AAA is starting to track the pricing and availability of E-85 – comprised of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline – alongside conventional gasoline. The motorist organization added that it plans to also offer an adjusted E-85 price as well to reflect its lower energy content, so drivers can more accurately compare the cost of lower-mileage ethanol to gasoline. The information will appear on its AAA Fuel Gauge Report website, which uses data compiled by the Oil Price Information Service for AAA.

“The addition of a national average E-85 price to our fuel price research website signals the arrival of ethanol as an increasingly competitive alternative to conventional gasoline in some areas of the nation,” said Geoff Sundstrom, AAA’s chief fuel-price commentator. He added that the nationwide average price of a gallon of E-85 is currently $2.334 compared to $2.811 for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline.

Sundstrom noted that there are approximately 4.5 million motor vehicles now on U.S. roads capable of operating on either E-85 or conventional gasoline through the use of flexible fuel technology, and more than 1,200 gasoline stations nationwide are now dispensing E-85 on a regular basis. Most of these stations are concentrated in the upper Midwest near the nation’s ethanol processing plants, but E-85 pumps are beginning to appear in other regions as well.

To help motorists understand the cost differential between E-85 and conventional gasoline, AAA also is posting a nationwide, average “BTU-adjusted E-85 price” that accounts for the fact that E-85 delivers approximately 25% less energy content per gallon than gasoline, said Sundstrom.

Currently, the BTU-adjusted price of E-85 is $3.071 per gallon, or 26 cents more expensive than a gallon of self-serve gasoline, to attain equivalent mileage.

“Simply comparing the retail cost of a gallon of E-85 to a gallon of gasoline does not convey the inherent loss in fuel economy – and increase in vehicle operating expense-- that accompanies the use of E-85,” Sundstrom said. “Our BTU-adjusted E-85 price is intended to compensate for this situation and provide an apples-to-apples price comparison that is more helpful to consumers.”