While corn-derived E85 fuel has been in the Chicago market for a number of years, one gas station operator is betting that a fairly new ethanol-gasoline blend will be a hit with drivers.
E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, is widely available in the south and southwest suburbs, and is priced substantially cheaper than regular unleaded, which contains up to 10 percent ethanol. It can be used only in flex fuel vehicles, however, limiting its potential market.
Thorntons has begun equipping some of its Chicago-area stations to dispense E15, which contains 15 percent ethanol, and is converting other local stations to carry the product.
One knock against E85 is that the higher ethanol concentration doesn’t provide the same bang per buck as gas with the 10-percent ethanol blend, with drivers seeing reduced fuel economy. The E15 blend, which Thorntons is selling as Unleaded15, has a slightly higher octane than regular unleaded, and, the company says, can be used in any vehicle made since the 2001 model year.