Make Your Own E-85
In other pages of this website, I talk about how I always used the 160 to 180 proof I made for running 5 of my own cars on alcohol, and all ran great on it. I never did any conversion work on these cars, like drilling out the carburetor jets. In those days (25 years ago) I could simply change the air/fuel ratio just by pulling out the manual choke a tad. But I sometimes had to deal with water at the bottom of my fuel tank when I switched back and forth from ethanol to gasoline, and I frequently had to replace the fuel filter, because the slightly corrosive nature of the ethanol tended to scour the inside of my fuel tank. This was a minor inconvenience, though, as fuel line filters were cheap and easy to replace in those days. Nowadays, I don't think I could even find my fuel filter, buried under miles of hoses, wires, and other mysterious stuff inside my 2002 model turbocharged engine. 

Now, pretty much all modern cars have fuel injection instead of carburetors, which are controlled by a computer chip getting its information about the type of fuel being used from an O2 sensor, so it makes adjustments accordingly. Even though the chip may not be factory programmed for E-85, it can be replaced with a chip programmed for E-85. More on this, later. The real big change, however, is that over 2 million cars/year in the USA are now factory ready for E85. So, you may already be driving an E-85 car and not know it. 

A lot has changed over the past 25 years, from when I first started building stills and promoting ethanol in 1979. Most of the big distilleries, like Archer Daniels Midlands, are still in business. (ADM first started making fuel ethanol due to a direct phone call from President Jimmy Carter in 1980, asking them if they would consider converting their beverage alcohol production, to help him promote a renewable fuel made from American grown corn. It took them less than a week to say, "Yes!".) They now have many processing plants, each making over 100 million gallons per year of 200-proof ethanol, which they sell to the fuel industry at an enormous profit.
You may be already driving a Flexible Fuel Vehicle and not even know it!

FFVs (Flexible Fuel Vehicles), factory ready to use E-85, are widely available. Approximately 2 million FFVs have already been sold in the United States, even though many buyers are completely unaware that they use E85 fuel (85% Ethanol). This is according to the National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition. Check your owner's manual, visit with your dealer, or see this list of current model year FFVs to determine if you drive a vehicle that can fuel with E85.  The U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fuels Data Center provides a list of car models currently available as flexible fuel vehicles.  You can also search vehicles made in year 2000 or later to see if they are already considered an FFV vehicle:

Also you can buy a used FFV that was previously used as a fleet vehicle, at a considerably reduced price. These tend to be in excellent condition, but may have high mileage.
You can try the General Services Administration (GSA), which leases vehicles to federal government agencies. When these government AFVs (alternative fuel vehicles, as they are also called) are traded for newer models, GSA Fleet Vehicle Sales auctions them. GSA resale vehicles are auctioned to the highest bidder at regional GSA events held primarily between April and October. More auction information on the GSA can be found on its Web site: 

Another factory ready E85 vehicle!

2002 Dodge Minivan
This web site is for everyone who is fed up with recent price hikes in gasoline, and especially for those of you who want to make your own fuel. If you have ever made your own beer or wine, or would like to learn, you can ferment any starchy or sugary foods or waste products into a mash that you can distill into 190 proof alcohol. If you are resourceful, you may even find stuff you can use for free. Once fermented, it is not so hard to distill it to 190-proof with a modern still. The real good news is that you may not have to do any mechanical work or changes to your car or truck. It may already be factory ready for E85.
Ford Explorer Sport
This vehicle comes factory ready for E85!
Using dry corn to make ethanol
Gasohol was introduced in 1979 (10% ethanol, 90% gasoline), with quite a bit of confusion among consumers over whether or not it would work in their cars. Gasohol had its proponents and its detractors initially, but gradually became so commonplace that the term was dropped. Now, in 2004, over 30% of the gasoline sold in the USA contains ethanol. (But only 2% of the total amount of gasoline we use is alcohol). It is mostly called, unleaded premium.

The use of ethanol as an octane booster is growing all the time, as 20 states now ban MTBE, and more states will soon follow suit--due to the fact that this toxic fuel additive is highly carcinogenic, and has caused widespread contamination of ground water. MTBE will be totally banned in the USA by 2012. 

Contrary to popular belief, there are more than 3 grades of gasoline. Exxon, for example, makes over 150 blends, for specific state and regional markets due to regulations, climate, and seasonal temperature variations. Ethanol may be only 2% of the fuel, or as high as 15%, depending on the Oxygenate requirements and standards for vapor pressure in the summer months (alcohol has a lower vapor pressure than gasoline. ETOH (ethanol) also has an O2 molecule, so it partially supplies its own Oxygen for more efficient engine combustion). Today's cars have sensors to match the timing and fuel injection ratios with what you fill the tank with. This means that most cars now are somewhat flexible, but their programming may only be in a range of 0 to 15% ethanol, not all the way to 85%. 

