Ethanol and your Vehicle

Can ethanol be used in my vehicle?

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.

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How do higher blends affect mileage?

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 is negligible.

However, this 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.

But what about my vehicle warranty?

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 were 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 the use of a different fuel if that fuel did not contribute to the problem for which the warranty claim is made.

What about small motors like generators and lawnmowers?

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.