Yesterday’s Near Death Experience

Yesterday, I decided to drive to the Guitar Center to try out a couple of resonator guitars they had in stock, which is a 15 mile drive to Brookfield. My car is a beat up 1989 Toyota Camry. En route, a merging 18-wheeler prompted me to apply my brakes. And they didn’t work properly. It was bad. I used the engine “brake” instead, by downshifting to decelerate. Scary. Once I was slowed down, I noticed the brakes did work, albeit poorly.

(I choose to exclude the fact that I actually drove to the Guitar Center and back with this deadly contraption. Call me stupid, or lucky, or stupid AND lucky. Nicole is rightfully pissed off).

I don’t think I was in the right state of mind, even before I left the house. When I returned from the Guitar Center, I discovered I had left my front door WIDE open and the whole place unlocked. I AM stupid AND lucky.

I vowed never to drive my car again. It’s parked in my garage and I plan to donate it to some local charity…if anyone will accept it.

I also decided to buy another vehicle, likely something that would help me transport my musical gear to gigs. My buddy Todd, who owns a used car dealership, recommended a Plymouth Voyager or Dodge Caravan (turns out they’re practically the same car with a different label), and recommended I stay away from any Ford. I thought, “Good idea!” So I started checking the inventories listed by many local dealers. At one point, I noticed a particular vehicle described as a “Flexible Fuel” vehicle. Flex fuel? What the heck is that? I had never hear of it before. A Google search revealed a great deal of information, especially from the E85fuel site. It turns out that Flexible Fuel vehicles are designed to run on either standard unleaded gasoline or Ethanol (alcohol), or a combination of both. This combo fuel (E85), comprised of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, is now available at some gas stations around the country. Some states will actually offer incentives to gas stations that carry it. This sounds like a good thing in light of this ridiculous oil crisis/dependence. The web site also lists vehicles which are specifically designed for E85.

I’m really happy about this. I was really struggling with the idea of buying another oil dependent vehicle, and it seems that E85 might be a great option. It’s too bad that the Feds don’t draw enough attention to this. Why should they? After all, our beloved George W Bush has his bloody hands in the pockets of big oil companies. Why draw attention away from them? After all, they are the ones who ultimately get richer off increased fuel prices. Along that vein, how do we know that this crisis really follows the rules of supply and demand?

While looking, I also found a site that reviews the Dodge Caravan/Plymouth Voyager, and offers the buyer tips on what to look for. Apparently, this vehicle, while blessed with a fine engine, is also cursed with a terrible transmission.

Stay tuned as I look for a fine E85 vehicle.

Posted: September 28th, 2005
Categories: blog, politics
Tags: , , ,
Comments: 5 Comments.
Comment from me - 28 Sep ’05 at 9:57 pm

It is about time you got rid of that death trap. What kind of loser would have sold you such a piece of shit?

Comment from me - 28 Sep ’05 at 10:27 pm

how about getting a vehicle that burns biodeisel?

Comment from Roman Edirisinghe - 28 Sep ’05 at 11:13 pm

I’m looking at flexible fuel vehicles that accept either gasoline or E85.

Comment from Gary Dikkers - 4 Oct ’05 at 10:52 pm

Before you buy a flex-fuel vehicle, do yourself a favor and check the EPA’s mileage figures for E85. (I know, the EPA figures are notoriously off, but they are consistently off and offer a baseline for comparison.) Here’s an example for the Ford Explorer, but the drop with E85 is about the same for other flex-fuel vehicles:

2005 Ford Explorer Sport Trac 2WD FFV
Gas: 15 City 20 Hwy
E85: 11 City 15 Hwy

2005 Ford Explorer Sport Trac 4WD FFV
Gas: 14 City 20 Hwy
E85: 11 City 15 Hwy

2005 Ford Explorer FFV 2WD
Gas: 15 City 20 Hwy
E85: 11 City 15 Hwy

2005 Ford Explorer FFV 4WD
Gas: 14 City 20 Hwy
E85: 11 City 15 Hwy

Source: U.S. Dept of Energy

E85 contains about 72% the energy in gasoline, and not surprisingly the mileage with E85 is about 75% that of the mileage with gasoline. Unless you can buy E85 for 72% or less per gallon than gasoline, it actually costs more to buy and burn E85.

Having a flex-fuel car might be nice if there’s no other fuel to buy, but don’t do it because you think it will save you money.

You might also want to notice that although E85 is 85% ethanol, it’s price moves up and down with the price of oil, just like gasoline. Not what you’d expect for something with only 15% gasoline in it. It appears the ethanol people deliberately keep the price of E85 close to that of gasoline.

Comment from Roman Edirisinghe - 9 Aug ’06 at 4:29 pm

I’ve got no regrets about buying a flex fuel vehicle. In Milwaukee, gas prices have soared as high as $3.25 a gallon, and E85 has stuck at $2.65 a gallon.