E85 Site Growth Slow But Steady

After explosive growth, number of fueling sites rising slowly, and beyond Midwest

Published in CSP Daily News

Ethanol E85 Gas Stations

WASHINGTON -- According to a recent update by the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the number of sites offering E85 has nearly doubled since 2007. More recent growth, however, has occurred at a much slower rate.

The EIA, citing data from the Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC), shows Minnesota with the greatest number of E85 locations, or 336. Retail sites that sell E85 have historically been in the Corn Belt states of the Midwest, and in 2007--the first year state-level data was available--most E85 stations were in five Midwestern states: Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Indiana and Wisconsin, EIA reports.

While E85 sites continue to open in the Corn Belt, other areas of the country are experiencing strong growth, as well. According to AFDC figures, California, New York, Colorado, Georgia, and Texas added more than 49 retail locations each between 2007 and 2013--to the point that the five Midwestern states' share of E85 stations dropped from 54% in 2007 to 36% in 2013.

Among these new E85 growth spots, California and New York have witnessed some of the fastest growth, growing from less than a dozen sites between the two of them to more than 80 locations each in 2013. According to the AFDC, only two states--New Hampshire and Alaska--currently have no E85 fueling sites, versus the nine states that were E85-free in 2007.

Despite this recent growth spurt, the size of the E85 market remains very small. Only 2% of the 156,000 retail fueling stations in the United States offer the high-ethanol blend today, the EIA reported. About 5% of the U.S. light-duty vehicle fleet is made up of flex-fuel vehicles (FFVs), which can run on E85, but only a fraction of these fill up with the fuel on a regular basis.

In addition, while the number of E85 fueling sites nearly doubled between 2007 and 2011, the growth rate between 2011 and 2013 slowed to only 7%. As of the end of the year, 2,625 locations in the United States sold E85, reported EIA.

Retailers in the Northeast--not including New York--have the slowest rate of adopting E85. AFDC figures show that in 2007, no retail stations sold E85 in New England. By 2013, only 13 were added, most in Massachusetts.

"Several states--most notably Minnesota and North Carolina--actually reported fewer E85 retail locations in 2013 than the year before," the EIA said. "This decline contributed to the slower rate of growth in the number of E85 retail outlets observed during the past two years."

Click here to view maps and charts showing the concentration of E85 locations over the years.