I recently bought a vehicle that has FlexFuel capability and can use E85 (mostly ethanol) fuel. But can you guess whether it is more economical for me to use E85, or regular gasoline? Read the SAS analysis below to see if you guessed right!
I've been the happy owner of a 1995 Jeep Cherokee for 21 years. I used it to haul DJ gear, pull trailers, and transport kayaks & canoes on top. It never left me stranded, and has been my favorite vehicle.
But, as my hobbies have grown, so have my vehicle needs. The Cherokee just won't hold all the DJ gear I want to take when I play music for a car show. And I don't think it could safely tow my 30-ft boat. And although it's never broken down, it's getting too old for me to trust with a high degree of certainty on a long trip. So I studied the used car market for several weeks, and decided that a Chevrolet Suburban would be the perfect special-purpose vehicle (to go along with my Prius daily driver). So I got a 2007 Suburban LS 4wd, with the 5.3 liter v8 engine - it's got twice the space & twice the horsepower of my Cherokee, and is 1/2 the age!
The Suburban is FlexFuel capable (meaning it can use E85 fuel), and the previous owner mentioned that he had recently filled it up with E85, since it cost less than $1.50/gallon (about 30 or 40 cents cheaper than regular gasoline). But I wondered if it was really a better deal, since you get fewer miles per gallon with E85. So of course I decided to analyze this question using SAS software ...
First, I needed to collect a bit of data. I went to the fueleconomy.gov website and looked up the mpg for my Suburban using regular gasoline and E85 (16 & 12 mpg). I used gasbuddy.com to find the price of regular gasoline near me in the 27513 zip code area ($1.84/gallon at the Shell station nearby). Gasbuddy doesn't track E85 fuel prices, so I went to the government's alternative fuels database center, and found the closest station selling E85 (which was a Sheetz station in Raleigh). The database didn't list prices, so I called the Sheetz station, and the manager was kind enough to go outside and check today's price for me - $1.49/gallon.
Now let's analyze the data. First I plotted the fuel prices. I don't usually get 'cute' with my graphs, but I decided to fill the E85 bar with a corn-kernel image, so you can easily tell which bar represents the corn/ethanol fuel. We knew that E85 was cheaper than regular gasoline based on the price numbers, but the graph helps your brain visually compare them on more of a percentage basis.
Next I plotted the miles per gallon. We knew that 16 was more than 12, but the graph helps us see "how much more."
And finally, I calculated the cost to drive a mile (by dividing the two numbers in a data step), and plotted results. This shows that it is about 1 penny per mile cheaper to use regular gasoline instead of E85. Therefore, based on end-user cost alone, I think I'll just use regular gasoline. :-)Does E85 fuel save you money or cost more? #analytics Click To TweetHopefully you've enjoyed this simple analysis, and perhaps learned a few new SAS tricks. Feel free to download the code to see how you can create similar graphs. While you're going through the code, I invite you to watch the Beverly Hillbillies episode where Granny uses her moonshine (ethanol) in the old truck, to beat Jethro's hotrod.
Now it's your turn - what other analyses would you recommend performing to more fully compare E85 to regular gasoline, to find out the "true price" and the global impact, etc?