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States With the Most Ethanol Vehicles

ethanol vehicles

In a recent study, we analyzed and wrote up the U.S. states with the most propane vehicles. Here, in this study, we’ve analyzed data sourced from the U.S. Department of Energy to identify the states with the most ethanol vehicles.

We leveraged the latest data from the Department of Energy to assemble a list of the states that are home to most ethanol vehicles. Ethanol vehicles, a cornerstone of the green transportation revolution, have been steadily gaining traction across the United States as a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional gasoline-powered cars. These vehicles, which run on E85—a blend containing 85% ethanol and just 15% gasoline—offer a sustainable way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and depend less on fossil fuels.

How ethanol vehicles work

Ethanol vehicles, specifically those designed to run on E85 ethanol fuel, operate on a mixture that is significantly different from standard gasoline. E85 consists of 85% ethanol, a type of alcohol derived from plant materials like corn, sugarcane, or cellulosic feedstocks, and 15% gasoline.

This biofuel blend burns cleaner than pure gasoline, resulting in fewer greenhouse gas emissions and a smaller carbon footprint. The internal combustion engines of ethanol vehicles are specifically calibrated to accommodate the high oxygen content of E85, enabling more complete combustion of the fuel. This adjustment not only enhances the vehicle’s environmental performance but can also improve its power output and efficiency due to the higher-octane rating of ethanol compared to regular gasoline.

The flexibility of ethanol vehicles lies in their ability to run on varied fuel blends, ranging from pure gasoline to E85, thanks to the advanced fuel management systems integrated into these vehicles. These systems automatically adjust the fuel injection and spark timing based on the ethanol content in the fuel, ensuring optimal performance across different fuel types. This versatility is particularly beneficial in regions where E85 is widely available, allowing drivers to choose a more sustainable fuel option without compromising on the vehicle’s performance or convenience. Furthermore, the widespread adoption of ethanol vehicles supports the growth of the renewable fuels sector, reduces dependence on imported oil, and encourages the development of domestic energy resources, contributing to economic and environmental sustainability.

States with the most ethanol vehicles

In order to rank the states with the most ethanol vehicles, we didn’t simply sort by quantity. We calculated the percentage of ethanol vehicles out of total registered vehicles in the state. By doing it this way, a large state like California or Texas doesn’t rank high simply because it has, in absolute terms, the largest number of ethanol cars. Ranking in percentage terms conveys the density of these vehicles among all cars and trucks in the state.

1. North Dakota

North Dakota ranked as the No. 1 states with the most ethanol vehicles, with more than 11.9% of registered cars in the state running on this fuel. There are only two other states with such a high proportion of ethanol/flex fuel cars (and they rank No. 2 and No. 3). There are approximately 785,500 registered vehicles in North Dakota and an impressive 93,500 of them are ethanol/flex fuel. When it comes to other types of alternative fuel vehicles (AFVs), the only one that stands out is biodiesel vehicles, which represent 2.33% of all registered vehicles.

Though North Dakota has a small population, it has 38 ethanol (E85) fueling stations, which is quite high. Most of these stations are centered on Fargo and the state capital, Bismarck. North Dakota has a number of AFV incentives, but the main one for ethanol vehicles is the state’s Ethanol Production Incentive.

2. South Dakota

South Dakota has 105,700 ethanol/flex fuel cars out of a total of 945,100 registered vehicles. This means in absolute terms, South Dakota has over 10,000 more ethanol cars than No. 1 North Dakota. However, the latter state has aa higher proportion than South Dakota: 11.903% versus 11.184%. Like its neighbor to the north, South Dakota’s other main AFV are biodiesel vehicles, which represent more than 2.1% of all registered vehicles.

South Dakota has even more ethanol fueling stations than North Dakota, at 81 station locations. Though most of these are grouped around the city of Sioux Falls, South Dakota has tons of stations in more remote areas as well. Ethanol is about 50 cents more expensive per gallon than gasoline, $3.29 versus $2.76.

3. Mississippi

Down in the Deep South, Mississippi ranks as the No. 3 states with the most ethanol vehicles. Out of a total of 2,719,900 registered vehicles, 11.103% — or 302,000 — of them are ethanol/flex fuel. The main drawback — and this is odd for a state that has such a high proportion of ethanol vehicles — is that there are only six fueling stations for them: In Batesville; Olive Branch; Pelahatchie, east of Jackson; Southaven; Starkville; and Vicksburg. For public school buses and municipal vehicles, Mississippi offers its Alternative Fuel School Bus and Municipal Motor Vehicle Revolving Loan. This incentive provides zero-interest loans for public school districts and municipalities to cover the incremental cost to buy alternative fuel school buses and other vehicles, as well as pay for conversion.

4. Iowa

Out of a total of 3,118,200 registered vehicles, Iowa has 338,900 ethanol/flex fuel cars. That means more than 10.8% of cars are ethanol vehicles. What’s really great about Iowa is the large quantity of ethanol fueling stations, being home to 338 stations. While most are centered on larger cities like Des Moines and Cedar Rapids, Iowa has its more rural regions more than covered.

