There’s Always a Better Way
When it comes to filling up your tank, there are better and more affordable options available than what you typically find at the pump. Most often, the cheapest option is regular gasoline, which contains 10 percent ethanol (E10). However, mid-level blends of ethanol like E15 or E30 cost less and provide great value and performance for the large majority of drivers. These mid-level ethanol blends also happen to be cleaner-burning and renewable. And despite what some would have you believe, they are not the root cause of damage to critical engine parts.
Can I put ethanol in my vehicle?
Yes. If your car was built after 2001, the EPA has approved fuels up to 15 percent ethanol (E15).
What if my car was manufactured pre-2001?
Starting in 1996, all cars and trucks included a computer system commonly called OBDII that uses sensors to adjust fuel and air mixtures as well as ignition timing. These computer systems allow for the addition of ethanol. The reason the EPA didn’t approve E15 for cars made between 1996 and 2000 is because it didn’t have the funds for vehicle testing.
What are the benefits of using ethanol?
There are a number of benefits for your health, pocketbook and the environment. First, using mid-level ethanol blends like E15 or E30 reduces toxic emissions. Ethanol is also a source of clean octane, capable of diluting the toxic aromatics like benzene currently being added to gasoline. And it continues to reduce the United States’ dependence on foreign oil.
What is octane and why does my car need it?
Octane is what keeps gasoline from burning too early in the combustion cycle. Have you ever heard of anti-knock in engines? Octane is what keeps you from hearing a knocking noise while driving – it is needed in all vehicles. The numbers you see on the gas pump, like 87 or 91, are octane ratings. The higher the number, the better your vehicle’s computer system can control combustion timing.
You should consult your owner’s manual to find the minimum octane fuel you should purchase. Most vehicles call for 87, which is regular gasoline or E10. Mid-level ethanol blends provide an increase in octane. E15 is a mid-grade and E20 is a premium octane level. The increase of ethanol beyond 30 percent offers no additional octane value.
Why is ethanol considered a clean octane?
Lead was once the main source of octane in gasoline. When refineries were required to stop using lead because of the health problems it posed, they started adding benzene and toluene instead. These are toxic aromatic compounds that are known and suspected carcinogens.
Ethanol, on the other hand, is a natural product. It can provide a clean octane source to gasoline, reducing the need for toxic aromatics. Ethanol offers twice the octane increase when simply added to gasoline compared to any other gasoline component, making it the most economical choice.
Why do I see E85 at some gas stations but not other ethanol blends?
E85 has been around for at least 20 years, but it can only be used in flex-fuel vehicles (FFV). E85 is a blend up to 83 percent ethanol – the rest is gasoline.
Mid-level ethanol blends like E15 and E30 have only recently been introduced into the marketplace as a better option for all drivers because you don’t need a flex-fuel vehicle to use them.
Does ethanol reduce my mileage?
It depends on the ethanol blend you use, how you drive and your vehicle. Since ethanol by itself has less energy than gasoline, the higher the ethanol blend, the more you may see a mileage reduction. With mid-level blends like E15 or E30, many consumers will see little to no mileage loss because the increased octane can help offset the mileage penalty. Yet with E85, consumers will see a 15 to 20 percent mileage reduction.
Will ethanol hurt my engine?
No. Ethanol has been around for a long time. In fact, Henry Ford started out using ethanol in his first vehicle production line. If you’ve heard that ethanol damages fuel lines or gaskets, the fact is, most damage is due to toxic aromatics like benzene and toluene that commonly exist in gasoline today.
What is ethanol?
The ethanol used in gasoline is the same alcohol that is found in beer and wine. However, the EPA requires that 2 percent gasoline be added to keep people from drinking it.
Can my car run on only ethanol?
No. Cars manufactured today are calibrated for a range of zero to 85 percent ethanol. That’s also not the intent – ethanol is meant to be an additive to gasoline to provide increased octane and decreased toxic emissions. Mid-level blends of ethanol like E30 are the optimum choice for drivers.
If you’re saying E30 is the best choice, why is my car only approved up to E15?
The EPA limits its certification to E15 unless vehicles are certified on E85. The auto industry has to certify vehicles under EPA rules and guidelines. The EPA does not allow vehicles to be certified on any other blends.
Most testing to approve E15 also included E20 testing data, which showed E20 provided a better performance than E15.
Most cars can adapt up to blends of 30 percent ethanol, but we are not going to overrule the owner’s manual.
What is a flex-fuel vehicle?
A flex-fuel vehicle (FFV) has the flexibility of running on more than one type of fuel. FFVs can be fueled with unleaded gasoline, E85, or any combination of the two. Like conventional gasoline vehicles, FFVs have a single fuel tank, fuel system and engine. And they are available in a wide range of models – sedans, pickups and minivans.
