E85 station availability growing, particularly outside Midwest

By Holly Jessen | March 12, 2014

A new U.S. Energy Information Administration brief shows that the number of E85 retail fueling station has grown rapidly since 2007, with the most recent growth in states outside the Midwest, particularly California and New York.

Of all the retail stations in the U.S., 2 percent offer E85, serving about 5 percent of the light-duty flex-fuel vehicles capable of running on the fuel in the U.S., the EIA brief said. By the end of 2013, a total of 2,625 E85 retail stations existed around the U.S. 

Historically, E85 pumps have been more common in the Midwest. The earliest year for which data from states is available is 2007 and at that time most E85 stations were concentrated in Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin. Today, Minnesota is still in the lead, with 336 E85 retail locations and Midwest states continue to add significant numbers of E85 fueling locations. However, California, New York, Colorado, Georgia and Texas are also experiencing rapid growth. Between 2007 and 2013 each of those states added more than 49 retail locations. “As a result, the share of nationwide E85 stations in the five traditional ethanol-producing states of the Midwest fell from 54 percent in 2007 to 36 percent in 2013,”said the EIA brief, put together by principal contributors Michael Bredehoeft and Mindi Farber-DeAnda.

In 2007, California and New York had fewer than a dozen stations combined. By 2013, each of the states had more than 80. New Hampshire and Alaska are the only two states with no E85 fueling stations, compared to nine states with no E85 stations in 2007.

However, growth in E85 stations has slowed in the last two years, the brief said. The number nearly doubled between 2007 and 2011 but only increased by 7 percent from 2011 to 2013. “Notwithstanding the increase in the number of retail outlets selling E85 since 2007, the vast majority of the nation's approximately 156,000 retail motor fuel outlets do not offer E85,” the brief said.

The Northeast, with the exception of New York, has seen especially slow adoption of E85 by retailers. The New England region had only 13 E85 stations by the end of 2013, and most were in Massachusetts. Notably, several states reported fewer E85 stations in 2013 than the previous year, including Minnesota and North Carolina. “This decline contributed to the slower rate of growth in the number of E85 retail outlets observed during the past two years,” he brief said.