any performance issues.

However, running your FFV on diesel or leaded gasoline isn’t recommended and can damage the engine. So, keep these out of your FFV tank. The flex-fuel designation generally refers to unleaded gasoline or E85 gasoline. You’ll be fine if you stick to these two types of fuel.

Benefits of Using Flex Fuel vs. Regular Gas

You might be wondering why anyone would want to use a flex fuel if they can use regular gasoline. After all, gas stations are much more common than E85 stations. But there are actually a few benefits to using flex fuel over regular gasoline in your car.

  • Cleaner Environment: One of the main benefits of using flex fuel is that it’s better for the environment because ethanol-blended gasoline produces fewer carbon emissions than regular gas. E85 can reduce carbon emissions by up to 20% compared to regular gasoline. Fewer emissions mean less toxic fumes in the air and a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Tax Incentives: In some states, you may be eligible for tax incentives of up to 10% of the total car cost if you own or lease an FFV. You can even get a rebate of up to $300, significantly reducing your tax obligation. Check with your state’s Department of Revenue to see if you qualify for any tax breaks.
  • Improved Performance: While it’s true that FFVs will run on regular gasoline, they perform better when running on E85. This fuel blend has a higher octane rating than regular gas. So, it’s less likely to “knock” or “ping” during combustion. As a result, FFVs will typically have more horsepower and torque when running on E85.
  • Lower Maintenance Costs: One of the less talked about benefits of FFVs is that they tend to have lower maintenance costs than their gasoline-only counterparts. That’s because the higher octane rating of E85 fuel helps to clean the engine and prevent build-up over time. As a result, FFVs tend to last longer and have fewer repair bills.
  • Sustainably Produced: Another advantage of using flex fuel in your vehicle is that the ethanol in E85 is typically sustainably produced. In other words, it comes from renewable sources, such as corn, sugarcane, and wheat. Meanwhile, gasoline is a non-renewable fossil fuel extracted from the ground.
  • Less Expensive: Flex fuel is often less expensive than regular gasoline. E85 can cost up to 30% less than regular gas. These savings can add up over time, especially if you drive a lot. Therefore, owning an FFV can help you save money at the pump and over the car’s life.

Our planet is changing, and we need to change with it. One way we can do our part is by using FFVs. These cars have many advantages over regular gasoline cars. So, consider choosing an FFV if you’re in the market for a new car. It just might be the best decision you ever make.

Sweeney Chevrolet in Youngstown, Ohio, is your number-one source for all things Chevrolet, Buick, and GMC. Our ever-growing and changing inventory of new and used vehicles, as well as our top-notch service center, makes Sweeney Chevrolet the place to go for all your automotive needs. Give us a call or come see us in person to experience the Sweeney difference.

E-85 (85% Ethanol) Gas Pump for FFVs by Tony Webster is licensed with CC BY 2.0

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