You gotta buy a car with the E85 (flexfuel) capability in order to use E85 fuel. Unfortunately, you can't just run any car on E85 because it requires special gaskets, oxygen sensors, etc. in the motor. BUT, E85 motors CAN use regular gas. So, it is reverse capable/compatible…in the event you have trouble finding a station with E85.
Manufacturers (GM and Ford primarily) have been selling flexfuel engines for years…but, they have not really pushed/promoted them publicly until now…mostly because there is NOT a widespread availability of E85 fuel across the country. So, your city and military fleets and companies with lots of company cars have been the main user to this point. Typically, the automakers offer discounts on the E85 engine to make it the same price as the regular engine. And, there may even be tax breaks…talk to your financial advisor on that part.
The major problem is that there is almost no E85 production and distribution infrastructure in this country. Obviously, the oil companies have no incentive to add production capacity. Negotiations are currently underway between several automakers and several national companies (incl. mal-wart) to get E85 availablity more wide-spread. Stay tuned there…
Here's the rub though…E85 fuel does not burn as efficiently as normal gas…so it takes more to go as far, in essence. Assume it is 85% as efficient as regular gas, you a) have to fill up a little sooner and b) the price has to be about 85% of the price of base unleaded for there to be parity. But, this is typically what it is, from what I understand…(The Cool Cat up in Minnetonka may know for sure that last part…) So, fuel costs are a wash.
Here's the benefit…E85 burns cleaner, so it is better for the environment…and it is made from corn (since we invaded and took over Iowa years ago, there's an abundance of available corn…and that means no more soldiers dying…no more terrorists…you get the picture). Anything that ferments can be used to make E85. Brazil is 100% E85 and makes it from sugar cane.
Yes, Hybrids get all the attention. Toyota spent a billion dollars to make/promote the Prius…but it was done first for PR, not environmental impact. And, the net affect to their Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) from the Prius is neglible. And, the grandiose fuel economy claims from Hybrids are never substantiated in real world driving. Also, Hybrids are more expensive than their gas counterparts…and the cost of ownership (using less gas) never overcomes that initial price premium. None of this is to say that people shouldn't buy Hybrids. People should buy whatever they want. But, those wanting to make statement with their vehicle should consider E85 too.
Hope that helps…