A well-respected colleague recently purchased a 2016 Chevrolet Express fifteen passenger van with the purpose of transporting his wife along with their children and grandchildren to enjoy a family vacation in Florida. This gentleman approached me at a table in the faculty lounge between classes and inquired as to whether fueling this vehicle with ethanol was more advantageous economically than using gasoline.

Chevrolet Express vans can be powered by an available six-liter sequential fuel injected flexible fuel engine. This optional engine achieves eleven miles per gallon on city streets and sixteen miles per gallon on highway lanes. However, the previous figures are reduced to nine miles in the city and twelve miles on the highway using ethanol.

An Express van owner fills their fuel tank for $75 with thirty gallons of regular unleaded gasoline priced at $2.50 per gallon. This driver can travel up to 480 miles before refueling at a cost of sixteen cents per mile. Consider another Express van owner who fills their fuel tank with thirty gallons of E-85 ethanol fuel priced at $1.80 per gallon. This other driver can travel up to 360 miles before refueling at a cost of fifteen cents per mile.

Even though the Express van’s overall fuel range is decreased by 120 miles using ethanol rather than gasoline, fueling with ethanol is still more optimal economically. If ethanol fuel is priced at least seventy cents per gallon less than gasoline, then ethanol is less expensive per mile to burn while traveling. Furthermore, the ethanol user will save $21 filling up an Express van compared to a gasoline user on every occasion at the pump. Filling up once weekly with ethanol instead of gasoline potentially results in an annual savings of almost $1100.

Drivers who wish to utilize ethanol should be cautioned that they must purchase 33 percent more of the fuel to travel the equivalent range of a vehicle fueled by gasoline. To that effect, a driver could purchase forty gallons of ethanol and still save three dollars over purchasing thirty gallons of gasoline.

My colleague now drives his Express van to the university every day instead of his prized Cadillac sedan. He confided in me that he has saved hundreds of dollars using ethanol and has no plans to resume using gasoline. For this reason, he loves his new van and wishes to maintain the vehicle as long as possible. I reassured him that those who see yellow usually save green!