Iowa has a couple of useful state incentives for ethanol vehicles. There’s the Mid-Level Ethanol Blend Retailer Tax Credit, which enables retail stations dispensing mid-level blends of ethanol — between 15% and 69% ethanol — to earn a tax credit. For retailers dispensing gasoline blends of ethanol-85 (E85), they’re eligible for a tax credit of 16 cents per gallon sold. The Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA) offers grants for projects that include the purchase of AFVs.

5. Michigan

Michigan comes in as the No. 5 states with the most ethanol/flex fuel vehicles. Out of 8,445,900 total registered vehicles, 905,700 of them are ethanol vehicles. That represents over 10.7% of all vehicles in the state. No other AFVs in Michigan come as close to the proportion of ethanol vehicles in the state. Michigan has a large number of ethanol fueling stations, with 245. However, this is 90 less than Iowa, which has a smaller population than Michigan.

6. Missouri

Missouri comes at No. 6 state with the most ethanol vehicles. Missouri has 5,422,400 registered vehicles and 576,700 of them are ethanol/flex fuel cars; that’s equal to a rate of 10.636 %. Missouri also has a number of AFV incentives. These include its Ethanol Retailer Tax Credit, enabling retail stations dispensing mid-level blends of ethanol — between 15% and 85% ethanol — to earn a tax credit of 5 cents per gallon. The Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) offers business grants for the development, construction, installation, upgrade, or retrofit of biofuel infrastructure. Ethanol blends must be 15% ethanol (E15) or higher and biodiesel blends must be 6% biodiesel (B6) or higher. Funding is available in the following amounts. Missouri has 135 ethanol fueling stations, covering both rural regions as well as population centers like St. Louis, Kansas City, and Springfield.

7. Arkansas

Arkansas comes in as the No. 7 state with the most ethanol vehicles. In absolute terms, Arkansas has less than half the number of ethanol vehicles of Missouri, at 283,900 versus 576,000. However, the proportion of ethanol cars in Arkansas is only slightly less than Missouri’s, at 10.572% versus 10.636%.  Arkansas has a large number of ethanol fueling stations compared to its population and number of registered vehicles, with 74 fueling stations scattered across the state. Most fueling stations, however, are centered on the state’s larger cities like Little Rock and Fayetteville.

8. Minnesota

Minnesota ranks No. 8 on our list of the states with the most ethanol vehicles. With 5,053,400 total registered vehicles, Minnesota’s 531,500 ethanol vehicles represent over 10.5% of all cars. Crucially, for ethanol vehicle owners, Minnesota has a huge number of ethanol fueling stations, at 416 locations. They cover major population centers like Minneapolis and Duluth, as well as more remote, rural regions as well.

9. Louisiana

Louisiana comes in at No. 9. Louisiana has 397,500 ethanol/flex fuel cars out of a total of 3,792,200 registered vehicles. Thus, nearly 10.5% of cars in the state are ethanol ones. Besides ethanol, biodiesel is also a popular alternative fuel type, representing nearly 1.6% of registered vehicles in the state. Interestingly, despite the high proportion of ethanol/flex fuel vehicles in the state, Louisiana only has 19 ethanol fueling stations.

10. Nebraska

Nebraska rounds out our list of the top 10 states with the most ethanol vehicles. With 201,800 ethanol/flex fuel vehicles, approximately 10.4 % of the 1,940,200 registered vehicles in Nebraska are powered by ethanol. Nebraska also has a couple of incentives for clean energy vehicles, with some targeting ethanol vehicles specifically. These include its Ethanol Blending Tax Credit, which allows retailers of high-level blends of ethanol and gasoline to earn a tax credit of 8 cents per gallon. There are also tax exemptions for motor fuels sold to ethanol production facilities as well as motor fuels manufactured and sold from an ethanol facility. Nebraska also has a good amount of ethanol fueling stations, with 119 locations throughout the state, most of them being in or around Omaha.

All states with ethanol vehicles

Below is a list of states that possess any number of ethanol vehicles. Unlike some other alternative fuels, every state in the U.S., plus the District of Columbia, possess ethanol cars. Texas is home to the most in absolute terms, with nearly 2.4 million ethanol/flex fuel vehicles.

StateEthanol VehiclesEthanol Vehicles (%)Total Vehicles
North Dakota93,50011.903%785,500
South Dakota105,70011.184%945,100
West Virginia127,5008.563%1,488,900
South Carolina411,4008.320%4,944,700
New Mexico155,9008.080%1,929,400
North Carolina675,3007.528%8,970,300
New Hampshire95,4006.945%1,373,700
New Jersey404,2005.654%7,148,700
New York633,1005.600%11,306,300
District of Columbia17,8005.573%319,400
Rhode Island43,1004.943%872,000

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