Ethanol and your Vehicle
- Can ethanol be used in my vehicle?
- Can my vehicle be converted to use high ethanol blends?
- How about small motors such as lawnmowers and generators?
- How does the use of ethanol blends affect mileage?
- But what about my vehicle warranty?
Ethanol blends up to 25% (i.e. 25% ethanol, 75% unleaded petrol) can be safely utilised in all petrol vehicles without any modification.
Tests on E15 and E20 have included vehicle drivability, catalyst durability, impact on fuel pumps and sending units, onboard diagnostic systems and automotive fuel system components. These have all concluded that there is no problem with using E15 and E20 blends in petrol vehicles and there is no need for vehicle modification or adjustment.
Brazil’s long-time use of mid-range ethanol blends has shown no concerns with vehicles or gas dispensing equipment. Each litre of petrol in Brazil contains at least 20 percent ethanol and has for many years.
Yes, fuel injected petrol vehicles newer than 1990 can also run on blends as high as E85, 85% ethanol, 15% unleaded petrol with the help of a Flex Fuel Upgrade kit.
E85 offers superior performance characteristics and burns cleaner than petrol, together with being competitively priced. It the most popular blend of ethanol fuel used in the USA, Brazil and Sweden with an octane of 105.
The Flex Fuel Upgrade Kit is a small device that is attached to your vehicle’s fuel injectors in order to give the injectors more range to adjust to the type of fuel in your tank.
As E85 is a high blend of ethanol and ethanol has a low combustion rate, the Flex Fuel Upgrade Kit assists with the air/fuel ratio, guaranteeing economy and reliability of the engine.
A car with a flex fuel upgrade kit fitted to its engine can therefore run on any ethanol/petrol blend, from E10 up to E100 without any adjustments.
Low blends of ethanol up to E25 have no detrimental effect on small motors. Again, it is important to note that all of Zimbabwe’s fuel contained between 10% and 20% ethanol from the 70’s up to the late 90’s. This means that all small motors were also running on these ethanol blends with no issues.
Ethanol has a higher octane than unleaded fuel and so gives you more power, as a result, it burns slightly quicker than unleaded. There is therefore a chance that you may use slightly more ethanol than you do unleaded petrol, although at such low blends the difference in negligible.
Any increase in mileage is compensated for by the decrease in fuel prices associated with having 15% locally produced ethanol blended with foreign petrol. It is important to note that with the continuing increase in fuel prices globally, as well as the increase in duty on unleaded petrol recently introduced by the Government in Zimbabwe, without the addition of ethanol to the fuel, our prices would be in the range of $1.62 per litre. With E15 on the market, the consumer is saving a minimum of 7c per litre and this would increase to a minimum of 10 cents should the blend increase to E20.
Running the engine on ethanol leads to better performance than using petrol. With an octane rating of 105, ethanol is the highest performance fuel on the market and ensures that today’s high compression engines run smoothly.
It is important to note that E15 and E20 was not available when many of the vehicle owner’s manuals were written. There has been significant growth in the inclusion of E15 in new vehicles owner manuals since the American EPA approval in 2011; especially for brand new cars and trucks sold in 2012 and 2013.
New owner’s manuals may provide guidance on the use of E15, however that leaves car owners questioning older vehicle models use of E15 and the effect, if any, it will have on the validity of the remaining warranty coverage.
Just like aftermarket fuel additives, such as stabilizers and octane boosters, specific fuels or additives are not always called out by name in a vehicle’s owner manual.
Use of these non-mentioned fuels and fuel additives does not necessarily void a vehicle warranty. In fact, vehicle manufacturers may not deny a warranty claim based on use of a different fuel if that fuel did not contribute to the problem for which the warranty claim is made.