E85 is the most common form of flexible fuel available on the market. Because ethanol is based on corn, E85 gasoline is available in the Midwest region of the United States. It is less available in other regions, especially in New England and the Pacific Northwest. According to the US Department of Energy, there are 3,300 E85 filling stations available to the public in 42 states. Outside the United States, ethanol producers often use alternative crops. In Brazil, sugar cane is a major source of ethanol.
Research by the US Energy Information Administration shows that pure ethanol has a lower heating value than gasoline, making it difficult to start a car engine in cold weather areas. This cold starting difficulty is the reason why ethanol blends contain a fraction of gasoline. E85 gas can be used in any vehicle designated as a flex-fuel vehicle by the manufacturer. Flex-fuel vehicles can run on both ethanol-gasoline blends and regular gasoline.
In the United States, the government has attempted to encourage the production and sale of E85 through subsidies, particularly to corn producers in the Midwest. In 2016, installation of new ethanol infrastructure began in 20 states, thanks to a $210 million grant from the US Department of Agriculture. This new infrastructure will make E15 and E85 more readily available across the country.
Depending on the location of the driver and the ups and downs of energy markets, the cost of E85 can vary widely, especially when compared to regular gasoline and E10. Although E85 gas costs less than regular gasoline at the pump, the decrease in miles per gallon makes it more expensive to drive. Despite the lower miles per gallon, flex-fuel vehicles often produce more torque and more horsepower when running on E85 instead of regular gasoline.
In the United States, there are currently 3977 stations offering e85 ethanol for sale.