It is inevitable that an aftermarket in re-programmed E85 chips will emerge due to the increasing use of ethanol throughout the world (ethanol fuel is now a $5 billion dollar per year market), but I do not know of anyone supplying aftermarket FFV chips at present. There have been a couple people on my online ethanol fuel discussion at Topica who expressed experience in this matter.

Join the Robert Warren Topica forum to discuss home distillation of ethanol fuel.

It was really due to Brazil's major switch to ethanol back in the early 1980s that required Ford, GM, VW and Fiat to start making cars that would run on 180 proof, wet alcohol.

According to Joao Alvarez Filho, a Volkswagen plant manager in Brazil, "The new Brazilian models can run on just gasoline, or 100 percent alcohol, or any proportion mix of the two," The company prefers to call this innovation, Total Flex, to reflect the true range of consumer options. The big difference in FFVs in Brazil as compared with those in the USA is that the Brazilian cars can also adjust to wet or hydrous alcohol down to about 160 proof, or the slightly more expensive 100% alcohol sold at the pumps. Alcohol generally sells for about $1.00 less per gallon than gasoline. This gives drivers the flexibility of buying whatever is cheapest at the pumps.

In Sweden, fuel pumps mix desired ethanol content

A similar thing is happening in Sweden, where Ford found last year that the flexible fueled Ford Focus outsells the gasoline (petrol) models four to one. Sweden also has over 400 buses that run on an ethanol/diesel blend. In November 1997, Sweden introduced the first blending pump in Europe. You can drive up to one of these many blending pumps throughout the country, and set the percentage of ethanol you want mixed in with your petrol. They provide a tank with 95 octane petrol with another tank of pure ethanol, and the pump blends the two per your order. In this manner a flexi-fuel car can be filled with E85, and a normal car can be filled with any mix from E5 to E25. In the rest of the EU, ethanol now has a low tax advantage, and ethanol is being introduced in slowly increasing incremental amounts.
Drying the alcohol and blending it with gasoline
New GM models--the Tahoe, Suburban, and the Yukon-- all come standard with Flex Fuel capabilities. These alcohol powered vehicles are all made in Wisconsin, a fact that the current governor, Jim Doyle, is proud of. They provide flexibility to fuel with E85, gasoline or any percentage combination of the two.

Lowell's 1990 Buick was converted with a computer chip!  It has 306,000 miles on it using E85 fuel!

Lowell Langerman converted his 1990 Buick just by changing out the computer chip that controls the fuel injection and timing. Lowell lives in Iowa, where E85 can be bought at 7 or 8 different pumps throughout the state (Iowa is a big corn-ethanol producer). 

In 1990, he got an automotive technician in Phoenix, Az to provide him a computer chip that was programmed to handle E85 fuel instead of E10 (unleaded premium). Most fuel injected cars now have an O2 sensor that detects the oxygen content of the fuel and varies the injection and timing according, since O2 content can vary from one fill-up to the next. He still has the original chip if he ever wants to convert back to running straight gasoline (he has to unscrew the glove box lining to get to this chip, under the dashboard). It only takes him 5 minutes to change the chip if he is driving out of state and can't buy E85. 

Lowell says the E85 burns so clean, even with over 306,000 miles on this car now, he figures he can easily get another 100,000 miles on this engine, no problem! He says the E85 he buys is usually about 30 cents a gallon lower than gasoline. His only complaint is that the Federal tax incentives for ethanol fuel are supposed to be passed on to the consumer: so really, the prices should be even lower than they are (the gas retailers, in most cases, keep this money).

Contact us to order the blueprints and instructions for building your own still. You can make your own E85.

Further Reading:

alcohol_fuel_manual.pdf- Back in 1979, when I was traveling to various universities around California, teaching people how to build stills and make their own ethanol, I sold dozen or the following book, now out of print. This is a fairly compete manual for farm scale production of ethanol fuel: the fuel distillers "Bible", really. It is now out of print, so here it is in Adobe format, the Alcohol Fuel Production Manual. The author is S. W. Matthewson.order_the_plans.htmlmake_your_own_files/alcohol_fuel_manual.pdfshapeimage_7_link_0shapeimage_7_link_1
Source:  USDA