You don’t have to have an FFV to use mid-level ethanol blends. Most vehicles that are 2001 and newer have been tested for up to E15. Some of the testing included E20 and E30 without problem.
Will using mid-level ethanol blends void my car’s warranty?
Fuels like E15 and E20 have been extensively tested by the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are known to work equally well, or better, in today’s vehicles. However, many automakers would claim using mid-level blends would void the vehicle’s warranty. Yet, these same automakers would also say operating vehicles on 85 octane, which most consumers do in Denver, Salt Lake City and other high-altitude cities would also void a warranty. But the auto makers are not known to actually do so in either case. Knowing and understanding how ethanol works in your vehicle is the best insurance to have if there is a problem.
What does ethanol do to seals, gaskets and fuel lines?
Ethanol does not harm seals, gaskets and fuel lines like many believe, but it’s often blamed for these problems. The issue actually comes from toxic aromatics like benzene and toluene added to gasoline. The variation of aromatics in gasoline poses one of the greatest threats to material compatibility. Seals, gaskets and fuel lines can also be harmed when gasoline goes bad. This happens when oxygen from the air gets into fuel tanks and gasoline containers.
Will ethanol blends cause my fuel pump to go out?
No. Ethanol does not cause problems with fuel pumps. Fueling the Truth visited several different repair shops to ask this question. Mechanics say it appears that certain vehicles are more prone to fuel pump failures, but it’s not specific to ethanol. They also say that replacement fuel pumps can have a much higher failure rate, but this is seen as a quality issue from aftermarket manufacturers. The best recommendation is to not purchase the cheapest fuel pump replacement, since removing and reinstalling the fuel tank is not always easy.
What are blender pumps?
Blender pumps allow the consumer to choose their ethanol level, whether it be E15, E20 or E30. Gas stations with blender pumps usually have an underground tank of regular gas (E10) and a tank of E85 or E98. Then, when the consumer chooses a blend such as E20 or E30, ethanol is simply added to the regular gasoline. This choice gives consumers more options for octane (E15: mid-grade, E20: premium, and E30: super premium). The ethanol industry doesn’t want regular gasoline (E10) to go away. Instead, blender pumps provide consumers with more choices. More than 5,000 blender pumps will soon be available nationwide. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded 21 states grant money worth more than $100 million to install blender pumps.
What do car companies like Ford, GM, BMW and Mercedes say about ethanol?
With the ever-increasing mileage requirements and greater reduction in tailpipe emissions being put on automakers, ethanol’s clean and high-octane value holds great interest. In fact, the U.S. Auto Alliance, speaking on behalf of the auto industry, supported E30 as a new certification fuel.
Ethanol offers twice the octane increase when simply added to gasoline compared to any other gasoline component, making ethanol the most economical choice. Numerous studies over the past several years by automakers now support mid-level fuel blends. In fact, the owner’s manual for the 2016 BMW MINI Hardtop says fuels with a maximum ethanol content of 25 percent can be used. This is the first manufacturer to recommend higher than E15 for a non-flex-fuel vehicle.
Does my engine burn hotter using ethanol?
This is a much repeated myth by those who don’t understand ethanol. Ethanol burns cooler in your on-road vehicle but hotter in your lawn mower or boat because they are not equipped with a computer system. On-road vehicles built since 1996 are equipped with On-Board Diagnostic Systems (OBDII). This site only promotes mid-level ethanol blends in vehicles that have the OBDII system. It should also be noted that it is recommended to not operate your vehicle with the check-engine light illuminated because this could indicate the vehicle is not calibrating to fuel changes.
Should I be concerned about gasoline quality?
Consumers are unaware that there is a significant variation in gasoline. Gasoline makeup typically contains more than 100, and often 200, different components that vary depending on the time of year and the refinery. Many of these components are solvents and are considered toxic.
The gasoline quality of most concern is the allowing of high-distillation components that come right out of crude oil and the addition of toxic aromatics like benzene and toluene for octane. These toxins come out of the tailpipe as invisible particles that can directly enter your bloodstream and cause a host of health problems.
Simply adding ethanol to gasoline can dilute the need for toxic aromatics, providing a better source of octane while reducing toxic emissions.
Can I use ethanol with my classic car?
Most classic cars still have carburetor-equipped engines, meaning a fixed fuel flow.
95 percent of gasoline already contains 10 percent ethanol. The oil industry needs 10 percent ethanol to meet minimum octane standards – most owners of classic cars are already using E10 whether they know it or not. E10 should pose no problem whether you have 100 percent gasoline or E10 in your tank, but good preventative maintenance is always suggested. Older fuel systems will degrade over time with or without ethanol. Fuel additives can be beneficial to help gasoline from going bad, but overuse can cause gumming issues in the fuel system.