City vehicles filling up on E30, saving money

Dan Crisler Dakota Media Group
Farm Forum

As Glacial Lakes Energy and its partners continue to promote 30 percent ethanol (E30) fuel blends for use in gas vehicles, two City of Watertown departments have jumped on board.

Housing two of the largest vehicle fleets in city government, the Watertown Police Department and Watertown Street Department have seen very positive results, albeit over two drastically different time frames.

The Watertown Police Department has used E30 exclusively since spring 2016 in its vehicles, including Ford Explorers and Dodge Chargers, following a one-month test with GLE. The street department followed suit last month in its gas-powered vehicles ranging in model years from 1997 to 2009.

Both WPD Capt. Scott McMahon and Street Supt. Rob Beynon said the benefits are such that there are no plans to revert back to the previously used E10 fuel (10 percent ethanol) blend.

Namely, both men reported the mileage loss has been minimal, at least within the city where the departments’ vehicles spend nearly all their time.

“I haven’t noticed any substantial lost mileage,” Beynon said, adding that he uses E30 in his personal vehicles. “We’re guesstimating maybe one mile per gallon, but it’s not enough to really notice.”

McMahon echoed that and added that any mileage loss is more than offset by the drastically lower price, which can be as much as 30 to 40 cents less per gallon. That savings is compounded when considering the department used 26,561 gallons of fuel from January to November 2017.

With an additional six-cent discount from the pump price included into the contract between the city and its fuel provider, Cenex, McMahon said the department was able to save $8,232 compared to the E10 blend, as the department spent $48,873.41, a total well within its original budget.

“It’s a savings to the city overall,” McMahon said, adding that the savings is likely to be transferred back into the city’s general budget.

The Street Department also expects to see a significant savings as the year goes on.

Doing quick math off the top of his head, Beynon estimates that the department will save over $4,000 by the end of the year compared to what it would have spent on E10.

In addition to the lower costs, McMahon and Beynon report that the use of E30 has caused nary an issue in their vehicles.

“We haven’t experienced any performance or mechanical issues as a result of E30,” McMahon said.

That supports GLE’s contention, with the added benefit that E30 makes for a cleaner environment as it allows car engines to burn fuel more efficiently with its higher octane rating.

According to Beynon, the E30 blend should also have a notable impact in helping vehicles start up on the coldest of days. Some vehicles, particularly older vehicles, may need use of a secondary product containing additional ethanol to thaw the fuel lines.

E30, according to Beynon, already has enough ethanol content to warrant the use of thawing remedies unnecessary.

“With E30, it’s natural. You don’t need any of that stuff in there. It helps with preventing freeze ups because of water in the gas,” Beynon said.

Having experienced the benefits, McMahon believes that Watertown’s use of E30 will be the basis of a long term trend in the Midwest to better utilize its locally grown resources.

“If we can use a product grown in our backyard to support our communities, then it seems like a good idea to purchase those locally made products,” he said.

Watertown Police Department Capt. Scott McMahon fills up his vehicle with E30. Dakota Media Group photo by Dan Crisler